A Critical Overview: Evaluation and Evidence for Cultural Policymaking and Practice in Wales (2004-2014)

  • Mandy Lou James

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    Culture’ is difficult to conceptualise and articulate, and its value often challenging to describe. Cultural policy is subsequently difficult to evaluate, and cultural data is often porous, inconsistent and incomparable. These are three elements that together form the foundation of this thesis which has its grounding within ‘cultural value’ (Holden, 2004, 2006), evidence-based policymaking, and the evaluation of cultural policy. These aspects are further contextualised within cultural policymaking in Wales between 2004 and 2014, itself a period when the newly established devolved Welsh Assembly Government in 1999 was embedding itself. Comparisons are made with the evaluation of culture in England, but for both nations, measuring ‘outcomes’ and ‘impacts’ for cultural policy is challenging due to issues of causality, in addition to the ongoing contention between policymakers/politicians and cultural professionals - the prior emphasising the ‘instrumental’ value of culture for policymaking and practice, and the latter its ‘intrinsic’ value, with the argument implicitly relating to whether cultural services should be funded on their own merit and outside of an accountability framework. Thus, finding a ‘language’ to articulate and measure the effectiveness and efficiency of cultural policy and implementation, and that provides both a tangible evidence-base for culture and which is representative of the totality of ‘cultural value’ is highly problematic. Set against a devolved Welsh context, this thesis embraces the fusion of politics, cultural policymaking, and its evaluation. Still, whilst the difficulties associated with evaluating culture is not unique to Wales, it has its own story to tell on its ‘iterative’ policymaking journey, with implications for cultural policymaking considered and recommendations for development proposed. Project One (2004-2005) and Project Two (2005) are indicative of the volume of research on the arts and culture in Wales during 2004-2005, and were commissioned by the Welsh Assembly Government and Creative & Cultural Skills respectively. Project Three (2014) expands on the findings of those reports and analyses the changing approach to the use of evaluation and evidence for cultural policymaking and practice over ten years of devolution in Wales (2004-2014). For culture, devolution and a desire for ‘Made in Wales’ policies appears to embrace the opportunity to use its ‘distinctiveness’ as a discourse for modernity, and for an increased momentum for cross-cutting policymaking. Thus, the economic contribution of culture is perceived as a means of broadening or narrowing the debate around cultural value, which is simultaneously upheld or contested. Consequently, despite the quest in England and Wales for commonality of shared concepts and definitions for culture, and for shared cultural metrics, no such ‘common language’ has currently been achieved. Instrumental cultural policy nonetheless is perceived as not being a threat to the legitimacy of cultural policy, and the debate needs to focus in Wales, as elsewhere, on refining and improving the metrics of cultural value for evaluation purposes.
    Date of AwardJun 2015
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorCatherine Farrell (Supervisor) & Andrew Thompson (Supervisor)

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