Although the organisers stated that “the conference will explore with artists, entrepreneurs, cultural leaders and policy makers what kind of arts landscape we need and how we might get there”, it is estimated that less than 10% of attendees on the day were practitioners.

Panellists in discussion that posed some pointed questions for artists, audience and policy makers alike on issues including how to develop and deepen the relationship between arts and the public as audiences and participants and how cultural production and distribution might need to change in the future, included AIR member Katie Paterson, London Mayoral Arts adviser Munira Mirza, and Liverpool Biennial Director Lewis Biggs. Whilst Katie Paterson advocated against the instrumentality inherent within public art commenting that “art shouldn’t need a reason to exist”, Shadow Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt said that widening audiences remained a core principle because: “too many children who don’t have exposure to the arts”.

The conference provided an opportunity to hear the political parties’ detailed views on future support for the arts. Shadow Minister Jeremy Hunt commented that “It is in recessions that people need art the most because it’s in recessions that people want things that can either explain their problems or help them escape from their problems and the arts manage to do both magnificently well.” In terms of the future funding landscape as well as cutting admin costs by lottery distributors, Tories are advocating for an American philanthropy culture. “We’ve got a few seeds sprouting here and there, but we could do a lot more, as soon as we can afford to, we will introduce lifetime giving by extending the acceptance in lieu scheme, I want to get rid of the regulations that prevent arts organisations rewarding benefactors and simplify the gift aid rules. And in particular they want to see major arts organisations building up proper endowments as part of surviving in a ‘mixed economy’.”

Listen to Jeremy Hunt’s speech here

Culture Minister Ben Bradshaw assured the conference that: “the arts are critical to our country’s future prosperity. They offer incredible value in terms of return; every pound invested in arts and culture generates £5 in the economy as a whole. They represent such a tiny proportion of overall spending, less than 1% of what the NHS spends every year. Whilst arguing that age of austerity, was not now inevitable, he pointed out that “even a flat cash or a standstill budget over the next comprehensive spending review period (2011-14) would still leave spending on culture 83% higher in real terms than it was in 1997”.

Listen to Ben Bradshaw’s speech here

For a Twitter-based conference account, see Jack Hutchinson’s Interface review

See The Guardian’s Charlotte Higgins’ take on the prospective Tory policy here January 2010