After two years of consultation involving 6,000 people, Arts Council England has launched its new strategy for the coming decade. Entitled "Let's Create", the document sets out the vision and strategic outcomes for England's national development agency for creativity and culture.

Lets Create - Arts Council England 2020-2030This new strategy demonstrates a significant shift in the attitude and language of the national funding body in relation to the amateur and voluntary arts sector. This follows many years of lobbying and advocacy by Voluntary Arts on behalf of the sector and builds on the many positive contributions made in recent years by other partners including 64 Million Artists and Fun Palaces in furthering support and understanding of 'everyday creativity'. The growth of the annual Get Creative Festival, supported by Arts Council England as a key stakeholder, has helped to bring the need for more participatory creative opportunities to the forefront of cultural policy.

Setting out its vision for the next ten years, the document says "By 2030, we want England to be a country in which the creativity of each of us is valued and given the chance to flourish, and where every one of us has access to a remarkable range of high-quality cultural experiences". It is also noted early on that "This Strategy is based on the need to recognise and celebrate the creative lives of everyone in this country, and its success will depend on our ability to understand and champion a wider range of culture than we have before, including in the amateur, voluntary and commercial sectors".

Let's Create is built around three outcomes, designed to achieve the vision set out above. These three outcomes are:

  1. Creative People
    Everyone can develop and express creativity throughout their life
  2. Cultural Communities
    Villages, towns and cities thrive through a collaborative approach to culture
  3. A Creative & Cultural Country
    England's cultural sector is innovative, collaborative and international

These three outcomes "focus in turn on how people can develop personal creativity at every stage of their lives; how culture is created by and with people in their communities". The strategy goes on to explain...

The first Outcome focuses on amateur and voluntary creative activity, including by children and young people. The third Outcome looks at the professional cultural sector, including those seeking to develop a career in the creative industries after they leave full-time education. The second Outcome brings the first and third Outcomes together by considering how the professional and voluntary sectors can work with each other to help shape stronger cultural provision in villages, towns and cities.


Many people already take part in activities that are run by professional or volunteer-led groups, commercial operators, or publicly funded organisations. Where these activities exist, we will encourage the organisations we fund to do more to highlight them to their local communities.

These quotes (p26 & p33) demonstrate an important recognition of how strong support and provision of creative opportunities through volunteer-led activities are essential to the intertwined nature of our whole cultural ecology. The power of working together and recognising each other's unique contributions rather than trying to compete can deliver truly remarkable and positive changes in the communities and individual lives of people around the country.

Getting involved in creative activities in communities reduces loneliness, supports physical and mental health and wellbeing, sustains older people and helps to build and strengthen social ties. People everywhere tell us how much they value opportunities to develop and express their creativity, both on their own and with others. But they also describe difficulties in finding activities for themselves or their children to take part in, as well as barriers to becoming, and then staying, involved. And in many places, the libraries and community spaces that play a vital role in organising such activities are under pressure.

The quote above (p33) references both some of the well-documented benefits of creativity and also the key challenges and barriers to participation. These closely relate to two of the three strategic priorities in Voluntary Arts' own strategic framework launched last year.

These are:

2. Demonstrating how taking part in creative cultural activity improves social connectedness

3. Opening up more public spaces for creative cultural activity

The clear synergy between the two strategies bodes well for the future and lays the groundwork for positive and productive future collaboration between Voluntary Arts, Arts Council England, as well as the huge and diverse population involved in volunteer-led creative activities and the professional and publicly-funded cultural sector.

You can view or download the strategy in a range of formats, including accessible options, on the Arts Council England website now.

Commenting on the launch of the new strategy, Robin Simpson, Chief Executive of Voluntary Arts, said:

We've come a long way in the past ten years. When you compare the previous Arts Council England 10-year strategy 'Great Art and Culture for Everyone' (2010) with the new strategy 'Let's Create' the contrast is remarkable, and very welcome. Not only are the benefits of everyday creativity acknowledged and championed in the new strategy, ACE has also jumped the hurdle of amateur and voluntary arts being seen as a potential threat to professional artists and arts organisations. 'Let's Create' now makes the distinction between the value of the creative process and the cultural product, saying: "excellence can be found in village halls and concert halls, and in both the process of participation and the work that is produced". 
Voluntary Arts can proudly claim to have played a significant role in this transformation of ACE's strategy, along with some of our key partners, and several influential research reports, including the Warwick Commission on the Future of Cultural Value (2015) - which also led to the creation of the Get Creative campaign.

Pauline Tambling CBE, Trustee of Voluntary Arts and Chair of Voluntary Arts England, said:

I am delighted to see that Arts Council England’s new strategy recognises the importance of everyday participation in the arts. At Voluntary Arts we know that more than 60,000 voluntary groups already support over 10 million people to engage with creative activity across the UK. Let’s build on this enthusiasm and support these, and new groups to do more and reach more people.

Voluntary Arts

Voluntary Arts works to promote and increase active participation in creative cultural activities across the UK and Republic of Ireland. We work with everyone who gets creative purely for the love of it. We also work with anyone who helps facilitate creative participation, those who fund it, provide spaces for it to happen, and the people who work alongside communities to support them in their creative endeavours. Voluntary Arts was established in 1991 to support and represent the amateur and voluntary creativity taking place in all of our communities. It runs the annual Epic Awards to recognise outstanding achievements in the field and is a key stakeholder in the Get Creative campaign.