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Corporate censorship; Some participants expressed concern

Further debate and public engagement
There was a call for public engagement, debate and conversation on the role of art in society especially with communities with few opportunities to do so and for open discussion about the challenges facing artistic freedom of expression. One respondent pointed to the need for free and frank dialogue between all stakeholders, learning from each other, rather than coming up with a hard and fast policy document too soon. There were recommendations that religious and non-religious people should work together on this as the project moves forward to avoid stigmatisation. One respondent to the feedback described the need for an open and honest interrogation of the notion of artistic freedom of expression and its relationship to philanthropic giving and public funding.

Awareness raising and education
A range of awareness raising and education was identified as necessary to address different kinds of censorship including: working with the police to prevent over-reaction and closing down of shows, performances, and with artists and institutions so they acknowledge that they self censor and work actively against it. Schools and other learning environments need to be more involved in these debates. It is critical that young people have time and space to explore some of the complexities around art, freedom of expression and global sensitivities.

There was a general comment about the need to push for legal reforms where necessary to strengthen these rights. There were several mentions of the potentially harmful impact of government education reforms in particular Ebacc (which at the time of writing is still a threat to the future of arts education in schools) and the knock on effect on access to the right of artistic expression. Another participant pointed to the need to form a strategic plan to address attacks on artistic freedoms through coalitions, mapping these attacks both nationally and internationally, and developing collaborative approaches to urgent situations as they arise.7

General comments
Participants were also asked to give general feedback about the day – 37 people responded. Whilst there was a lot of very positive feedback as reflected in the figures above, some felt that the speakers were too mainstream and the tone too ‘top down’; the lack of artists and absence of disabled voices was noted. As the figures suggest some felt that there could have been more time for discussion with and between audience. One respondent thought that the ending was inconclusive and another that the conference was too conservative and there were not enough dissenting voices.

Media coverage
The Independent covered Gurpreet’s story about BBC Compliance (also picked up by the Guardian, the Telegraph, the Daily Mail and the International Business Times) and the Standard took up David Abraham’s comment on the Pollard Review. The Stage referenced the conference in an article about cuts. a-n (artist newsletter) wrote a review of the conference.

5 Arts organizations 23%; Funders 15%; NGOs 13%; Artists 12%; Local and civil servants 9%; Media 8%; Academics 5.5 %; – Freelance
arts practitioners and consultants 3%; Religious groups 2.5%

6 1. Overall how satisfied were you with the conference? 45.8% – 5:5; 41.7% – 4:5; 12.5% – 3:5
2. How do you rate usefulness of content? 43.0% – 5:5; 40.3% – 4:5; 9.7% – 3:5; 4.2% – :52; 2.9% – 1:5
3. How do you rate Q & A sessions and opportunities for interaction? 26.4% – 5:5; 37.5% – 4:5; 26.3% – 3:5; 6.9% – 2:5; 2.8% – 1:5
4. How do you rate selection of speakers? 38% – 5:5; 40% – 4:5; 14.1% – 3:5; 4.2% – 2:5; 2.8% – 1:5
5. How do you rate duration and format? 33.3% – 5; 41.7% – 4; 19.4% – 3; 2.8% – 2:5; 2.8 – 1:5

Artsfex – a new and emerging international network of organisations and individuals working to defend artistic freedom of expression
– covers this area. Index on censorship is on the steering committee of this initiative.