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Taking the Offensive – defending artistic freedom of expression in the UK

Taking The Offensive, Index on Censorship’s conference on the threats to artistic freedom of expression in the UK held at the London’s South Bank Centre on 29 January 2013, debated the social, political and legal challenges to artistic freedom of expression and the growth of self-censorship in contemporary culture.

The key debates asked how the cultural sector balances artists’ rights with the expectations of funders, public authorities and public opinion and how to defend the boundaries of free expression across the arts in the UK on the international stage and online.

The conference moved from principle to practice debating the benefits of adopting a series of operational guidelines in support of artists rights.  Off-the-record breakout sessions focussed on some of the most sensitive issues facing our culture today.

Taking the Offensive was produced in association with Southbank Centre and the Free Word Centre, with financial support from Arts Council of England

Keynote speech: Sir Nicholas Serota

Sir Nicholas Serota, director of Tate, gave the keynote opening speech at our January conference “Taking the Offensive – defending artistic freedom of expression in the UK”.

The speech starts with a brief history of how the constraints on artistic freedoms change through time, bringing us up to the present day when “pressures of mass communication and multiple cultures make the job of vigilance more important and complicated than ever before”.

Sir Nicholas stresses that supporting artistic freedom is fundamental to the function of museums, galleries and theatres, though managing the expectations of audience, funders and boards is “no easy path”.

In the second part of his presentation he speaks candidly about four examples of contested art works at Tate.