About Index's UK arts programme
21 Jul 2014

Why we are doing this programme
We believe that freedom of artistic expression lies at the heart of artistic practice and the debate about it needs to be kept live and abreast of changes in society.

Index on Censorship’s UK Programme
“Freedom of expression is not self-perpetuating, but needs to be maintained by the constant vigilance of those who care about it.” — Michael Scammell – Index on Censorship Magazine 1972

Support for artistic freedom allows the artist to push boundaries, to say what is not being said, imagine the world differently, act as critic and speak truth to power. Artistic freedom of expression thrives on risk and experimentation, embracing controversy and diversity of opinion and the debate and dialogue triggered by challenging art.

You only have to think of what happens to artists in societies that are unfree for this to be thrown into sharp relief.

But even in countries where freedoms are upheld as a core principle, artistic freedoms are all too easily eroded by social, political and sometimes legal constraints. ArtFreedomWales is part of a wider Index programme that is taking stock of the support for free expression across the arts sector in the UK, and asking is the space for artistic freedom of expression expanding or shrinking?

Last year we held a major conference at the Southbank Centre in London- Taking the Offensive which identified and debated the social, political or legal controls that shape the cultural landscape. Nicholas Serota, Director Tate, gave the key note speech and the conference discussed the triggers for and the prevalence of self-censorship across our cultural organisations and institutions. It also discussed how the sector could come together to reinforce support for artistic freedom in general and when controversy breaks in particular. (Read the report here.) In May, we held a symposium in Belfast exploring these issues in Northern Ireland.

We are currently running a programme called ArtFreedomWales — a series of online events culminating in a day-long conference in the autumn to explore the state of artistic freedom and practice in Wales. Supported by Arts Council Wales, the programme will bring together Welsh artists and activists to discuss the issues and begin mapping a plan for action. Watch the first online event here.

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