Cultural Diplomacy and Cultural Value
Submitting InstitutionCity University, London
Unit of AssessmentCommunication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management
Summary Impact TypeCultural
Research Subject Area(s)
Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies
Summary of the impact
Research undertaken by Professor John Holden of City University London on
cultural diplomacy and cultural value has had a direct impact on cultural
policy-makers both nationally and internationally. In the UK it has
impacted specifically on the funding of cultural diplomacy activity and
the operations of Arts Council England and the Department for Culture,
Media and Sport. Internationally advice has been sought by politicians and
cultural administrators around the world including the Chief Executive of
the Ministry of Culture in New Zealand, Alberta's Minister of Culture and
the Chairs of the main cultural organisations in Hong Kong. Through this,
Holden has: (i) provided expert advice to governmental, third sector and
private organisations in relation to cultural policy; (ii) influenced
directly the thinking of senior government ministers in relation to arts
and culture; (iii) proposed new ways of thinking about the methods and
mechanisms by which culture and creative practice are supported through
the distribution of public funds; (iv) contributed to the enhancement of
frameworks supporting the creative industries, which in turn has aided
economic prosperity for a range of individuals and organisations; and (v)
helped creative industry professionals and those who support them to adapt
to changing cultural values.
Holden's research began in 2003 and was based at City University London
from 2006 when he was appointed as a part-time Professor. In a series of
works [1-7], notably Cultural Value and the Crisis of Legitimacy
(2006) ; Democratic Culture (2008) ; and Culture and
Class (2010) , he made a major contribution to debates about
cultural value both in the UK and internationally. His research provides a
conceptual framework for the articulation of the societal value of culture
(broadly defined to encompass the arts, commercial culture and `homemade'
culture, both traditional and of the internet age) by identifying
intrinsic, instrumental and institutional values. In the UK context, it
provides a rationale for public funding and investigates political
attitudes to government support of cultural activity; and the relationship
of funded culture to the creative industries. Holden argues that the
relationship between politicians and professionals working in the cultural
sector has become fractious because of the funding system's obsession with
targets and instrumental economic and social outcomes. He suggests that
legitimacy for public funding should rest on a combination of cultural
quality, measurable outcomes and the public value created by cultural
Cultural Value and the Crisis of Legitimacy  was launched by
the then Minister for Culture David Lammy, who said, "I know how
influential John Holden's earlier work for Demos has been in bringing
the concept of public value to life in the cultural sector. So I am
pleased to see Demos making another valuable contribution to this
important debate. This is a vital area. It is at the heart of the
changes I want to bring about as Minister for Culture." The debate
on the value of culture, of which Holden was a prime instigator, continues
to resonate as evidenced by the AHRC's current £2M Cultural Value
Project for which Holden is a member of the Advisory Group.
Following this work on cultural value, Holden, in collaboration with a
team of researchers at Demos, investigated the role of culture in
international relations. He argued that mass tourism, 24-hour news,
migration and the escalating use of the internet would combine to create a
situation where peer-to-peer global communication was widespread and where
much of the content of that communication would be cultural. Cultural
Diplomacy (2007)  argued that governments needed to pay more
attention to the subject of culture in international relations. The International
Journal of Cultural Policy noted that "the report was debated in
the House of Lords and the House of Commons. It was credited with
heightening the realisation amongst politicians of the importance of
culture within international relations." (Nisbett, J. Cultural
Policy, 3-4 (2012)). In the House of Commons debate, Ed Vaizey, now
Minister for Culture said, "the reason why cultural diplomacy is high
on the agenda is the publication of the Demos pamphlet on the issue. I
should like to take a few seconds to praise the work of John Holden."
Holden's latest report for the British Council, `Influence and
Attraction: Culture and the race for soft power in the 21st century'
(2013)  examines the data and trends in the field of cultural relations
and suggests how countries may enhance their global standing through
culture by discussing the role of cultural institutions, educational
exchanges and the role of the media.
References to the research
2. Bound K., Briggs R., Holden J., & Jones S. (2007). Cultural
Diplomacy. London: Demos.
3. Holden J. (2008). Artists, government and the public. Renewal,
6. Holden J. (2010). Democratic Culture: opening up the arts to everyone.
In D. Araya & M. Peters (Eds.), Education in the Creative Economy:
knowledge and learning in the Age of Innovation (pp.565-587), New
York: Peter Lang.
8. Holden J. (2013). Influence and Attraction: Culture and the race
for soft power in the 21st century. London: British Council.
Cultural Value and the Crisis of Legitimacy and Cultural
Diplomacy can be considered as at least `recognised' if not
`important' points of reference. The former has received 85 academic
citations (Google Scholar) and the latter 35. Furthermore, in Jason Potts'
2012 Key Concepts in the Creative Industries, the author states
that: "In summarising the juxtaposition of arts and industries John
Holden has drawn attention to how public culture provides a range of
benefits" (p.151). The Introduction to Cultures and
Globalization: The Cultural Economy, edited by Anheier and Isar,
asserts that "John Holden has summarized this well: what is clear is
that in a digitised and globalised world the relationship between
culture and creativity has become more complex, and in many ways
potentially more fruitful" (p.18).
Details of the impact
Cultural Diplomacy and Soft Power
Holden's latest publication, Influence and Attraction, prompted
comment from William Hague, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs: `I
strongly welcome this report...It makes an important and timely
contribution to the debate about how Britain can make the most of its
cultural power and influence in the world...we in Government will study
this report closely' (foreword to report ). The direct political
impact of the report is further evidenced by Lord Howell, the Chairman of
the House of Lords Committee on Soft Power, who said at the Committee's
meeting on 15th July 2013: `The excellent paper that comes
from the British Council...states, which I rather like, that "soft power
involves the things that make people love a country rather than fear it."
Influence and Attraction had additional impact in promoting public
comment and debate about soft power. The Financial Times 
devoted an article to a discussion of the report, saying that "Governments
are waking up to soft power". Dorian Lynskey's article about the
report on The Guardian website garnered 226 comments . The
report was also covered by the Huffington Post  and by
London's Evening Standard .
The most direct financial impact of Holden's work on Cultural Diplomacy
can be seen in the creation of the World Collections Programme (WCP) which
provided a grant of £3M between 2008 and 2011 to enable the British
Library, British Museum, Natural History Museum, Royal Botanic Gardens
Kew, Tate and the V&A to undertake work in the priority areas of the
Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Melissa Nisbett of King's College London
wrote : "There was a general consensus [that the] research was a
catalyst for the WCP grant being awarded to the cultural organisations:
(1) It heightened the realisation among politicians of the importance of
culture in the formation of international relations... (Senior Policy
Adviser); (2) That was the trigger that unlocked the World Collections
money...(Senior Strategist)...". In turn, Jonathan Williams, Deputy
Director of the British Museum, has confirmed the impact of the WCP not
only on the partner institutions, but in terms of public benefit: "The
partners in the World Collections Programme were established not just to
be great London institutions, but to put their collections to work for
worldwide public benefit. The WCP brought these organisations together
as never before and enabled them to deliver their international
programmes in a concerted fashion, working together to enable these six
great world collections really to belong to the world."  Holden
has given public speeches about cultural diplomacy internationally: in
Tokyo at the invitation of the Japan Foundation (2010) (covered on TV and
in the press), in Barcelona (2009) and in Berlin (2009).
Holden's papers dealing with cultural value and published by Demos have
had a wide impact and have been well-received. The Chair of the Arts
Council of Wales wrote `I warmed, as I would have expected, immediately
to your wise and determined pamphlet (Democratic Culture).  I
have nothing but praise' and wrote separately that `Arts Council
Wales has relied heavily on the research intelligence conducted and
published in recent years by John Holden.' 
Between 2008 and July 2013 Holden gave speeches and presentations on
cultural value and associated issues to 46 non-academic audiences, 21 in
the UK and 25 overseas. Some were at international gatherings of
politicians and administrators, such as the Cyprus and Czech EU Presidency
cultural conferences (2012 and 2009 respectively) and the Singapore Global
Arts exchange (2010). Through these talks Holden has had an impact on that
constituency, as witnessed by a comment in a letter from Japan's Kanagawa
Foundation (2012): `The following remarks are just a small selection of
the many glowing comments we received about your talk from attendees:
"As someone who works in government and management, the talk helped me
to understand the importance of explaining the role of culture"'.
Some of the speeches have been in professional fora such as keynotes for
the Arts Marketing Association (AMA) annual conference in 2008 and 2009.
The Executive Director of the AMA wrote: "Feedback from delegates for
his presentation was exceptionally high; ... Presenting a coherent and
thought-provoking session raising real practical issues." Another
practitioner, the Chief Executive of the Historic Royal Palaces, wrote "John
has a pre-eminent reputation as a creative thinker, provocative writer
and great communicator about cultural policy." 
Holden has also given public lectures, including at the Sydney Opera
House (2011), Adelaide (2009) and Edmonton (2008). The conference: `Future
of the City: The Arts Symposium' (June 2011), organised by The
Cultural Policy Center and the Office of Civic Engagement at The
University of Chicago and the National Endowment for the Arts, attracted a
high-level mixed audience that included the editor of the Chicago
Tribune and the writer of The Wire. The organisers later
emailed: "Thank you for your excellent introductory talk framing our
symposium conversations on June 7. Everyone I have talked with since the
event has specifically mentioned how thoughtful and illuminating your
talk was. Thanks so much for starting the day out in a way that framed
the issues so effectively for a very eclectic audience."
Public impact has also been achieved through media appearances in the UK,
where Holden has appeared on the Today Programme, Front Row
and You and Yours; and in Australia, Canada, Malta, the Czech
Republic, Hong Kong and Japan. There are at least 8 videos of Holden's
speeches and presentations posted on YouTube and Vimeo, with 4,807 hits.
Politicians and practitioners have sought direct meetings to discuss
cultural value. For example, the Overview and Scrutiny Committee at
Maidstone Borough Council, whose members were undertaking an "in-depth
review of the value of leisure and culture" wrote to Holden as they were
"... extremely keen to discuss with you your work on valuing culture."
The impact is also international. As Calgary Arts wrote: `Holden...was
invaluable in assisting Calgary's leaders in gaining a clear
understanding of the valuable role that culture plays for a city and its
Holden has had a major impact on cultural
leadership. Together with the British cultural historian Robert Hewison,
he advised the philanthropist Dame Vivien Duffield on the creation of the
Clore Leadership Programme. As a result she has invested £1M in the
Programme each year since 2003 with 253 cultural leaders awarded
Fellowships to date. The scheme has, according to Arts Professional, been
`widely praised'. In the Daily Telegraph of 25th
September 2009, Rupert Christiansen wrote that: `A major agency of
improvement has been the Clore Leadership Programme...devised by John
Holden and Robert Hewison.' 
Beneficiaries of the activities listed here include government ministers
and senior policy-makers shaping cultural policy at governmental level;
cultural policy administrators working at international, national and
metropolitan levels; cultural and creative industry practitioners;
journalists and broadcasters and academics in other institutions.
Sources to corroborate the impact
- Aspden, P, `Balance of Soft Power' in Financial Times,
22/06/2013, Life & Arts section, p18
- Sarah Sands, Editors' Diary, Evening Standard, 18/06/2013.
- Melissa Nisbett (2012): New perspectives on instrumentalism: an
empirical study of cultural diplomacy, International Journal of
Cultural Policy, p 3-4.
- E-mail to John Holden, 22nd August 2013.
- Letters from Arts Council Wales, 2009.
- Letter from Kanagawa International Foundation, Japan, 2012.
- Letter from Chief Executive, Historic Royal Palaces, 2009.
- Email available.
- As at 3rd September 2013 — Search under `John Holden
- Email from 8th February 2010, Maidstone Borough Council.
- Letter, Calgary Arts Development, 19th November 2008.
- Clore Leadership Programme:
In addition, the following can be contacted to provide further
corroboration if required;
Deputy Director, British Museum
Former Chair, Arts Council England and former Rector, Royal College of Art
Chief Executive, British Council
A statement of corroboration has been provided by:
Executive Director, Cultural Policy Center, University of Chicago