Professor Ben Walmsley

Policy Leader - Policy Leeds

I am Professor of Cultural Engagement in the School of Performance and Cultural Industries and Director of the national Centre for Cultural Value. I have published widely in leading journals on arts marketing, arts management, cultural policy and cultural value. My monograph Audience Engagement in the Performing Arts: A critical analysis was published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2019 and reviewed as “an exemplary text that brings current debates about audiences, cultural value and policy together in a critical engagement”.

As Director of the Centre for Cultural Value, I am the strategic lead for the Centre’s core activities: making academic research more accessible to the cultural sector; promoting rigorous evaluation about the value and impacts of culture; and engaging with policymakers across the UK to foster an evidence-informed approach to the development of cultural policy. The ambitious policy objective of the Centre is to place culture at the heart of local, regional and national policymaking across the UK.

The policy engagement strand of the Centre’s activity is currently being enhanced through two large RCUK bids, on both of which I act as PI. The first is a 15-month £960k UKRI/AHRC-funded project delivered in collaboration with the Creative Industries Policy and Evidence Centre (PEC) and The Audience Agency. It is designed to evaluate the impacts of COVID-19 on the cultural sector across the UK and highlight the implications for policymaking. As part of this project, I am in regular contact with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), where I manage a Post-Doctoral Research Assistant (PDRA) placement scheme.

The second project is a 13-month £200k ESRC-funded project which seeks to effect a step-change in the way that cultural data informs policy development. The project will co-develop a mixed-methods evaluation framework to present a holistic picture of the cultural, social and economic impacts that arts, culture and heritage related activities have on people and places. The development of this framework is dependent on reviewing and improving processes involved in collecting, collating, storing, managing and allowing access to public datasets. Run in collaboration with the Leeds Institute for Data Analytics and in partnership with 11 cultural Arm’s Length Bodies, the project reflects ADR UK’s mission to join up the abundance of extant administrative data and make it available for vital research to better inform policy decisions.

Prior to my academic career, I had ten years’ experience in the arts and cultural sector, most recently as Operations Manager and Producer at the National Theatre of Scotland. Between 2010 and 2017, I was engaged as an Artistic Assessor for Drama for Arts Council England, and since 2014 I have been the Academic Director of the Arts Fundraising and Philanthropy programme, which is now one of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisations. I am a member of AHRC’s Peer Review College, an Advisory Board Member of Cultural Trends, and the Co-Editor of the peer-reviewed journal Arts and the Market.

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