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UK government appoints commissioner to get culture sector 'back up and running'

Neil Mendoza is heading up a taskforce to help revive the arts after the coronavirus pandemic

Neil Mendoza is the UK government’s new Commissioner for Cultural Recovery and Renewal © John Cairns

Neil Mendoza has today been appointed the UK government’s Commissioner for Cultural Recovery and Renewal. He will be responsible for providing the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) with “an expert and independent voice” to deal with the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on the arts.

Mendoza, the provost of Oxford’s Oriel College, led a review of England’s museums in 2017. On that occasion he set out to recommend what the government could do “to assist in creating and maintaining a thriving, sustainable and effective museum sector”. No one then could have foreseen the coronavirus crisis which has now closed museums, heritage sites, theatres and concert halls.

Oliver Dowden, the culture secretary who appointed Mendoza, says that as commissioner he has been charged with helping to get the cultural and creative sectors “back up and running”.

Drawing on his experience in the cultural sector, Mendoza has already started work to garner “the strongest, most innovative ideas” for renewal. The greatest long-term problem is of course funding. With a forthcoming government spending review, DCMS will be lobbying Treasury for additional money, but at a time when there are seemingly endless needy causes. The hope is that Mendoza’s input will help provide the necessary ammunition for the cultural sector.

Alongside the Mendoza appointment DCMS is also leading a newly established Recreation & Leisure Taskforce, which will develop plans for how the sector can be revived. Chaired by Dowden, its members include Mendoza and Arts Council England chairman Nicholas Serota. The taskforce’s first meeting takes place today and it will then meet weekly. The hope is that most venues will open this summer.