In 1992 Oliver Bennett, fresh from de Monfort University in Leicester, launched the Masters in European Cultural Policy and Administration at Warwick. A prototype of the course had been set up by Oliver at de Monfort, focusing on cultural policies within different European countries and the practical skills necessary for managing cultural organisations It was the first course of its kind and it found a permanent home in the Faculty of Arts at Warwick, sitting comfortably within the Department of Theatre and Performance Studies.
In 1993 Chris Bilton joined the course. Chris had run his own theatre company and was interested in community arts, worked for the Westminster Arts Council and was keen to critique and understand more deeply how culture was managed in the UK and beyond. He went on to complete his PhD in the Department and was later invited to set up a new Masters Course in Creative and Media Enterprises, focusing on the fast developing cultural and media industries within the UK and beyond.
The Centre for Cultural Policy Studies was officially established in 1999, with Oliver as its first Director, and became a focal point for studies of cultural policy at a time when cultural and media studies was growing but there was little sustained attention to issues of governance, cultural value, cultural products and policy-making for and within the burgeoning creative industries. Ruth Leary, herself a graduate of the Masters in European Cultural Policy and Administration, went on to join the teaching team of the MA in Creative and Media Enterprises, becoming its course director in 2008, when Chris Bilton succeeded Oliver as the Centre’s Director. In 2006 the Masters in International Design and Communication Management was created by Jonathan Vickery to focus on the history of art, the impact of visual communications and graphic design. The Centre has certainly not stood still.
We have always been focused on the ebbs and flows of the cultural and creative industries (commercial, creative and public). From the dot.com boom, to the rise of SMEs, from enterprise and creativity training to the emergence of the digital and media entrepreneur. Staff and students became increasingly interested in the interconnections between branding, media, communications and culture. The impact of global communication and social media saw the Centre launch its successful Masters in Global Media Communication in 2011. Yet, colleagues were also concerned with issues of equality, justice, access to resources and creativity for development. In 2014, we launched the Masters in Arts, Enterprise and Development. We now have four successful Masters courses. Alongside our PhD programmes, the Centre has consistently and deeply addressed the connectivities between academic theory and real-world practice. In the meantime, media have become such an important part of our research, teaching and public/industry engagement.
In 2017 we changed the Centre’s name to incorporate the work we were already doing in media policy and practice research and teaching. The Centre for Cultural and Media Policy Studies recognises that the global mediated flow of cultures, industries and practices will require scrutiny, governance, fairness of access, empathy and consideration of the environment.
What distinguishes our teaching is that we are 'vocational' and industry-focused while academically rigorous. We explore and encourage the critical thinking behind the immediate practical/operational aspects of media production, cultural organisations and creative activity. Much of our research explores applied theory, practical theory, and some of us engage in the challenges of managing creative work in a fast-changing landscape, where unpredictable cultural products are emerging all the time.
Those important questions that animated the origins of the Centre in 1992 have not disappeared, and now more than ever we can say we need policy: cultural and media policy that speaks to, of and within the widest range of industries and practices. What is and should be the place of the arts, media and culture in social and political life? How are arts, media and culture organised, managed and resourced? What impact do they have on thought, action, behaviour and the environment? While we continue to be a part of policy discussions in our research, consultancy and work with non-academic partners, the greatest impact we continue to have is in the classroom.
We have graduated over 1300 students through our Masters courses and many have flourished in successful professional careers in culture, media and arts management. The new landscape or media ecology we are now living in not only needs navigating through our sustained attention to, listening to and speaking about the continuities and disruptions. But it needs shaping in ways that promote the Centre’s values of tolerance, dialogue and integrity. The Centre for Cultural & Media Policy Studies is not just preparing students for work in the cultural and creative industries but is preparing students to change these industries.
One other way we can also tell our story is through the stories of our Centre Directors.
Emeritus Professor Oliver Bennett, Founder of the Centre