South Feast

March 4th, 2014 | Posted by admin in cultural policy | news - (Comments Off on South Feast)


The current debate on geographic distribution of arts funding reminded me of an argument I once had with a film colleague who had just pronounced to the admirable Estelle Morris that film was more egalitarian than classical music and therefore deserving of some of its funding.  It seems to me that both robbing Valery to pay Steve, and Boris to pay Bradford is missing the big picture.   There is no doubt that London-centrism of arts activity is on the rise as the public pound shrinks in its mixed economy.  This does not mean that Londoners are privileged.  If you are on a minimum wage in Peckham are you really culturally ‘better off’ than if you are on a minimum wage in Blackburn?

There is no doubt that principles of cultural democracy, and ‘creative city’ energy are threatened by the unpalatable London bubble.  The sector needs to demonstrate its commitment to the ‘everyone’ bit of Arts Council England’s mission.  And for those London nested organisation with ‘national’ in their title.  Well, it should be more than just a brand.         image: Tate Modern extension, author’s photograph

Hokey cokey

January 13th, 2014 | Posted by admin in cultural policy - (Comments Off on Hokey cokey)

val_danceDo we want politicians in or out of the cultural policy inner circle?  The arms length principle of public arts patronage meets the investment needs of the creative economy and cultural democracy, and the results are perplexing.  We want political ownership but question political involvement.  For example the RSA’s Adam Lent conjures up Ken Robinson’s vision of creative formal education in a rousing call for a creative volksgeist but then insists that politicians need to be kept out.  The vision is that the creative entrepreneurship model can translate into a creativity revolution that will ride the wave of a consumer shift to the authentic, bespoke and human.    But Robinson’s inspiring work never seemed to achieve much political traction and the creative class may have had its moment in some economies.  Perhaps we are primarily talking about a need for a C21st restatement of UK’s mixed cultural economy and the interdependencies of commerce, creativity and society.

The global position is equally challenging, even if the theme of the 6th World Summit on Arts & Culture, currently underway in Santiago, looks at new models for cultural development.   These are NGO voices and the value of cultural policy is paramount, perhaps most elegantly expressed in a call to build on The World Cultural Summit 2013 UNESCO Hangzhou Declaration (http://post2015.org/2013/11/13/culture-as-goal-in-the-post-2015-development-agenda/).   Sometimes, however, beautifully crafted and evidenced papers and arguments are iceberg tips, poking out from submerged masses of activity, and it can be difficult to disentangle the wish list from the deliverable.

The papers for the World Summit do make the link between public involvement and the weight that cultural policy wields, just as the creative development agenda acknowledges the need for populism and access to the tools of creativity.   Let us keep working on a culture and creativity story that works for both politicians and the wider public.

Photo by Clarita, morgueFile creative commons

Distant Voices

November 10th, 2013 | Posted by admin in cultural policy | Europe - (Comments Off on Distant Voices)

The European project is first and foremost about a stable Europe.   The embedding of human rights in this endeavour seems to me a worthwhile enterprise, reinforced in a recent visit to Warsaw to discuss the relationship of the right to culture to current and future European human rights legislation. This is uppermost in the minds of those working towards Warsaw’s Capital of Culture in 2016.

Our relationship to culture is, however, not just about accessing it, but also how we make it, and how we make it work for our relationships with other people both where we live, and where we don’t.    Culture is partly  ‘anti-propaganda’, stripping away the myths and histories used to subsume us in national or commercial interests.

The day after my return, in a post screening discussion of Chinese cinema, the speaker stated ‘heritage cinema always rewrites history’, causing me to rewind the various filmic encounters of the previous days: Wajda’s eulogising ‘Walesa, Man of Hope’; Warsaw Uprising Museum’s 3D flypast of 1944 devastation; and the ‘poster boy’ linking of WW1 remembrance and C21st military adventurism on the Heathrow Express television.   The Chinese cinema debate emphasised that culture needs plurality in both production and consumption.  The Polish debate emphasised the work needed to achieve it.  (Image: Warsaw under construction)


September 22nd, 2013 | Posted by admin in creative industries | cultural policy - (Comments Off on kytketty)

Commentators can be apt to eulogise ‘the city’ as the dynamic hub where creativity charts our future.  But ‘the city’ is as much a state of mind as a geo-demographic fact.  So what happens when a rural enterprise sets out to be as connected, relevant and pioneering as anything in SE1?

Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival, North by Northeast,  opens this week with some of the best films and moving image art from the North Sea rim of the town’s historic trading routes.   The festival has been embraced by artists, embassies and cultural partners throughout the Nordic countries.

This kind of connectivity is harder outside of large urban conurbations, but as Berwick is discovering, once achieved can be as useful a developmental platform as the showpiece events of Manchester, Edinburgh or London.    Image: Sea Lane/Wikipedia.org

Prospecting Creativity

June 15th, 2013 | Posted by admin in creative industries | cultural policy - (Comments Off on Prospecting Creativity)

761px-Miners_Prospecting,_Frederic_RemingtonLocal Enterprise Partnerships have just received a modest uplift in funds and, on the whole, are making the best of the hand they have been dealt.  A good example is Northamptonshire Enterprise Partnership.  While needing to direct investment to other priorities such as high performance engineering, NEP have launched a prospectus for the Cultural and Creative Industries, reflecting recognition of the role LEP’s can play by working in partnership across the sector.  The initiative is a direct response to the recommendations of Drew Wylie’s report ‘Right Here, Right Now’.  (http://www.northamptonshireep.co.uk/key-sectors/creative-and-cultural-industries/).   Image: Wikimedia commons