Cultural Playing Field

NALGAO Conference 2010 by Robin Simpson
December 10, 2010, 1:20 pm
Filed under: meetings | Tags: , , , , , , ,

On Monday and Tuesday Mary, Daniel, Helen and I were at the annual conference of the National Association of Local Government Arts Officers in Hove. The NALGAO conference is always a very enjoyable and well-run event. Inevitably, this year, the mood was fairly downbeat, with news of some major cuts to local authority arts funding having emerged over recent weeks and the likelihood of much more to come. Nevertheless it was good to see many old and new friends and to hear so much talk about the importance of the voluntary arts.

The Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey, addressed the NALGAO conference on Monday afternoon. On the decisions of some local authorities to make major cuts in arts funding he said “while I might raise the odd eyebrow at the decisions of some councils on arts funding I absolutely defend the right of those councils to take those decisions”. He also said to this audience of local authority arts officers that “we shouldn’t let ourselves be consumed by talk of cuts”. The main focus of the Minister’s speech was ‘The Big Society’. Ed Vaizey said “The arts already are the embodiment of the Big Society. There are over 50,000 well-organised voluntary groups across the country, not to mention the groups associated with professional venues that bring together people with shared interests – whether it’s book clubs, drama clubs or pottery courses.” The Minister cited voluntary arts umbrella body The British Decoy Wildfowl Carvers Association as an example of the range and diversity of arts activity in the UK. He said “Our Creative Talent calculated that almost 6 million people were involved in community arts groups and a further 3.5 million volunteered as extras or helpers. This is the Big Society in action. I don’t think the arts sector needs to desperately adapt in the hope of bringing itself in line with central government thinking. It just needs to shout a little louder about what it already does and help bring government thinking along with it.”

The NALGAO AGM on Monday evening agreed to change the name of the organisation to ‘Arts Development UK’ and to open up membership beyond to local government arts officers. On Tuesday I gave a presentation on ‘The Big Society’, urging local authority arts officer to work with Voluntary Arts to help local voluntary arts groups to connect more effectively to their communities.

Robin Simpson.


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