Cultural Playing Field


LGA/CLOA Culture, Tourism and Sport Conference by Robin Simpson
March 4, 2011, 5:50 pm
Filed under: meetings | Tags: , , , ,

On Friday I was in York to speak at the Local Government Association/Chief Leisure Officers’ Association ‘Culture, Tourism and Sport Conference’ as part of a session on ‘Building the Big Society’. I spoke of the huge potential provided by the voluntary arts sector but warned of the need to appreciate the particular motivations of participants. One of my fellow panel members was Kevin Douglas, the Chief Executive of Eden District Council which is one of the Government’s Big Society ‘vanguard’ areas. Kevin said there was a distinct danger that, at the end of the vanguard period, relationships between the local community and the local authority might actually be worse. He emphasised that The Big Society is a long term process. In response to my comment that everyone seems to think they are already doing The Big Society, Kevin said “I don’t think anyone is doing Big Society but a lot of people are doing a lot of it”.

As well as the panel session I took part in, I also heard the conference speeches by Alan Davey, Chief Executive of Arts Council England, and the Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey. Alan noted the “significant dent in public sector investment in arts and culture” and stressed the need to “set out the real case to be made in town halls for arts and culture”. He said “people want to feel that sense of community that engaging in culture gives”. Alan said it is important for us to work together to get maximum value out of the joint investment that ACE and local authorities make. He spoke about arts organisations working collaboratively and sharing back-office functions and said “in the arts world there is a sense of ambition: we are not giving up”.  Alan said that ACE will prioritise partnerships with local authorities that make a commitment to the arts and culture. Ed Vaizey spoke about the vital role that local government plays in delivering cultural services to communities. He said “we’ve got to respond sensibly and responsibly to the challenges we face”. The Minister said there was a real opportunity to develop new and more effective partnerships. He thought that local cultural partnerships could unlock a previously hidden wealth of expertise and capacity.

Robin Simpson.

 

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