Yesterday, I attended a consultation meeting to talk about how subsidised arts in Derby was going to move forward after the knee-smashing delivered by the last City Council. It wasn't the only one—small groups have been assembled and the consultants [Graham Devlin and Peter Boyden] are talking to those groups; the findings from the discussion will then be drawn up into the evaluation and the evaluation will formulate the strategy for subsided arts and culture in Derby.
I sat around the table with Gopa Nath from Surtal, Baby J from Baby People and Amanda Harker from ArtCore—all of us having been part of the furniture in the arts for a number of years. The independent consultant was a good listener, and took hold of what we were saying.
But the thing that struck me was that about twelve or so years ago, I was in a room with a bunch of people from the arts landscape of Derby [I think Alf Fullerton was around then] and an independent consultant, talking generally about exactly the same things. And about two years before that, I did the same thing, but Richard Powell was the consultant then, but other than that, the meeting was on a similar theme.
Now I'm not saying that the meeting yesterday wasn't necessary—because it really, really was—but I am saying that what was mentioned at the meeting was very similar to what was mentioned almost a decade and a half ago. This is a different situation from the other times, but the themes are still there. And they were repeated again.
Having thought about yesterday's meeting, I think perhaps we have said these things too subtly: so I'd like to say some of them from my own perspective [I'm not speaking on behalf of anyone else—these are my observations], as clearly as I can, now.
- There has been and is a growing and systematic lack of communication, recognition of value and care for what is happening here across the whole arts landscape, and we are all at fault.
- If the main arts landscape in Derby is viewed as a narrow field comprised of building-based organisations that exist only in the city centre, a monoculture could develop which would be detrimental to Derby in the long run.
- Money is a small part of all this. Even though we're currently in a recession, in real terms there is more money than there was a decade ago. No one likes to say it, but it's true. How it is spent is the problem.
- The City Council and larger funded organisations should have a duty of care towards subsidised arts provision in the city that extends beyond their four walls and the city centre.
- Derby is not large enough as a city to have unfriendly, corporate, top-down conversations in the arts.
There are more. But [for readability] I'm going to break down what I mean in the comments; and post more, subsequently.