Corey Mwamba


Absolutely humongous rant about subsidised arts in Derby

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.