A response to the Conservative manifesto on Culture (or lack of)

A quick scan through the Conservative manifesto reveals there is no section dedicated to arts and culture. Instead, we get this:

Prosperous towns and cities across Britain

Our towns and cities excel when they have vibrant cultural life. Britain’s arts and cultureare world-beating and are at the heart of the regeneration of much of modern Britain. We will continue our strong support for the arts, and ensure more of that support is basedoutside London. We will maintain free entry to the permanent collections of our major national museums and galleries. We will introduce a new cultural development fund to use cultural investment to turn around communities. We will hold a Great Exhibition of the North in 2018, to celebrate amazing achievements in innovation, the arts and engineering.

Resisting the temptation to resort to Star Trek quips about live long and prosper will only mask my contempt for a political party that can only value the arts in relation to prosperity. They will use cultural investment to ‘turn around’ communities. Blatent instrumentalism – sticking-plaster mentality for places that have been neglected and local authorities stripped to the bone by austerity measures. 

But wait, how exciting and forward thinking – a Great Exhibition! Returning to Victorian times for our cultural references is much safer that looking at politics today. It even has a website already, with a video that I had to stop watching, as it made me feel a little seasick. For some odd reason, all the people speaking have been told to move towards the camera in a strange, zombie like way.

 If May gets her way we’ll have fox hunting back and workhouses too. The foodbanks are just the first step. Bring back Dickens.

A response to the Labour Manifesto on Culture

Good to see culture gets a mention, even if it isn’t particularly rocket science. The most important sentence in the two pages, has to be, that Labour will “put creativity back at the heart of the curriculum” and make sure that arts are not ‘sidelined’. Also that creative careers will be recognised as having value.

Of course, it’s also good to see that cuts to local authority budgets for libraries, museums and galleries will stop. Possibly too late for some – but hope for many others that have managed to weather the storms to date. The concept of ‘creative clusters’ is not dissimilar to creative People & Places, which is already in place and actively coming up with some excellent outcomes, beginning to transform the country’s cultural landscape.

As they say, “being a performer is a great career.” That could say performer/artist/musician/writer/dancer etc – which makes me wonder why ‘performer’ was chosen? The culture of low/no pay is certainly one that has become the norm in all creative industries, meaning only people supported families can work in the arts without doing a day-job. That is excruciatingly obvious when you see how many people expect artists to work for peanuts. Or, worse, ‘profile raising’.

It mentions the ‘value gap’ between producers of creative content and profits from digital services – I’d like to see a similar comparison made between emerging artists and high profile galleries and art fairs. It’s always the incubation stages of the arts that are lowly paid, which means there is an imbalance in financial survival in the fledgling years.

I look forward to reading the  Conservative Cultural manifesto.

 

Walking Stumbling Limping Falling by Alyson Hallett & Phil Smith

I just wrote this whole post then tripped up. My finger slipped on the iPad and I wiped the whole text away with one action. Such is life. Things change with the blink of an eye, an accidental swipe, a fall from grace. When our bodies are irrevocably altered by illness or surgery, our minds are too. And maybe what evolves is richer than what was there before. This book proves that.

It is the outcome of a conversation between two keen walkers who, for different reasons, were temporarily grounded. And it is a grounding read for those of us of a certain age. It reassures us that we are not alone.

At the beginning, I struggled to get into it, in the same way I find rising from a deep, low sofa, with soft cushions, difficult. I don’t recall finding that hard when I was younger. I wasn’t quite sure of the territory, there are quite a few unknowns until the narrative revealed itself. Like an anatomy of walking. As it progresses we get closer to the bone, deeper into the cells, delving through the surface tension and tentatively navigating the cracks in the pavements and mortality.

I enjoyed the comments about the association of falling with humiliation. How as children we fall constantly and it is part of learning, but we don’t anticipate that, as adults, we will have to revisit that process for some reason. And it will always be so excruciatingly embarrassing that we will leap to our feet as fast as possible. But sometimes just staying down there, reflecting on how the world looks from a new perspective, can be a revelation.

The list of scores for a fall is wonderful and witty. I’d like to add to that list if I may – Swooning fall: falling in love so deeply you lose your footing and, inevitably, end up on your back.

Thanks to both writers for a very pleasurable read, I recommend it to everyone. You can get it here.

Creative Canopy goes wild in the country!

What a brilliant day we had yesterday here in the Forest of Dean! We were at the West Dean Parish Council building in Bream to launch Creative Canopy and it was packed to the hilt! The perfect sunny day, we were able to spread the activities into the wonderful courtyard garden. Being part of the BBC Get Creative Weekend was great too.

There’ll be a press release going out very soon, but meanwhile, here’s a video link so you can enjoy a bit of what we had – though it won’t be as good as being there! And a few pics too.

Thank you to EVERYONE that exhibited or performed; that came to participate and join in; the cafe team; the Parish Council for letting us use the building; Arts Council England for funding the event and the Creative Canopy members that made it happen. Look out for more things in the future and if you want to go on the mailing list, put ‘mailing list’ in the subject line of an email and fire it over to fodcreativecanopy@gmail.com

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Creative Canopy event TODAY in Bream, Forest of Dean

Inspired by Arts Council England (ACE) initiative Creative People and Places, today the Forest hosts it’s first event delivered by Creative Canopy. It’s a provisional name for a collective of arts practitioners and organisations in the area, who have been meeting regularly to discuss what can be learnt from Creative People & Places projects, and how that learning can be used locally. We have Sarah Butler & Nicole Collette giving us a presentation and hosting a workshop, come and be inspired by their wonderful drawings, words and animations from 100 Stories.

Here’s an example: How to Build Trust (Butler & Mollett)

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With support from ACE, the process of enquiry begins by inviting artists to show and share what they do in the Forest,  inviting the public to come and see what is already happening here. A day for people to join in with activities by having a go,  finding out more about what is on offer, and being entertained too! A day for people to join in with activities by having a go, find out more about what is on offer and being entertained too! Expect music, trapeze, there, brass bands, jive dance, and lots lots more.

We’re part of the Get Creative Weekend too – a nationwide celebration of creativity.

Top that up with lovely weather, beautiful landscapes and FREE entry, why would you NOT come along today between 12 noon and 6pm?

Full programme here

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working in the arts & living in the Forest of Dean

It’s not an impossible thing to do! It’s not always easy, it’s a long drive to most places and feels even longer coming home. Because wherever I go I yearn to be back by the Severn and away from the traffic and noise of the cities.

I NEED culture, not just want. So am very glad I work in the arts, because I am constantly saturated by culture and nature, the ideal combination for me, not for everyone I know. Having long done battle with the “I really ought to live in the city” mind-game, I now feel fairly settled. The fact that I have returned to drawing is a good indicator of that. Coming from a conceptual intellectual background where every work must be loaded with meaning, at the moment, drawing is enough for me. I hope to have time and space to return to more digital outputs,but it’s certainly good for me now.

And so is the Creative Canopy initiative in the Forest. This weekend we launch, see my previous blogpost for details on that. And the local open studios group is reinventing itself as farOpen (Forest and Rivers Open), and will also set up other ‘open’ projects in the future – farOpen writing; farOpen events; farOpen exhibitions; farOpen food……it is so brilliant to see the Forest ‘open’ to new ideas!

So here is todays drawing, you can see the rest on http://www.hybrideyes.com

Have a lovely weekend and I hope you make it to Bream to see and join in with a wide range of tasters, showcasing the creativity that is already here in the community. And talk to us, tell us what else you’d like to see here too.

For now, I’m staying!

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Creative Canopy – things are stirring in the Forest of Dean, activities bracing for the weekend…

FREE EVENT – PART OF THE BBC  GET CREATIVE WEEKEND

Sunday 9th April                 12pm – 6pm           West Dean Parish Centre in Bream

In 2016 Arts Council England chose the Forest of Dean as a priority area for the South West Region due to comparatively low arts engagement and investment. They want to see more cultural, creative, artistic events and opportunities in the Forest and are willing to invest significant money to make this happen. Artists and Arts Organisations from across the District have all been working together for the last few months to make this ambition a reality. The working title for this project is ‘Creative Canopy’.

The community will be at the heart of Creative Canopy so there will be a number of free events over the coming months that will enable important conversations to take place between artists and local residents. The first of these will take place on Sunday 9th April between 12pm and 6pm at the West Dean Parish Centre in Bream. It will be a an event full of  singing, theatre, painting, crafts, printmaking, dancing, textiles, music of all kinds, circus and more – a great selection of wonderful things to see and do. In return Creative Canopy simply requests participants talk to them about what kind of cultural events they would like to see take place in the future.

The afternoon will also feature an exciting presentation from guest artists Sarah Butler and Nicole Mollett who were commissioned by Arts Council England to creatively map the Creative People and Places Project. Their inspirational work, More Than a Hundred Stories, will give attendees an opportunity to see the fantastic work that has been taking place in other parts of the country and will hopefully fuel ideas for future projects across the Forest of Dean.

Come and join us! You can try things out, find out more about creative groups in the area, and participate in workshops and talks.

And come and talk to the team, tell us what you think of what is happening here, and what is NOT happening that you’d like to see more of.

And see my new pop-up banner!

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