Views from December 2013

  1. Photograph of Birmingham Library Complex 07 Dec

    Chris Bailey reports on Arts Development UK 2013 Conference in Birmingham

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Photograph of Birmingham Library Complex

Chris Bailey reports on Arts Development UK 2013 Conference in Birmingham

07 December 2013

"The UK Arts Index for 2013 has just been published providing a reliable indication of the vitality of the arts since 2010. One of the most dramatic statistics measures the fall over three years of more than 20% in local government support for the arts and culture. As the authors note, this is hugely disproportionate to the level of cuts that councils are being asked to make. There is little consistency across the country since each local authority has to find its own level of savings. In more than once case redundancies are organised in waves involving hundreds of employees and since these are often ‘voluntary’, its posts that are being deleted as individuals are not being replaced. Councils are deciding what it is their job to provide and not surprisingly those services they are not compelled by legislation to provide, like culture, are the lowest priority.

"You might think that the 200 arts development officers who gathered on 28 and 29 November 2013 at the Library of Birmingham for the AD-UK annual conference are an endangered species. The conference ‘Locally Sourced: Recipes for Change in the Arts’ took a more optimistic view. Although there was a lot on the menu, from snack-sized policy briefings from Arts Council England, to less digestible workshops on the National Planning Framework, it did not include turkeys voting to appear on their own dining table.

"Underlying many conversations around the table was the variety of arts development activity nationally and the diversity of ways it is being achieved. In the years since John Holden summarised the interaction of the public and private spheres in culture communities are increasingly being well served by trusts and partnerships working alongside rather than as part of local authorities. Birmingham, though still retaining its arts team, has come up with some exemplary ways of doing things, from the Leader’s Arts Summit to participatory planning and budgeting for culture at neighbourhood level. Fundamental to this Big City Culture is the use of data, not just the information collected and shared by arts organisations across the city and levels of access to arts education, but also the socio-demographic data that is being used to inform the setting of objectives for all partners in delivery.  Arts development is evolving, but it is far from extinct."

Chris Bailey