Part of a being a rural artist is the importance of driving time as thinking time....I spent the drive home from New Galloway composing a letter to our elected representatives. I hope I am not jumping any guns, but I thought I'd share it - in the hope that it might be useful or that others could improve on it:
On Monday 4th October more that 40 people from the independent arts sector met at The Catstrand in New Galloway – this group included representatives of arts centres, venues, festivals, trusts and artist-led groups.
The session was designed to begin a shared working progress that would genuinely reflect the strengths of the sector and allow it to fulfil its potential as a key factor in the region’s future.
From the outset 3 strong themes emerged:
· The powerful role of the arts in maintaining and building communities
· Strength and depth in the arts from the level of tiny villages through to larger regional hubs (eg A’the Airts, Catstrand, The Stove etc)
· A blockage at local government level, that has resulted in key messages about the arts in D&G not getting through at a national level.
Together we made a commitment to acting on these themes…..hence why I am writing to you now:
Elsewhere in Europe and beyond there are many examples of where Local and National governments have adopted Culture and the Arts as ‘smart governance’ –conceived as part of an overall package and delivering extraordinarily good value for money for communities, regions and countries.
In today’s world, and particularly in D&G, the arts are no longer just about catering for niche audiences – they are about empowering communities to get involved in bringing about positive change for themselves…building capacity, skills and confidence. Arts venues and groups are some of the keystones of successful communities in a world where communal activity is increasingly rare.
I would ask you, as an elected representative in the region, to make a point of taking part in at least one arts event every month in the coming year.
I would also ask that you listen to representations from the arts community of the region about creating a new and efficient infrastructure that caters for venues, practitioners and audiences/participants in replacing the previous arts delivery model for the region.
At The Catstrand meeting numerous examples were given of a lack of understanding/awareness at a national level of the arts in D&G. It became increasingly clear that there has been a consistent failure at strategic level to bridge between activity ‘on the ground’ and the agencies charged with supporting the arts at national level. Examples were cited of national organisations whom desired to support the cultural sector in our region and had been able to access basic information about where to target their resources.
I hope that our elected representatives will also be able to come together to take advantage of this unique moment of opportunity to reflect upon the importance and huge potential of the arts in our region and:
· Assist in the creation of new linkages and representation for the arts
· Extend the role of the arts as a fundamental part of education, community development, tourism and the environment.
· Look closely at the council’s cultural delivery