Culture 2025 – I wouldn’t start from here at all!

What should an effective Cultural Policy look like?

It would accept and work with the UNESCO definition of Culture (as the new Dublin City Cultural Policy does for example)
It would understand the critical importance of every citizen’s individual creativity throughout all of life and every strata and section of society.
It would explicitly state it’s understanding of the relationship between Creativity, Culture, Arts and Heritage, and point out that arts and heritage are the result of the culture.
It would grasp the opportunity to replace the current outdated, patronising and divisive legislation with laws that enshrine, protect and celebrate all of the above,  and all the people earning a living from the culture industries.
It would understand the impact of a vibrant culture on health, welfare, community, citizenship, creative industries and the wider economy.
It would understand that Culture works through every agency and department of government.
It would understand that culture cannot be controlled by a central agency and that culture constantly changes.
It would understand that policy and strategy must respond to culture not attempt to direct it.
It would state actions that would free creativity not constrain it.
Actions that would free creativity not constrain it
Culture2025 will do none of these things and here’s why.

Continue reading Culture 2025 – I wouldn’t start from here at all!

Unlocking the Power of Philanthropy in Arts and Culture

Why Can’t I get Donations?

Everybody working in the arts and culture industry is feeling the pressure. State funding is declining and the funding agencies are promoting the argument that philanthropy must fill the gap left by the cutbacks. Arts organisations are all taking fund-raising courses, appointing funding executives, skilling up on varieties of CRM tools and soaking up the sayings of the new gurus – impact drives income, and you have to tell a compelling story about what you do, etc. etc.

I’m actually a big fan of all this, but there is a danger that we oversimplify the economic realities of philanthropy as well as its ethical implications.

The question is, can everybody build a sustainable artistic or cultural enterprise based on philanthropy and the answer is no – regardless of impact or compelling narrative. But that can be changed.

Continue reading Unlocking the Power of Philanthropy in Arts and Culture

When is a theatre company a Theatre Company

A couple of years ago I had to end a business relationship with an old friend. Something I would rather not have done. However, it was necessary when I realised that that person’s company wasn’t a company.  It was a legal fiction, necessary if he was to receive grants and commissions, it had no assets, no investors, and no long term plan. It did one thing (one set of tasks) and repeated it again and again – whenever it got a grant or a commission. Essentially this friend did one thing and hawked that skill around: they were a freelancer. Not a company. Not really. And this came as a shock to them.

Continue reading When is a theatre company a Theatre Company

What kind of Arts Council do we need?

As Peter Brook once remarked, theatre is now, and always has been, in crisis. Whatever the nature of the continuing existential threat that Brook Identified the truth is that theatre in Ireland (as in many other parts of the world) is facing a sustained economic and ideological challenge that will change how we conceive of, create, and experience theatre.

Continue reading What kind of Arts Council do we need?

“What shall we do, now that we are happy?” – Reconciling the intrinsic and the instrumental in the Culture Industry

I was in conversation recently with one of our leading theatre artists. The topic of the government’s impending national culture policy discussion document, culture2025, came up so I asked their opinion. They looked up from under lowered brows and uttered, in that tired contemptuous tone, a single word: “Instrumentalist”.

Continue reading “What shall we do, now that we are happy?” – Reconciling the intrinsic and the instrumental in the Culture Industry

Culturally Creative or Creatively Cultural? What the hell are we talking about?!

I’m sorry, you say I’m doing what?

For artists, arts policy makers, politicians, strategists, consultants, entrepreneurs, CEOs and, well, mostly artists “the world is in a terrible state of chassis”, as Sean O’Casey wrote. (“Chassis” meaning “chaos’ for those of us not familiar with his work). Time was you could talk about Arts and Culture (nearly always with capital letters) and everybody – including you – knew what you meant. It’s why the Irish Arts Act lists what can be considered as art with great confidence and only included cinema in its second iteration. It made life easy for the funding agencies that were brought into existence to protect and develop The Arts (because we all knew what art was) and allowed us to quietly divide the society between the cultured (those who appreciated The Arts) and the uncultured (those who did not).  Alas, all has changed, a terrible beauty has been born, as Yeats would say.

We now have to contend with arts, culture (no capital letters), heritage, co-creation, prosumers (yes its a word), creative, industry, imagination, creative industries, culture and cultural industries, Culture 3.0, and of course the ongoing manichean struggle between intrinsic and instrumental value.  It ain’t easy.

So, with the Irish Government’s  first ever cultural policy – Culture2025 – in the pipeline I thought I’d try to tease out some of the key terms that are going to get thrown around in the forthcoming debate. It’s important that we all agree on the meaning of the words we use in this debate and how they relate to each other or we’re in danger of leaving the table with very different expectations. Agreeing on the meaning of what we’re saying is the first step toward strategic alignment – that magical state where everybody works together toward the same goal.

Continue reading Culturally Creative or Creatively Cultural? What the hell are we talking about?!

Dogs, Stars, Cows, Question Marks and the Art of Arts Programming.

So, you’re running an Arts Centre or a gallery or a “cultural Institution”; or you’ve just started a new festival or theatre or dance company. How do you decide what to programme? What will you actually do, and what factors – internal and external – will inform that decision? What criteria will you use to justify the massive investment of time, talent, energy and public or private money. It’s a tricky one. Continue reading Dogs, Stars, Cows, Question Marks and the Art of Arts Programming.

Funders, Managers and Artists

What Do we Think we’re Doing?

Stories are back in fashion. Marketers and service managers talk about understanding the customer story, Leadership and entrepreneur manuals talk about effective story-telling but what I find interesting is work done on story-telling in organisations, and how we can apply the learning from that to our understanding of the cultural industries, of the relationship between Arts Funders, Arts Managers and Artists Continue reading Funders, Managers and Artists