If I were the Minister for Culture….This is what I’d Do…

This second stage of the analysis looked at the answers to  the second question : “If you could change three things about the conditions under which you work tomorrow, what would they be? ”

94 people responded to the questionnaire, which should give 282 separate comments. However, some people made less than three comments/suggestions and there were three comments that did not seem to relate to the question. So in total I identified 260 discrete comments.

I identified recurring ideas and experiences, and then grouped them under thematic headings.  At the most basic level we can now see the number of times each idea occurred, and that gives a sense of the relative importance of each theme.  So we can now say what area of policy action is of most importance to people actually working in the arts/culture sector.

To be honest – I was really surprised!

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If I were the Minister for Culture…Initial Results

First, thanks to everybody who responded to this questionnaire.  I wanted to get a picture of what people are thinking across the wider arts sector,   a sense of what they think needs to be done, a sense of what it’s like “out there”.  So let’s get to it. Continue reading

Copyright – Its time to start issuing invoices

Copyright is one of the defining economic elements of creative activities. You could almost say that if you can’t copyright something then it probably isn’t a creative practice.  Actors, dancers, visual artists, writers, composers, musicians all have copyright. (So do architects and games designers and a host of creative industries workers). Artists copyright is protected by national and international law.  It’s potentially one of the most powerful earning tools in an artists career. And yet, here in Ireland, for the majority of Irish Artists it’s almost impossible to collect. So here’s what could happen. Continue reading

Stop looking for more arts funding – its never going to come.

I said on social media when this lock-in started that I would post some big picture ideas on arts and culture practice, policy and economics, so here’s the first in a series of what I hope will be useful provocations.

Direct government funding to the arts in this country cannot – and most probably never will – meet the EU average of 0.6% of GDP (regardless of whatever remarkable “changes” are expected after the Great Lock-In)  We need to accept that and stop making it the central ask of lobbying efforts. Here’s why Continue reading

Copyright – How much are we really talking about here?

To follow up on my previous article about copyright, and as a contribution to the recently published Arts Council Policy, Paying The Artist, I thought I’d ask the question how much is copyright worth? Because nobody has ever given me a satisfactory answer (an actual number), and every politician and bureaucrat I’ve raised it with has dismissed it as either too insignificant to worry about or an irritating obstacle to foreign investment and job creation. So, I did a bit of digging and I came up with a number….

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Playing golf with a football

football golf clubWhy are artists poor? And, according to reports in Ireland, getting poorer? According to the official narratives artists and their art are a core component of the Irish economy and society. According to that narrative art is good for everybody’s wellbeing and is a cornerstone of tourism and soft diplomacy. Every time an award is won or a film starts principal photography there’s a politician standing by for a photograph like a proud parent at a graduation. Despite all this the income goes down and the cost of being an artist goes up.

Even as funding creeps up year on year it fails to alleviate the problem. The Dutch artist and sociologist Hans Abbing argued convincingly that as funding goes up more people are attracted into the funding market, so increases in funding – below a certain level – make the problem worse.

What is the root cause of this funding problem, the ongoing poverty of artists?

Its a mismatch.

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The Taxing Truth About State Funding and The Bad Budget for the Arts

Bear with me, because this is about a great truth underlying state funding and the cultural economy. It’s also a way that artists could secure almost limitless additional funding.

Section 481 is the tax incentive programme, managed by the Department of Culture through the Revenue Commissioners, for the benefit of the audio visual industry. Its a model of simplicity. Roughly here’s how it works.

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Fun With Numbers – Where does the Money go?

I read a report recently – from Arts NI I think – about per capita spending on the arts. They were comparing the current absurdly low level of per capita funding in Northern Ireland with other territories in the EU. It struck me that there seems to be difficulty getting agreement on amounts invested and economic value created, costs and benefits etc., particularly at government level. A lot of the confusion stems from the old problem of are we talking about Culture or are we talking about The Arts, around capital as opposed to current funding, and around a fundamentally ideological problem surrounding the idea of state funding – is it investment or is it an expenditure. So I thought I’d skip back to the source data in an Irish context and see what I could find. The results are very interesting.

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Strategic Storytelling

I was having a conversation recently with a colleague about organisational strategy and culture. We were comparing our experiences with, and approaches to, various clients. My colleague works primarily from a communications perspective, analysing how organisatins communicate internally and how they manage their external or PR functions.

The conversation began to focus on the nature of the stories we tell, both within organisations and the stories we tell to present ourselves and our organisation to the wider world. We did a lot of name dropping in the course of that coffee, invoking the remarkable body of academic work on the function of stories within organisations by Professor Yiannis Gabriel, and of course we had to talk about Campbell and the notion of the Heroes Journey.

Its been my experience, working in the culture sector, that some clients get very excited when the business tools are deployed. The BCG Box, the Blue Ocean Graph, The SWOT and PESTLE, Weisbord’s Six Box Model etc. etc. However, I have found a healthy suspicion toward these tools with some business clients and students, a sense that a rational approach alone will not deliver the necessary insights.

So I developed the Story Box. Because clients love a good Box. Its proven to be a really insightful, useful and popular tool. And here it is:

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