Thursday, 22 December 2011

Occupy Yourselves (at Xmas)

The Thinking Practice is now closed until 3 January 2012. Thanks to all the subscribers to this blog, to those who send me emails when they agree or disagree, and those rare few who comment. Visits have gone up by 43% in the last year, page views by 60%. Those are not KPIs by the way, just things I found in the time I just 'lost' in Google Analytics. (If you're the regular reader in Manila - hello!)

Have a good break, if you're getting one. I'll be back in 2012, year of the East London Sports Day and many other wonders that will put that in the shade, if we step up, again. As the year ends, one song has emerged as summing up the year - Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes. As the song says 'What good is it to sing helplessness blues, why should I wait for anyone else?'

On that note, it may be time for It's A Wonderful Life...

Friday, 16 December 2011

Artswork Resilience special now available online

The special edition of Artswork, the journal of the Community Arts Network, South Australia, which I wrote about in October, is now available on-line. You can see from the contents page (above) why I was both flattered and nervous when I opened it. 

I was especially glad to read Nick Hughes's essay on the application of the 8 characteristics I identified to his Restless Dance Company. He talk through each and concludes: 'So the theory of Adaptive Resilience is a very useful tool in analysing the functioning of an organisation like Restless Dance. It provides insights into the dynamics of the company’s operations and it helps to identify where more can be done to improve its health and robustness. One of the best aspects of the theory is that it changes the language and the mindset used to examine a performing arts company. It encourages you to see it as a moving and interacting entity; as an organism rather than a plan or a picture. It stresses the importance of qualities like persistence, flexibility and adaptability.' This is what I've found, and been told, when using it with organisations, or groups of leaders thinking about their area or sector.

One thing which was pointed out to me in response to my original post was that 'community arts' is not a term widely used in the UK at the moment - 'participatory' is probably used more to describe the kinds of work that described itself as 'community arts'. But that the work and movement and many organisations - such as Helix Arts, Community Arts North West or Soft Touch who I looked at when researching Making Adaptive Resilience Real - have proved extremely resilient, stretching back 25, 30 years or more, despite never really being what you would call flavour of the month with funders - or certainly not all at once. 

The community arts field has also been a major compenent of the 'adaptive capacity' of what you might call the mainstream to change and integrate more inclusive practices. Both people and practices have found their way into previously resistant areas of the arts, although that's not to say the change has been what it could or should have been. This history is different in Australia, but I suspect many people working in the community/participatory/inclusive/local/callitewhatyouwill arts anywhere will find thoughts and feelings which resonate with them describe in this edition.

If you want to go for the resilience hat-trick, or see how my thinking progressed with time and some more help and ideas, you can also (re)visit the paper on the role of diversity in building resilience which I co-wrote with Tony Nwachukwu. 

Thursday, 15 December 2011

My 2011 in a picture and 5 lists

1. Tweet of the year, pictured above, which appeared whilst I was giving my keynote at the Arts Marketing Association conference in Glasgow in July.   

2. Places I've been for work-related reasons: Newcastle, North Shields, London, Edinburgh, Middlesbrough, Stockton-on-Tees, Lincoln, Gateshead, Wallsend, Manchester, Belfast, Ulverston, Plymouth, Sunderland, Cambridge, Sheffield, York, Durham, Darlington, Glasgow, Banff Alberta, Wakefield.

3. Most visited 2011 Thinking Practice blog-postings: Applicant time: what price service from the arts ecosystem?, KPIs: one size may not fit all, Philanthropy in the regions can be done, Not Minding The Gap, Culture Change: first change your mind, Re:arts: thoughts from Sartre 

4. TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms): NPO,KPI, PNE, OMG, MMM

5. Nice Work If You Can Get It column in the business plan: well, all my marvellous clients obviously, but a few where I reminded myself this was not what my dad would call work: spending time at the Banff Centre to do a keynote and workshops at Banff Opera Colloqium, thanks to the eagle-eyed Christina Loewen of Opera Canada; evaluation sessions with young people at BALTIC and Mongrel UK for the Juice Festival; making senior management teams or groups of partners draw pictures; every time I enjoyed a play, gig, show or exhibition or museum I wouldn't otherwise have got to, and yes, pretty much everyone who was able to laugh and concentrate and imagine and make some hard choices whilst we worked together during this tricky year.

6. Cultural highlights: Will Eno's Oh, The Humanity and Other Good Intentions at Northern Stage, Wilco live in Manchester and great new album The Whole Love, BALTIC hosting Turner Prize, Gillian Welch new album, Sean O'Brien's November... and lots more.

7. Regrets: there's a few, but then again, too few to mention. (Well, not now anyway.)

Here's to 2012!

Monday, 12 December 2011

Making culture in a landscape of cultural policy

I wrote about Robert Palmer's '5 challenges to the landscape of cultural policies in Europe' earlier, over on the re.volution blog. Go see.  

You'll also be able to see peers signing up to be part of this experiment in 'non-state actors', to use one of Palmer's phrases, coming together to work together in response to changing landscapes. (I doubt very much he uses phrases like that except when in official mode.) 

His five factors are, in very executive summary, nationalism, cuts, new values, mainstreaming and  receding state governance. This feels very apposite, especially in a week when the UK has (unbelievably) stepped even further out of arrangements which actually shape the EU and UK. (Don't get me started...)

There are some who feel that cultural policy is a bit of a luxury these days, and we could just have funding criteria and fund the survivors, but I'm not one. I still think we should ask government and all investors - and all recipients of public money to grapple with ideas and facts long enough to be able to state their 'basic principles and associated guidelines, formulated and enforced by the governing body of an organization, to direct and limit its actions in pursuit of long-term goals', as one definition of policy has it.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Out of time: another bit of a round up

This post is a quick catch up on a few things which deserve more attention but aren’t likely to get it from me anytime soon unless someone finds some spare time/energy.

The National Plan for Music Education has been published. There’s lots in it that’s sensible, and it’s good it’s there, albeit on seriously diminished resources, and continues the diminishing of local authorities as deliverers of services. People who know more about the subject than me have responded to it: Katherine Zesserson,  Marc JaffreyMaking Music and Incorporated Society of Musicians.

Volcano Theatre have published Emergence,  a really interesting report from a conference on the arts and climate change – good format and provoking content. 

Marina Abramovic has provoked a revealing little storm about artists payment, conditions and status by asking dancers and performers to be part of a corporate fundraiser for $150 – naked, vulnerable to potential donors. So much to say about this: artist unions, what happens when performance art moves from the artist’s body to others, philanthropic fundraising. 

And finally... I saw this sign in a business school:

 Draw your own conclusions about our future business leaders... 

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Turner and Cage

Last night I was lucky enough to be at the Turner Prize awards do when Martin Boyce was announced as the winner. Although only yards away, few people in the room seemed to see the pink tutu’d stage invader, and I certainly didn’t. This sterling job by the security men was perhaps just the finishing touch to the grand job that BALTIC has done hosting the Turner Prize show, which has been a bit of a phenomenon, attracting 120,000 visitors so far. (Hope the Arts Council take that into account for BALTIC’s KPIs...) 

There’s been so much gloom about the North East’s economy, it’s been great to see the success of this first trip for Turner to a non-TATE venue outside London. Culture still has a role to play in making the North East a great place to live. It may not be able to stop the Monday morning trains from Teesside being full of Monday-Thursday-migrant workers off down to London, but it has a role.

I wasn’t going to write about the Turner Prize, but I made the mistake of reading the comments on the Guardian’s coverage. If that Guardian site is like that I shudder to think what the Mail readers are saying. (Actually I shudder every time I think about the Daily Mail period.) Then I was listening to a radio programme about John Cage which ended with him saying the following, and thought it was worth sharing. 

‘If we have the view that we used to have, that there was only one right way of observing the relationships of things then we have a situation that really doesn’t appeal to me. We have, in other words, one thing that’s right and all the rest are wrong. I would like to have a multiplicity of rights.’

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Gove solution (well, solution to the soduku)

Here's the solution to the Day of Action Word-Soduku. This will not be a regular feature. Please do send in your best lines though! Best response to the post was Annie Rigby joining Equity! (See comments on the original post.)