February already, eh?
It was a busy January for arts and cultural policy/politics – from the opening of the portal for potential ACE NPOs, to creative industry economic figures showing huge growth, albeit largely in fields in some ways adjacent to ‘what we talk about when we talk the arts’, IT, digital and publishing, via another Maria Miller speech really saying not-much-new-at-all and the Select Committee announcing a swift enquiry into the work of Arts Council England, their scope, scale and remit, funding criteria and balance of funding across the country, as appetite amongst regional politicians for a rebalancing grew.
Of course, most arts people I met in January were too busy working on NPO essays and business plans to give this kind of ephemera the attention it deserves. (There are some who believe folk are also just keeping their heads down.) In ways rather reminiscent of my daughter, currently in the final months of her degree, they are forming study groups - sorry, consortiums and partnerships - compiling notes frantically and spending long nights at the laptop whilst also doing the day/evening job. Apparently it is decreed that whenever two or more are gathered they shall compare notes on the difficulty of the task at hand, the contradictory advice received, or the absolute lack of it, the effects of what you might call Portal Dread, and the most irritatingly besides the point feedback on a draft received from a member of their board.
I’ve been neck deep in both of those last paragraphs, alongside much else, often swapping hats - I was going to say 'frantically', but let's edit that to 'with aplomb', shall we, and see what happens? But I have also found time to write something for The Bookseller about New Writing North’s Read Regional promotion for which my book of poems, How I Learned to Sing, was selected, alongside 10 other titles. The tour, as I like to call it, starts next week in Darlington. You can read more here if you are interested in this aspect of my thinking practice. I’ve recently added some reviews, the dates of readings on the Read Regional tour, and others, and an introduction to the book.
If you are one of the more poetically inclined readers here, even one of that select band to have purchased my book, you can also now download the reading guide for How I Learned to Sing, which comes with an introduction, a further reading list and some questions for discussion. I have yet to develop any prompts for my assessment of any answers, but if you do come up with some enlightening answers, be they positive, negative, sarcastic or anything else, do let me know.
If you’re near any of the places I’m heading over the next 3 months, it would also be great to see you there.