How my kids laughed at this… Apparently I am one of 500 of the most influential people in the North East of England. Well, at least according to a highly unscientific and undemocratic exercise in The Journal newspaper, that is, and if you want to make a sarcastic comment about the North East please do so using the normal channels!
The reason I mention it, apart from amused pride, is that I’m interested in the high number of cultural figures in the list. (To be honest, it’d be a shame if someone in my job wasn’t on that list, so I don’t put it down to my personal qualities especially.) These range from novelists such as Val McDermid and David Almond through choreographer Liv Lorent, poet Sean O’Brien, playwright Lee Hall, a good set of Chief Execs, producers and festival directors right through to giants such as Ant and Dec. The ‘Culture, media and the arts’ index is twice as long as the public sector one, for instance – surprising perhaps as the public sector is a big employer in this region. And there are more of us than there are lawyers. (They can probably outspend us in the Influence bar though.) I take that as an indication that culture here has, at least in part, and in the perception of whoever put this list together, put itself at the heart of regional life. On a good day I always think that, but it’s good to have some ‘external’ confirmation.
(Another confirmation came last week in that the announcement of the Hodge Review and the abolition of the regional cultural consortia was, somewhat surprisingly, front page news in The Journal.)
Another noticeable trend is the number of ex-Arts Council/Northern Arts people now in senior non-arts jobs in the region. Maybe that’s the kind of thing we need to really ‘mainstream’ the arts: more people prepared to dirty their hands with the process of ‘influence’ and power? Perhaps the various ‘cultural leadership’ schemes need to also think about how some people can move not just ‘up’ but ‘across’?