Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Mission impossible?

The Arts Council plan for 2008-2011 is newly published, with a snappy new mission: Great art for everyone. It’s certainly a lot catchier than the previous 'mission', about putting the arts at the heart of national life, and people at the heart of the arts. That was also particularly hard to say if you have my now mishapen-Lancastrian vowel sounds.

I know a lot of debate and heartache went into settling on those four words. It’ll be interesting to see how people react – with enthusiasm, sarcasm or indifference. Although there are elements of the old mission statement I rather miss, I think it’s a much clearer statement of our fundamental purpose. It does, of course, beg some debate. The first reflection I’ve seen is from an Irish choreographer Fearghus Ó Conchúir who spoke recently at an Arts Council event in Yorkshire and wrote about it on his blog Bodies and Buildings. It brings out some of the nuances of that clear-seeming mission. I especially agree that, as he puts it, ‘art needs to attend to the uncomfortable as well and that people can gather in that discomfort as much as in the balm of celebration.’

There are some other provocations on this topic, all arising from the same day, available on the Arts Council’s website here, including one by the publisher of the fantastic Ian Clayton book I recommended here. I'm interested in how we bring out the nuances, without losing the simplicity - or is that really mission impossible?

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