Sunday, 1 February 2009

How much will the recession crunch culture?

Sorry it's been a bit quite on here. Regular readers will know I was off in Bulgaria helping some friends of mine translate 10 of my poems in to Bulgarian - in just five long days, alongside 30 others by three other poets. You can see them here. My first few days back at work simply got too, too full.

One of the things I did was attend a really interesting seminar organised by the Sponsors Club for Arts & Business on Culture and the Credit Crunch. Speakers from the Chamber of Commerce, the CBI and Waitrose made the audience respectively feel
  • optimistic (because there's more good stuff than bad going on really)
  • nervous (because the recession may be even harder than predicted)
  • jealous (because we're not partners in the wonderful sounding John Lewis/Waitrose.)
There was also a presentation on the latest Arts & Business research into private investment into the arts and culture. This shows a record high, but predicts a sharp frost a-coming. In North East England, as the research suggests, we've already experienced something of that with the difficulties Northern Rock hit having a knock on to the fantastic investment of the Northern Rock Foundation into culture. This was withdrawn and then brought back by the trustees, which has had a very positive impact on the sector. It did underline the fragility of private sector investment, however. The Arts & Business research is well worth close attention as it draws on figures going back several dips and recessions. As such it should help inform planning of organisations that work closely with private sector sponsors and foundations.

One of the points I made from the floor was that we should not slip into thinking of 'business' and 'the arts' as separate: arts organisations are businesses and employers too and should make full use of the things being put in place to help businesses of all kinds, though things like Business Link. I also supported the point that mood or confidence will shape reality. We must not talk ourselves into defeat, be it around the economy or around public spending and the arts. The next spending round will need to be strongly argued by us all, but we must not give anyone any excuses or alibis by talking as if cuts to the arts are inevitable or sensible.

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