Thursday 20 August 2009

More thoughts on Expressive Lives

As I mentioned yesterday, I’ve been on holiday. The first part was a real ‘staycation’, enjoying the Stockton International Riverside Festival, which just happens to be my local festival. Paul Harman, with whom I am rarely known to disagree, honest, describes it very well on Arts Professional here. Listening in as two classic brick-outhouse, cropheaded, tattooed Teesside Blokes debated whether BalletBoyz Next Generation was as good as the dance thing they’d seen last year, whilst waiting for Avant Garde Dance to begin, really made my weekend. Well, that and seeing the rest of the family express themselves in performance – my wife and daughter running away to join No Fit State Circus (only for the weekend, mind, in line up in photo above)in the DVC Choir in Parklife, and my son and his mates in Cold Pistols getting an early slot in the Fringe Festival (amusing that's-my-giant-boy photo below).

Anyway, that and the rest of my holiday in Norfolk – my, that period as ACE Executive Board Rural Champion had a lasting impact! - made me want to add a further note to my thinking on Expressive Lives, which is that there is a certain metropolitanism to the tone, and to the notion that we are now awash with opportunity. Not every place is like Stockton-on-Tees, after all, where we get to live expressive lives. (By metropolitanism I don’t mean London-centricity, by the way, though that’s a common manifestation. For another strain of the syndrome, again probably not malignant, see recent discussion in the States over the new NEA Chair Rocco Landesman’s comments about theatre in smaller places – here or here.)

This is then built on by a point made on Town Hall Matters by John Craig-Sharples, drawing attention to the role of local authority cultural services in supporting expressive lives. Although there are some passing references to local government in the publication, mainly in the context of funding, the role that culture can play right across a local authorities functions is underplayed. As John puts it, and as councils like Stockton at their best demonstrate, ‘Perhaps if we really grasp the potential of cultural services we would find that they may play as big a part in building the kind of communities to which we are committed, as some of the core services like social care’. This is about taking the arts out of their box and putting their influence to use throughout local provision, throughout the country.

I came across Town Hall Matters via Blogger’s Circle, which is an experiment in creating debate around blogs that fall broadly into the area of ‘public policy’. This is the first of my ‘Bloggers Circle’ inspired posts. If you’re interested in policy and politics have a look around.

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