Following talks from Michael Spender, Museums and Arts Manager for the Borough of Poole, Olli Rantala from the Finnish City of Oulu and Collette Bailey, chief executive of Metal, an arts development programme based in Southend, and Phil Hallett, the Director of Coda we had a lively discussion. The key points raised by speakers and the audience were:
Museums and will be important for BCP people in developing as shared cultural memory. The maritime heritage has critical resonance. There is a need to maintain the balance between reach (numbers) and depth (quality) of activity
BCP should aim to be a first class heritage destination - possibly attract a satellite of a national museum. BCP should really value its varied museum offer and promote it actively, like comparator cities in Europe
For Oulu as in other smaller cities outward migration of young people is a problem. To tackle this we need to establish what young people value. First impressions count (for example the arrival experience at the airport ) so we need to get this positioned right Cultural life creates vitality in a place and a richer sensory experience which in turn encourages talented people who have other options for work to choose to live and work there
BCP should look to blend the hardware (infrastructure) and software (people) more actively. Fuse the functional and the aesthetic - high design standards for public spaces which set a tone - in Oulu all aspects of infrastructure even the moist humdrum are looked at from an aesthetic perspective because detail matters.
Collette from Metal emphasised the need for being a welcoming home for artists. Metal has pioneered using meals as a means of encouraging networking. Its inspirational programmes include founding an 'art school' for everyone from 2-82 offering a range of open courses for different groups including those with dementia or mental health issues. Metal also organises the Village green festival, which is part programmed by a youth forum who run their own stage. The festival attracts 20,000 visitors (it was higher but logistically too difficult).
Phil made point that we need to support the amateur and that artists exist on a spectrum from fully professional to semi professional and entirely amateur and that amateurs were the real grass roots.
She added that the layering of activities provides multiple entry points and that Work in the public domain can create culture that is "always on" - so people can engage on their own terms
Other points raised by the audience include:
- It is important to create a climate where the sense of how people feel about the place is tangible
- The programmes will take time (years) to bed in and create change
- There is already a lot happening - we need to value and expose that, and provide opportunities for like-minded people to lead their own ideas
- Local people can take back ownership of the participation agenda from arts institutions
- That we need more gallery space
- Museum of wellbeing and happiness is needed for people to do something on a rainy day- Artists selling stuff in spaces could fill in empty shops
- Must not forget our minority artists - World of love festival - 500 people