Saturday, June 12, 2010

Name and shame councillors who don't know their arts from elbow

Name and shame councillors who don't know their arts from elbow

A letter from Fred Johnston

Dear Editor,

One wishes Joe MacGrath the very best in his moving to the post of North Tipperary County Manager. It is to be hoped that whoever is appointed as the new Galway City Manager, he or she will strive hard to reinvigorate the artistic life of the city. The Volvo Ocean Race stopover is fine and welcome, but it is not a definition of the arts in Galway.

I would humbly suggest that a new city manager should at least attempt to have the city councillors take a more hands-on approach to the way both funding and planning for the arts' life of the city is directed. It is not good enough that councillors should remain dependent on information on the arts streaming from one City Hall office; each should have at least a passing acquaintance with new developments in the arts in the city.

The councillors should consider seriously the establishment of an independent cultural committee, tasked to include community arts in its brief and make strategy recommendations based on direct and transparent consultation and evaluation. A chairman of such a committee should sit for only one year before stepping down, as there is little merit in long-term occupation of a post, save to permit the occupant space wherein more fully to cultivate his prejudices.

What we need is an audit of the arts in the city - how arts organisations work, what they do, how they integrate with one another (or fail to do so, and why) and what their funding needs happen to be and how they are serviced. This should be undertaken by an outsider and overseen by the city manager and council. It should encompass a free brief; that is to say, it should not be encumbered by the sort of nonsensical contractual clause which prevented Ms Sarah Searson, called in as an arts' consultant, from talking one-on-one alone with arts' groups or practising artists.

If a new city manager is truly to concern himself/herself with the cultural life of the city, then he or she must be willing and bold enough to take on entrenched attitudes and expectations. Perhaps a good place to begin would be to discover how much individual councillors know about the arts' in Galway. Anyone who, when quizzed, can name only, say, Druid Theatre Company and Galway Arts Festival should be named and shamed.

Sincerely,
Fred Johnston

Reposted with permission from the author.
Original post here from Wednesday, 26 May 2010

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