Today was the first meeting of the new Culture Board for Cornwall, followed by a consultation event about the new Culture Green Paper.
I've been appointed by the Council's scrutiny committee to attend meetings of the Board and to report back. My role is not to play a part in decision making, but I don't see it as meekly watching from the sidelines either. I will be asking questions (sometimes difficult ones) and challenging assumptions in order to make sure that the new Board (which is an excellent idea by the way) really takes the lead.
The members of the Board include the three Cabinet members with responsibility (Joan Symons who covers culture, Julian German who covers the World Heritage Site and Carolyn Rule who covers the economy and tourism), as ell as three of the key funding agencies - the Arts Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Fund, although the last of these is not going to be around for much longer.
I'm not going to report back on who said what or give details of the decisions taken, but it is appropriate to say that today's discussion centred on the new Culture Green Paper. Unlike most Green Papers, this sets out a possible vision for how the Culture Board can lead a five year plan for culture in Cornwall. This plan is out for consultation at the moment and the second meeting (with more than 90 people representing culture organisations) was the first consultation event.
Everyone will have their own views on the paper itself. There are a number of key issues that need to be decided. These include:
- should Cornwall be bidding to host big events such as the European Region of Culture, Manifesta and so on, or should we be focusing more on our own events;
- should we be seeking to showcase 'the best' including bringing some of the most famous artists and performers to Cornwall, or should we be concentrating more on homegrown talent (some of which can rightly be described as the best, of course, but much of which is developing);
- is it right to invest funds in high profile capital projects such as Tate St Ives and, if so, should we be concentrating on those in the West;
- how do we develop the cultural sector in the East of Cornwall.
Incidentally, it is notable that a number of projects have already slipped in their timescale. It was originally proposed to Cabinet that the Manifesta and Region of Culture bids should be for 2012 and 2013. Both are now being talked about for two years later. One of the tasks that the new Board acknowledges is to ensure that firm timetables are set and kept to.
There is lots to get to grips with. I would encourage people to read and comment on the Green Paper - even if you don't want to answer the set questions but would rather comment on other aspects. The consultation runs for about 6 weeks.