Comment posted on Challenge to local election candidates from Museums and Heritage Forum by Catherine Gillies
I know exactly what you are saying and I deal daily in measurables and specifics in funding applications, but what we need here at this precise moment IS something amorphous.
Argyll and Bute Council has no policy on culture. It doesn’t exist – or rather, the policies that were written some years ago lie on shelves and have never been activated. Before Argyll and Bute Council can begin to enter the world of cultural funding and linked strategic development they need to come up with a mission statement at the very least. They will be asked for this at every turn, and at the level of funding that they could be accessing it needs to be specific and robust. The bullet points I have laid out here may look woolly, but they are actually bedrock. This is what they would achieve as a mission statement:
1. Allow cultural management to start within communities for communities rather than becoming lost in top down policy (essential as the existing infrastructure is all independent and if it is too top down they may not meet effectively in the middle).
2. Making sure that heritage and arts not only work together, which they already do, but that this is policy. By happy accident Argyll is ahead of the pack in the integration of the two, which usually do their own thing. The total lack of art/exhibition venues in Argyll means that arts use museums. This is now being actively encouraged by public agencies. The council needs to recognise it and embed it so they get it right.
3. Finally FINALLY get recognition of the role culture plays in the economy, which is vast, and outstrips anything golf brings into this country several times over. This bullet point formalises the point that it is a key economic driver (you said so yourself in your first point), which later down the line enables heritage/arts to get into strategic funding streams within council budgets. So far they have been treated like a corner sweetie shop.
4. Building partnerships and leadership is absolutely vital. The first is underway thanks to some of the good councillors who do get it (but they are a minority at the moment), but there is no leadership, no expertise, and no strategic vision within the council whatsoever when it comes to cultural management and development. Without good leadership, the public agencies will not invest.
So – not woolly, absolutely essential laying down of policy. Only then can we start to proper planning, and only then start talking figures. First things first.
Catherine Gillies also commented
- Spot on Bob.
- Excellent! Thankyou for your robust debating! It was good to have a devils advocate in there
- Aha! Lots of extremely pertinent questions above!!
1. Heaven defend us from consultants! I agree on the tons and tons of wasted money and hours. Or rather heaven defend us from bought in consultants. Some homegrown information gathering would be useful and not have the price tag.
2. Are Argyll and Bute Council doing their job? Easy answer – no. Should they be spending more than the minimum? Well actually the minimum would be nice! . I am not sure what their spend on museums is, but I have formed the impression from various statements that the money expected to be spent on heritage is finding other homes. It isn’t ringfenced and there are a lot of demands. Without a clear structure it is hard to keep its purpose.
I know you are impatient with the idea of ‘ethos’ and ‘mission’, but such low prioritising in the end comes down to not having policy, planning and committment, so we need to crank that up. We have a super tanker here which needs to spend some time turning around, and some fine words would be a good way to start.
- Like it or not core heritage and culture policy and administration are government responsibilities, and are administered through Museums and Galleries Scotland and Creative Scotland at strategic level, and on the ground through local authorities.
Argyll and Bute receives money annually to spend on museums in Argyll. This is the system. We can policy-make until we are blue in the face, but as the strategic development dialogue takes place between MGS, CS and the local authorities, it is a pointless exercise.
What is happening here is that a perfectly workable national system for the care of our heritage suddenly hits a glass floor in Argyll and Bute, where there is no policy or working mechanism for dealing with it. Underneath it are all of us independent museums beating against the glass ceiling. I recognise your call for independent thought but hey, we have been doing that for a long time and would love to be doing it with a really important partner like the Council.
I just want to share with you the latest Government thoughts on cultural value:
“The creative industries in Scotland support over 60,000 jobs and contribute over £5 billion to the economy; the historic environment supports 60,000 jobs and contributes more than £2.3 billion; and Scotland’s museums and galleries welcome an estimated 25.3 million visitors per annum and are worth an estimated £800 million to the economy.”
We want a slice of that for Argyll please…
- I am really heartened by the way this discussion is going. It is quite clear to me that two lines are being pursued which are totally compatible but simply serve to point up the gap between where the community and the council.
Those of us who work in the sector know how far back the council is, and this challenge is to get them to at least start thinking straight. For goodness sake get some policy!
The community, who takes the importance of heritage and arts for granted, because they are SO much further ahead and see the impact of it elsewhere in Scotland and the world, are saying “forget the words, for goodness sake make some proper committments. Action on the ground please”.
Both are absolutely correct.
Recent comments by Catherine Gillies
- Time for council administration to think about where it’s going
It would not surprise me in the slightest that someone as utterly decent and hard-working as Roddy McCuish might be tempted to be able to spend more time on work as an elected member working for his ward than in political bickering.
I would be very sorry to see him go, but I rather suspect he will. I would in his shoes.
- SNP’s Coalition for Progress now has a majority – 19 councillors
Hooray for the coalition and the honest-as-the-day-is-long postie McCuish. Looking round the virtual room containing them all I see so many people I trust. I can’t remember when we last had a council ruling group I could say that about! Now I am going to burn their ears off about protecting our amazing heritage and celebrating our astounding culture. Who will they get to lead that particular charge?
- Council Elections: The count
What a nasty set of comments about Donald Melville. Whoever you are, please don’t ever stand for the council. We need positive people, not this sort of pointless sniping. Luckily Mellon will continue to do a lot for the community, and better luck next time. If he had put Duncan MacIntyre out we would have had a pretty good spread of people. Even so it is not at all bad around Oban, and I am really confident that it is going to be a better place to try and get things done in.
- Council Elections: The count
Whoop whoop for Oban South and the Isles!!
- Brooch of Lorn goes south to British Museum for Shakespeare exhibition
Yippee! It’s ours then! (Phew )
powered by SEO Super Comments