The TESCO model of cultural development: partnering up on an unlevel cultural playing fields

Many public sector organisations working in the cultural sector like to present themselves not only as funders but also as partners. The notion of quite what they mean by partnership varies wildly. Clearly, they have every right to be concerned and interested in how public funding is used – but this has always been the case with any public sector funder in the past. The difference with these funder-partners is not only that they are concerned that the funding is used appropriately, but they also see themselves as having a hand in the messy business of production and delivery.

Not content with planning regional strategy and building cultural infrastructure (whatever that is – no amount of centralised planning is going to make the cultural sector resemble the national highways or sewage system), they have been busy redesigning themselves as quasi-production companies; and given the resources they have access to, are quite capable of blowing any other production company out of the water at the mere nod of a local apparatchik.

Whether or not those funder-partners have any skill in production or delivery of those projects is not the point. Their muscling into the day to day activities of specialised organisations whose life blood depends on cultural production distorts the sector so much that any longer term sustainability of those organisations becomes even more of a guessing game than it usually is.

This would be less problematic if those quasi production companies managed to reinvest their skills and resources into the wider ecology and if their protestations of partnership were driven by the five principles of partnership working.

But the frequent fact is that they’re not: they’re driven by the energies of ego, personal glorification and political arrogance. All the qualities that made Tesco the force it has become; and as they say, Every Little Helps (their own bank balance, survivability and cultural domination).

Author: drnicko

Awarded an MBE for services to arts-based businesses, I am passionate about generating inspiring, socially engaging, creative practice within educational contexts both nationally and internationally.

2 thoughts on “The TESCO model of cultural development: partnering up on an unlevel cultural playing fields”

    1. HI Tayo, thanks for your post. Does this really read so cynically?! Thats a shame – it’s just the result of yet one more unnamed large public sector organisation who are not alone in their ability to behave like the more rabid elements of the private sector. Thats the difficulty with any kind of disgruntlement I guess – any critique can be parcelled up as cynical or a matter of sour grapes – which leaves the main issues unaddressed and the perpetrators to continue blissfully unaffected by pretty much anything. Sorry to hear about your experiences with Cosmopolitan by the way!

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