There’s been an increase recently of large arts organisations who, in an effort to demonstrate their badge of social conscience, like to present themselves as ‘partners’ to smaller arts organisations. But the notion of what they mean by partnership varies wildly, even sometimes on a day to day basis within the same organisation too.
Whilst they might declare that they have noble intentions in supporting their local cultural ecology, in practice when artistic push turns into economic shove and the smaller partner starts punching above its ecological status, then the larger partner can start forgetting the basics of real partnership working such as:
1. Liberté. The partnership works best when both partners enter that partnership voluntarily and are not coerced into or into an arrangement that suits one partner better than the other.
2. Egalité. Respect language differences. Appreciate your way of knowing the world and acting upon it is not the only way of living the good life. Other partners might speak differently, use different metaphors and may not be hide-bound by your language – the value of your partnership is in appreciating those differences in language and not just railroading over them.
3. Fraternité. Realise that your organisational weight is not the be all and end-all. It’s not just your history that makes you a partner – you have to bring ongoing skills, knowledge and wisdom to this process not just a superior histori-cultural capital. A decent partnership isn’t a forced marriage where you bring your ugly self and explain it away with the large inheritance you’re bringing to justify your place at the table.
All partnerships need the benefit of joint wisdoms and a commitment to talking and respecting each other. The partner who manages to ignore these guidelines is nothing more than a control freak who can’t tolerate the notion that perhaps some-one somewhere out there might just have something more important to say than the repetition of the tired old canon that many find themselves having to repeat to themselves year after year.