I’m sorry, I’m sorry,
I’m very, very sorry,
For the delays, the disruption, the chaos, we’ve brought
To your daily routine.
We’re sorry the tram stopped running,
We’re sorry the bus driver forgot to turn up for work,
We’re sorry the road’s been dug up over night,
We’re all sorry, sorry, very very sorry.
Sorry your tickets out of date,
Sorry your life style made you late,
Sorry you look the way you do,
Sorry your dog demanded a poo
On the high street before your very eyes,
Sorry you forgot to clean it up,
Sorry you have to listen to this.
It’s nothing to do with us, sorry.
Sorry for having to apologise.
Sorry we’ve got to listen to this.
Sorry for being sorry.
We apologise. We really do. Soz.
Why do we have charities?
I’ve some great thought provoking responses from colleagues about the CEO SleepOut campaign I’m involved in which have got to the heart of the matter.
Such as, why don’t the organisers invite some homeless people along to the evening and enable them to talk directly with participants? And isn’t what homeless people need is to be given respect rather than been seeing as beneficiaries of charity? I’ve raised these questions with the organisers so we’ll see what they say about that.
But more fundamentally, these questions ask some important questions about why we have charities at all, what the relationship is between donors, charitable organisations and beneficiaries, and whether the act of ‘doing good’ or ‘just giving’ actually does more harm than good (in that it just provides short term, superficial Elastoplast solutions to things which require more systematic, substantial solutions to deep rooted social issues): or actually takes more than it gives (in that campaigning takes the focus of the problem away from the root cause of that problem and ‘gives’ the focus to those people who are on the receiving end of the charitable ‘give’.
One obvious answer is that if charities didn’t do what they do, no-one else (e.g. The State) is going to step up to the mark to address the short term pressures that people face here and now, rather than in some distant future when the state might have stepped up. So if a charity’s purpose can only be short term – then that’s because the long term is too distant a proposition for those who need solutions, right here, right now.
But there’s lot to think about here so many thanks for your responses!
But in the meantime, if you can contribute to the campaign, it would be great to hear from you just here:
I’m taking part in ‘CEO SleepOut in Nottingham on 13 October and are looking for sponsors who might be able to contribute to reaching my target of £1,000 which will go to local charities who are working on the front line with homeless people.
I am raising funds through a Just Giving site: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Nick-Owen8 so just wanted to let you know about it, in case you are able to help out in any way you can.
Your help will of course be hugely appreciate – not just by me but the many homeless people which this campaign is supporting.
So, we get it that a lack of arts infrastructure means no audiences in theatres, library closure and artists consigned to talk to themselves for ever and a day, trapped in the basement of their own imaginations: but what type of arts infrastructure is it that we need?
The ‘just in time’ type exemplified in Wallace and Gromit’s train chase in The Wrong Trousers where Gromit has nano-seconds to lay down the track in front of him?
Or a 50 year plan which is built on the Big Data of today? But which might fall apart after the next election when experts are finally shown the door by No. 10 Downing Street and we’re left with the ‘I know what I like and I like what I know’ approach to building the nation’s cultural railways?
Whatever it turns out to be, we can be pretty sure that doing more of the same isn’t going to address the inequalities which are rife in the arts. Perhaps it’s not so much of needing Gromit to build our infrastructure, but the equivalent of a hyper loop travel system which can connect young people to artists to platforms and venues and audiences directly, immediately and without any of the paraphernalia that chasing a penguin with a colander on your head entails.
There’s been a move afoot in recent years which argues that you don’t need an arts infrastructure and that all arts funding should go directly to front line organisations. It suggests that if the larger theatres and museums, for example, could develop big enough education and outreach departments, these would be enough to increase audiences, develop new work, engage more young people, connect with more schools and improve cultural diversity. All the current ills facing the art world would be solved if you just did away with the infrastructure and handed over the cash to the deliverers.
This is all very well but imagine a scenario in the physical world where you did away with national power, transport and water infrastructure and allowed individual cities or regions to generate their own infrastructures. You’d have at least 17 different types of railway gauge across the country, none of which connected with each other; 53 different highway codes, none of which could be remembered by anyone; and power supplies which favoured the wealthy and cut off anyone who couldn’t afford the tariffs or had access to the countless plug adapters which would proliferate as a result of the dismantling of the national power grid.
There’s a lot that needs improving with the U.K’s arts infrastructure: but systematically destroying it isn’t the solution. It’s like the roads, the railways and the National Grid: you’ll only notice it when it’s gone.
People ask me, what’s the @MightyCreatives then? And what’s an Arts Council Bridge Organisation when it’s at home? And what does being an arts infrastructure organisation actually mean? And why don’t you just give the money directly to the organisations that are actually delivering the arts? And cut out the middle men? I used to ask the same question myself a lot.
But now I get it – and it’s very simple. An arts infrastructure organisation builds infrastructure much like architects and civil engineers build roads, railways, water supplies and the national grid.
Without civil infrastructure, people would never have travelled, economies would have stalled, cities would never have grown and public health would have been an impossible day dream.
Civic infrastructure is not a particularly sexy subject and although there is some romance to roads, railways and wind turbines, we generally don’t enthuse about how wonderful infrastructure can be – until it goes missing.
Arts infrastructure has similar functions: it gives young people the chance to learn and progress; it provides opportunities for people to experience cultural richness on a scale that would have been impossible if the only resources they had access to was an out of tune upright piano in the parlour. Without artistic infrastructure, civic health and well being would be unimaginable.
We’d soon know the importance of arts infrastructure if it disappeared overnight. Auditoria would be empty; libraries a thing of the past and you’d only be able to remember 3 tunes on your upright piano which you’d play over and over again. You’d go mad, and you’d take everyone with you.
So that’s what organisations like The Mighty Creatives do. They fill your theatres, open doors to knowledge and experience and stop you driving yourself bonkers with inept renditions of Scott Joplin’s Maple Leaf Rag.
It’s not a sexy job but someone has to be the cultural architects, planners and engineers of the future. That’s a pretty romantic thing to aspire to.