Notes from the Cultural Forum for the Bath Area meeting with Ben Howlett MP on Tuesday 1 September 2015 at Burdall’s Yard.
The Cultural Forum organised a round-table discussion with Ben Howlett MP and key members of the Council and Arts & Cultural organisations within the city.
The event was attending by over 50 people from a wide range of different organisations.
Throughout the evening reference was made to the new Cultural & Creative Strategy. We have uploaded the document and you can download it from here:
The discussion panel consisted of:
Ben Howlett MP
Tim Warren – Leader of B&NES Council
Patrick Anketell-Jones – Cabinet Member for Economic Development
Tom Lewis – The Guild Co-Working Hub
Chris Kemp – Executive Board of Creative Bath & The Cultural Forum for the Bath Area
Professor Anita Taylor – Head of Art at Bath Spa Uni
The meeting was chaired and opened by David Metcalfe and Marion McNeir – Co-Chairs of the Cultural Forum for the Bath Area.
Each of the three council members were given a chance to briefly discuss their views on Culture and the Arts in B&NES.
Lucky in Bath to have the Cultural Forum. He has a personal commitment to the arts and a passion for it as he is an artist and plays in a brass band.
Arts aren’t a drain on the economy they are a massive gain.
The government only invests 0.1% of funding in the arts. Government at a national level still doesn’t see the importance of investment.
Arts are the lifeblood of what Bath is all about. Bath revolves around arts and culture. Bath is not just a museum, it’s a living evolving thing.
Arts at national level don’t get the attention they deserve.
Clear need to expand growth and investment.
There is a lack of space for the arts and infrastructure compared with National / Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs).
Difficult financial times coming. B&NES needs to make £38 million worth of cuts.
New cultural and creative strategy is a positive thing.
B&NES Financial support for Arts and Culture is already above other areas that have seen 100% cuts.
Difficult times – council need to get value for money.
In 2014/15 there were 295,000 attendees for Arts & Culture events.
We need to work together to increase participation for everybody (particularly in the harder to reach areas).
The arts should become self-sufficient.
20,000 hours of volunteer time for arts and culture – this will need to increase.
Less money for smaller organisations.
Rely more and more on volunteers.
Make sure everyone can enjoy Arts & Culture.
The Council will do what they can with the resources available.
Three key points:
- He wants to try to understand what the Cultural & Creative Sector in Bath is and what they want
- It works best when you’re organised. Council is not a financier for the Arts.
- Limited arts spaces within the city. Bath is changing. Bath is desirable. Investors want more return on investment and development in the city. Where and how arts will fit in is a concern.
Vision: Bath is ideally suited as the Cultural centre of the South West.
More needs to be done to engage with cultural people.
Investments can be done in other ways.
B&NES Council is a large owner of property within Bath. More should be done to open up disused spaces to arts / cultural organisations.
Patrick: B&NES is obliged to get best price out of property.
Chris: There is more value to be had by keeping spaces open and in use rather than empty.
Patrick: B&NES doesn’t have the admin support within property to support this.
It isn’t just about enrichment. Many cities around the world have made funds available for Arts & Culture. Custodianship – manage between industry and partnership.
A lot of work has already been done on partnerships which produced the Creative and Cultural Strategy.
The new administration will support the Arts and Culture but investment needs to come from commerce.
In light of the cuts B&NES have to put vulnerable people and front-line services first.
There will be a “creative space” within the new Quays development.
Pop-up shops do work but B&NES have to get most value out of properties.
Rupert & Buckley an example of a pop-up shop that was so successful it became a viable entity.
The Property Team – is it fit for purpose? Perhaps it needs a reform?
There needs to be a cultural revolution in Bath. Opportunities further than opposition.
Lots of ideas – but getting them into fruition is different.
Needs to be more thinking and movability about the spaces available.
New pressures need to be put in place over planning and development.
Space is key and space to grow. Businesses with over 30 people not sustainable in Bath. Currently they move to Bristol or further afield.
Development – needs to be more security in place to make culture a part of the city.
Commercial development is beneficial to the city.
The discussion was then opened up to questions from the floor.
Bruce (independent artist): What do you think culture is?
A celebration of imagination.
Everything we do – spirit and enterprise
Elizabeth Thorne (Bath Choral Society):
Wish to join with other choirs in Bath to put on bigger shows. Bath needs a concert venue that is fit for purpose.
Needs to be a shift in organisations. Do we have the bums on seats? There will be more investment in the Bath Forum. There is currently a gap in the market for a concert venue. Mineral Hospital or Old King Edwards building could be ideal for this.
Anita: More needs to be done to retain people in Bath. The university trains hundreds of artists and theatre makers but then there is limited or no space to show work. Bath also needs a larger gallery.
Martin Pople (Cultural Destinations Project):
More needs to be done to repair the relationship between B&NES and the Arts Council. Currently only one National Portfolio Organisation in Bath compared to over twenty in Bristol.
There needs to be leadership and vision to work with ACE on a national level.
Patrick: Relationship is getting better between B&NES and the Arts Council. He is doing everything he can to help with this. But they do need to see Bath as a well organised organisation.
Catherine (Bath Spa University): Property must be made a priority. Bath is a university city but you wouldn’t think that when walking down the high street. Property is the sticking point.
Tim: There are issues with planning. More interest in Business in Bath.
Chris: It’s about curation of property. Commercial, yes but can develop it.
Anita: A vision which is world leading can transform a city. Increase jobs in all industries. Bath is a world class city.
Tom: Digital infrastructure is a big thing. Lack of broadband in the city centre.
Anita: Research we’ve been involved with shows that other forms of infrastructure are working well in Bath i.e. transport, hotels, links to London etc
Ben: We need a spark to show confidence from businesses in Bath. There is a six year window for a business before they move on somewhere else. We don’t want Bath to become a suburb of London.
Marion McNeir (Aix en provence Twinning):
Aix has been transformed with Arts at its core via European Union funding. They did this by employing international officers with expertise on EU funding. Can we do this Bath? Using the arts as economic drivers.
The LEP gets funds from the EU. We should use the new Cultural Strategy to apply for funds and create shared cultural funds.
Jason Thornton (Bath Philharmonic):
Bath is similar to many other cities around the world. Many of which it’s twinned with. They have their own concert halls, symphony orchestras etc and none of them are World Heritage Cities.
He worries – vision is at the bottom. It should be at the top. Embrace it and take it up a level.
If arts funding is bringing in so much money – why would you cut it?
If our twin cities can do it without World Heritage Status – why can’t we?
Andy Burden (Natural Theatre Company):
Commerce in the Arts. ACE money all gone. Arts need to be funded from a business model. No such thing as a free market economy. It doesn’t exist. BMT were told to put culture into the Quays development by the Council. Reality is that local businesses do not have much money. Commerce won’t work. Ben please sell it to parliament. Say we have a vision and get them to buy into property. A vision where commerce want to invest and where we, as artists will add value to that property by using it and looking after it.
Penny Hay (Arts Education at Bath Spa University):
What is the vision and the future for children and young people?
We are custodians and guardians of our children’s creativity.
What can you do to put that at the heart of the city and create a Child Friendly Bath?
Ben: Children at the heart of the city – how do we create a vision that is all things to all people? Bath needs a one-liner message about culture. What is our ultimate aim? Generating sparks and value.
The meeting was closed and the speakers and participants were thanked for their attendance and time.