So far I’ve talked about ideas – a new way of doing this, a different approach to that.
Throwing the rule book out always seems like a good idea to someone like me who likes change and trying something new. However with the rule book, came an enormous safety net. Following well-trodden steps is often how we know we’re on the right path sure that there will be a destination at the end.
So where do we start if we’ve torn up the map in favour of finding our own adventure?
If we’re undertaking an adventure we’ll need a compass, and a set of shared values that guide us through what lies ahead seems like a good substitute. Like a compass values should be things that we can all identify with and understand even if the paths that we discover are wildly different and distinct.
The values that we choose will be the things that set our course, the yard stick by which we measure our decisions when we get to a cross roads.
This post starts to suggest what the values underpinning a new Culture Strategy for Leeds could be. They are based on the conversations to date and speak of the frustration we feel and acknowledge the challenges that we face, but they also speak of the fire, the fight and the determination to get past this, to finally make our star shine and build a capital of culture.
Our values will be rooted within and fought for, fiercely protected and upheld by us all. If that’s the case then we had better get them right from the start. Below is a suggested reading of our compass and what it could mean for the future cultures that we create. That said a compass can be read in many ways so these are just examples and suggestions, there for us to test and change as we build a new strategy, collectively.
- Bravery –We have been creating, growing, welcoming and nurturing a phenomenal cultural identity for decades, but we don’t know how to tell people about it and we’ve forgotten how liberating taking a risk can be. We behave like the wonderfully gifted child in a class of averages, too shy and nervous to shine even though we know we can do better than that. If we are going to find a new age where culture takes centre stage, we have to believe in its ability to do so. Confidence is not told, it is shown in how we act, our reaction to the world, and our faith in our ability to stand out, in our own way. We will not emulate the cultures of another place, but be bold in creating our own mark. Culture is a fiery, creative, passionate process some will like what we create, others will not, but that won’t stop us from creating it. Leeds is a radical and independent city, we have a strong voice and a ferocious talent, we will be brave enough to use it.
- Resilience – Our world is changing. The funding handed down to local government and the Arts Council is already dramatically reduced and set to reduce further. But, money isn’t everything. As a city collectively we have so many riches that with a little resourcefulness and creativity can yield more than we ever imagined, but we have to go through the challenging terrain, not around it. It’s going to be tough. We will need to make big changes, emptying out the ‘too hard box’, taking decisions together that will change the face of our cultures irrevocably, but will also make us stronger. Together we will build a new sustainable model for culture whatever its form and function.
- Generosity –From the people I spoke to there was a sense of the cultures that have and the ones that don’t, which could easily become a dividing line. Again it wasn’t always about money, sometimes it was about who had marquees and seats that could be borrowed and shared. Others it was about shared learning. Sometimes it was about opportunity. If you’re hosting the world’s media, whose story are you telling them? Does it only have to be your own? It was always about the will to do something good, to share and support. The will to empower future generations to create future cultures without boundaries. We will share our assets, knowledge and opportunities, build new networks where we learn from and support each other irrespective of the cultures we represent and our own interests.
- Tolerance -Feisty, chaotic and independent by nature we will never agree on everything, but we don’t have to. I met people who wanted total freedom in a Culture Strategy, and those who wanted rules or at least a firm guide. I met people who are vehemently passionate about the arts and want to not feel embarrassed extolling its virtues, alongside others who have no interest in the arts but dedicated their lives to the enjoyment of people. Nobody should feel silenced on the subject that they have so much zeal for. The cultures of Leeds are not mutually exclusive. Our cultural spectrum will have no high or low. We don’t all have to love Opera or Community Galas, but we will all be proud and grateful that the people of Leeds create, support and develop them both, and more, because without one, there won’t be the other and this city thrives on both.
- Curiosity –We will travel light on this adventure leaving the baggage of the past behind. The sense of excitement which we feel is sometimes accompanied by trepidation because we don’t allow ourselves to be brave enough to fail. Valuing the freedom, creativity and flexibility to try things, be honest with ourselves, take the good things, leave the rest and try again, will be at the core of who we become. It will make us innovative, keep us relevant, make us unique, and allow us to learn from what went before rather than having to banish it from our consciousness.
If the values we choose now guide the decisions we make for the next thirteen years, how fitting are the ones suggested here?
Could we develop a new Events Strategy for the city based on these values?
Can we ask developers who invest in the city to adhere to them?
Will they change the way we behave enough? Will it be for the better? Will it make a difference?
Are they too similar – is curiosity and the will to fail fast and get up again, the same as being brave?
Are we missing something obvious?
What do we really value as a city, and how can the Culture Strategy make sure that we use those values as measure of success?
Based on your comments, we will revisit, update and refine these values to check that they work before we set off into the woods with them.
If they don’t we’ll try something else, if they do we’ll figure out our next move, together.
PS –Over the next few months we’ll be inviting ourselves along to the opening of a packet of crisps, asking all these questions and more, but if you want us to join your event, meet your group, speak to your local community or attend your meetings please get in touch with me at: Leanne.firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0113 24 78195.
Image: Courtesy of Phoenix Dance Theatre