Well, the recycling bins are overflowing, the tree disposal centres are looking a bit sad, but at least the storm clouds finally seem to be breaking… although perhaps not over Limerick, quite yet (oh dear…)
After a very quiet semester on the blogging front, I’ll be back with regular updates in the coming weeks, and of course, regular job postings and event announcements.
2013 was quite the rollercoaster for the arts & cultural community — we’ve had a nasty budget with bodies like Culture Ireland and National Cultural Institutions especially hard-hit; the spectacular collapse of Temple Bar Cultural Trust and the closure of the Belltable Arts Centre in Limerick (and worrying times for the Irish Architectural Archives too); campaigns highlighting the precarious position of visual artists and compensation and the need for cultural research and better policy-making processes; controversies over corporate arts sponsorships and the Arts Council Music Recording Scheme bursaries.
Amidst the gossip and gloom there have been many bright spots as well — a very successful run by Derry as City of Culture; Rough Magic and Opera Theatre Company’s fab win in the Sky Arts Ignition competition; booming times for Culture Night nationwide;The Gathering (despite its rocky start) now being hailed as a great success. In our own neck of the woods here at UCD, we launched the new Irish Journal of Arts Management and Cultural Policy and are looking ahead to issue 2 very soon.
What’s in store for 2014? The fallout from the Limerick City of Culture debacle is set to continue (though a new CEO has just been announced) — and in many ways it serves as an apt distillation of the challenges ahead. The bungled initiative has thrown into painful (and public) relief what we already know: the dominant rhetoric of corporate ‘rebranding’ and clashing conceptions of what a ‘city of culture’ is actually meant to deliver; public ‘cultural management’ practices which betray no deep understanding of either term; the small, imbalanced budgets now assigned to major arts events with the expectation of high (usually non-arts) returns; and the shockingly poor control of taxpayer-funded initiatives by the government department meant to oversee them.
There’s still time for Limerick to get its act together — and the mass turnout at public meetings and high level of publicity generated over the past few days bodes well for Limerick CoC. This matters deeply to many people, in Limerick and nationwide. However the issues underlying CoC that have fuelled this crisis have been with us for some time – and they aren’t going away. I’m looking forward to lots of discussions and debates over the coming months over how we can improve relationships between cultural policy, art practice and public funding, across all of the artform sectors. One of the benefits of working in a university is the boundless energy and enthusiasm for change and opportunity in the arts which floods through our doors every year. And as we enter into a new year, I’m taking a page from their book: perhaps we all need to adopt Woody Guthrie’s final New Year’s resolution (from his list that’s been making the rounds): Wake Up and Fight.