Don't think I've ever done a Valentine's Day entry before, at least not consciously, so at the risk of being accused of being soppy and sentimental, this post goes with love to Manchester and all its people. The Arts Council are in town today. I know that as they have a big chunk of their operation at the Hive in the Northern Quarter they are in town everyday, but this particular day they are holding what I think is their third State of the Arts Conference, and the first out of London. It's a co-production with the City Council, Salford City Council and the Manchester International festival which kicked off last night at RNCM and then the Whitworth before moving today to the Lowry Centre. The conference brings together artists and arts administrators from across the country, and Mancs attending have picked up that there is a mixture of envy and astonishment at the extent to which in this age of austerity we in this city are still supporting the arts.
I chaired a session this morning on " Artists and a Changing Society " with speakers Drew Hemment ( from our very own FutureEverything festival ) and Gavin Stride ( now of Farnham Maltings, but like me before that from Mansfield ). Following brief and thought provoking presentations there was a lively debate with at least as many opinions as people in a pretty large audience.
I could comment on a number of the contributions made but wanted to dwell on a quote attributed to the Leader of Derby Council that the Arts are " a nice to have ". Of course I don't know if he/she actually said that, but if it was he/she needs their head examining. I've made these points before in the blog, but I think they're worth making again. Manchester continues to support our cultural sector for a number of reasons and I'll give just three. A healthy cultural sector improves quality of live and makes Manchester a better place, a place where people want to live. Involvement in the Arts whether as producer or consumer encourages creativity and innovation, both of which we need if we are to survive and thrive in the future. Last but not least, it's about jobs. Thousands of people are employed in the " cultural industries ", and many more who work here, grow businesses here, do so because of the quality of life I talked about earlier. For a modern city, support for the arts is not a nice to have, it's a must.