Two longish board meetings today. In the morning it's CityCo, the City Centre Management Company.

Management of the city centre is even more important than ever in the current economic climate as it has the biggest concentration of jobs in the conurbation and the biggest potential for growth. The first item on the agenda is about a neighbourhood management pilot that is currently underway in the Northern Quarter/Piccadilly part of the city centre. The essence of the pilot is very simple, to get Council staff (wardens, street cleaners, grass cutters, licensing staff etc.) and the police (PCSOs and Neighbourhood Officers) to work as one team. There are a whole range of operational issues to be resolved not least communications when each service is currently on a different radio network but the issues are being resolved and independent inspection of the area shows marked improvement. Of course this sort of approach doesn't just apply to the City Centre and Neighbourhood Management approaches involving the totality of public services are currently being trialled in Cheetham. There are lessons to be learnt but this should lead rapidly to similar joined up working being rolled out across the city.

A quick pause for breath and then a shivery walk to First Street for the Corridor Board. First item is a presentation on the Beacon Project, one of six national pilots looking at better public engagement between Universities and the areas they are located in. So far (the work isn't finished yet) there have been a large number of projects putting our two universities together with people from the surrounding wards of Ardwick, Longsight, Rusholme, Hulme and Moss Side. Again there has been an independent evaluation which shows that better public engagement is win-win, improving life and life chances for local residents and improving performance of the academic world. The trick is going to be to keep this going after the pilot funding goes away.

There are 9 responses to “Togetherness”

  1. bicolouredpythonrocksnake Says:

    All very well but this feels like misdirection to me. Are you trying to bury the bad news about the Cornerhouse?

  2. cinemagoer Says:

    How exactly is the Cornerhouse announcement bad news? A new iconic arts venue sounds like a great idea - the Cornerhouse and the Library Theatre both seem to think so. £19 million investment and thousands of jobs for local people - probably explains why this was 'buried' on the front page of the MEN.

  3. bicolouredpythonrocksnake Says:

    The news has been buried. By the time we get to hear about it, the project is sufficiently advanced for architects to have already designed a building. The report itself is tucked away in the papers of the Executive Committee, which are by no means the first thing you find on the council's website.

    This is a case of 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it'. The Cornerhouse is that rare thing - an institution that is so good at what it does that it can hardly be improved upon. It also, unlike the Library Theatre, doesn't belong to the council. What presumably has happened is the council has threatened to withdraw funding from the Cornerhouse unless it takes part in a project that, judging by the comments in the press release, has little to do with international film or new artworks and rather more to do with turning the First Street site into something like the Lowry complex - a better-than-nothing but slightly dispiriting mish-mash of high art and chain food outlets.

    Along with the RNCM, the Cornerhouse is one of the jewels in Manchester's cultural crown. This plan risks sabotaging it for no good reason. It also seems to be at odds with the council's so-called 'Knowlege Corridor', as it wll rip the heart out of the area at the top of Oxford Road - where, it should be added, many of the Cornerhouse's natural frequenters are to be found. The Cornerhouse is part of a thriving cultural scene that includes places like Sandbar on Grosvenor Street and the Green Room on Whitworth Street West - and that has little to do with 'growing Manchester's economy'. It's *not* the economy, stupid, it's the Cornerhouse! Leave it alone.

  4. cinemagoer Says:

    First we have 'burried' news then we have a report 'tucked away' followed by the Cornerhouse's funding being threatened by Howard Bernstein presumably from a grassy knoll in Knott Mill. Bicouloredpythonthingy has a vivid imagination. It's a shame that having got hold of a copy of the Committee report, he or she hasn't bothered to read it.
    To quote the report; (Cornerhouse) 'is restrained by the configuration of its current buildings.... they are expensive to run and not ideal for a range of exhibitions and other events'. And the roof leaks! I've been a fan (and paying customer) of The Cornerhouse since it opened. A bigger, better Cornerhouse with access to more secure funding seems like something we ought to be welcoming.

  5. Dave Moutrey Says:

    Cornerhouse cares a great deal about our audiences and that is why we think this is good for our future. I can’t speak for the Library Theatre Company but I think they would have the same view.

    Cornerhouse is an independent charity that relies on public funding. So the first thing to say is that Cornerhouse Board of Trustees does not have to do what Manchester City Council tells it, it is truly independent. We chose to be part of this project because they, the Board of Trustees, considered it an excellent option for the long-term future of the organisation and the work that we exist to do. We consider it to be the best option because over the last four years our funding has been reduced and will continue to be cut significantly over the next twelve months. As a result we have made changes to the way we programme to generate more income and we also manage our costs very carefully. We have managed to double our gallery attendances last year and our cinemas performed very strongly. Consequently, we have survived so far.

    However, despite everything we have done we know that to be more cost effective 5 screens would work better that 3. We also know that our existing screens are technically far from ideal. Cinema 1, for instance, has had a leaky roof for 25 years, we fix the leak and it appears somewhere else. Our galleries do not have adequate access for art works and are very difficult to install work in. They are freezing cold in winter and unbearably hot in summer. Our buildings, built in the 1930’s, consume gas and electricity at alarming rates. Our Operations Team do a fantastic job of keeping the doors open but it just gets harder and more expensive. So, against a background of diminishing public subsidy, where we have no option but to earn more money through the box office and café, we currently have buildings that eat money and are not fit for purpose.

    We can now create a new, energy efficient building designed to present great theatre, art and film, artists will want to work with us even more than they do now. Our loyal customers will no longer have to queue out of the front door in the rain when we have a successful film. Our staff will have decent facilities to work in. It will enable us to generate more income and so survive these unprecedented cuts in arts funding. Furthermore we can expand our education and training work in better spaces.

  6. bicolouredmontypython Says:

    OK DM but apart from that?

  7. Dave Bishop Says:

    And even better the existing Cornerhouse site will be free to be re-developed and turned into yet another empty office block. Yippee!!

  8. bicolouredpythonrocksnake Says:

    Thanks for the reply, Dave - let's hope you're right. It's inevitably a worry when an operation that's as beloved as Cornerhouse has to change. I've been attending regularly since a friend took me to see Oscar And Lucinda maybe thirteen years ago and it tops the list of things I'd miss if I left Manchester. See you soon for Rare Exports.

  9. confused Says:

    How is something appearing on the front page of the Manchester Evening News and all over the telly, radio and internet "burying" news? Perhaps Sir Richard should stand astride Santa and pronounce it from a megaphone?