Imagine a Department of Cultural Affairs

Another of the constant questions that’s been put to me since The Fourth Pillar has been for suggestions about how one might go about creating an effective way of ‘planning for culture’ (thank you Charles Landry) within local government.

I believe that the crucial issues are attitudinal (see Challenges for local cultural development) but they are also structural. The burgeoning of ‘Arts & Culture’ branches in local government appears to be an effort to recognise that culture is important BUT, while it may improve local government’s capacity to engage with the arts, I think that it makes ‘planning for culture’ even more difficult.

Public space, communications, education, and active citizenship are all profoundly important aspects of ‘the social production of meaning’ – ‘making sense together’ – CULTURE. Festivals, libraries and art galleries are, of course, also important but they provide nowhere near the full picture of cultural processes in a community. A structure that is designed in response to this recognition might offer a fruitful way onward.

I have therefore, with some trepidation, and not much hope of a positive response, imagined a ‘Cultural Affairs Department’ that brings together those functions of local government that significantly impact on cultural development. I know it’s a pipe dream, but, given that I have them, the least I can do is pass them around.

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