I have just read the letter concerning requests for access to data amassed during the unsuccessful City of Culture bid. I too had wondered how we would build on the work done; Access to good quality up-to-date data would be a great place to start.
I’ve been involved in different cultural activity in the city for decades – from volunteering at the the Gantry to programming the Film Festival, initiating a campaign to help save Harbour Lights, running a salsa club, co-DJing on community radio, attending the incredible Black History Month events, the First Gallery, the old Mount Pleasant Media Workshop, events organised by Art Asia, local performance poetry and so on.
There are so many talented and visionary people in the city who work in their communities, often without acknowledgement or financial support. Many will be unknown to the broader population.
Southampton has so many hidden gems, but initiatives rarely have the opportunity to get past a certain level of development. Funding is a huge issue, but also there is a perception that people here don’t ‘engage with’ the arts. I remember hearing as much said by a funder at a meeting. I’m not sure this is always true and when it is, it would be good to understand why.
I think a huge part of the problem is that many initiatives come from the top down and we rely on outside experts to guide us. Those experts may not know the city well. So a project starts, falters, fades. Until the next bid or project. Until the next expert.
I think people have always put in good work in spite of the city, rather than because of it. I think we should trust ourselves a bit more when working in partnership with outside agencies.
Ever since the Gantry was closed down and we were promised a better cultural offer I have watched this cycle and it’s tiring. I’m convinced that with a more systematic approach and better communication we could build some real momentum and stop some of the drain of people leaving the city for more exciting prospects.
Perhaps In Common could devote an issue to some of the information if it ever gets revealed?
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- Main image by Mike Daish