It is a generally accepted view among business leaders that cities and regions are drivers of economic growth more than nations and governments.
As Nigel Wilson, chief executive of Legal & General has observed: ‘The US doesn’t just have New York – San Francisco, LA, Boston and others are also premier league cities. In Germany, Frankfurt, Stuttgart and Munich thrive alongside Berlin. We need the same in the UK.’
I go to museums a lot; it’s part of Arts Council keeping fully in touch with what’s happening around the country. But Friday was unusual even for me. I visited all eight Cambridge University museums and galleries in a single day: an exhausting, inspiring whistle stop tour.
When I arrived at the Arts Council a little over two years ago, I discovered (with some alarm!) that I was going to be the Executive Board member with responsibility for Goal 1, for ensuring that ‘excellence is thriving and celebrated in arts, museums and libraries’. Who was going to determine what was ‘excellent’ – our arts and cultural leaders? The professional critics? …Me? Would it ever be possible to agree within the Arts Council – let alone amongst arts and cultural organisations – what are the key determinants of ‘quality’?
Today Arts Council England announces its National portfolio of arts organisations and its Major partner museums for 2015-18.
I believe the decisions we’ve made reward ambition. We have looked to the future, investing in work for children and young people, and seeking to develop talent, wherever it emerges. We’ve sought to reach into more communities, while continuing to invest in arts organisations that have done great things in the last three years; we want them to build on their past work, and go further.
The Arts Council’s investment process is well underway; in July we are going to announce how we plan to invest for the next three years in a National portfolio of organisations - one of our three connected investment strands alongside Grants for the arts and our strategic funds.
I’m not good with heights, never have been, never will be. So climbing a hundred foot up the main mast of ss Great Britain in Bristol to mark the launch of a new heritage experience – Go Aloft! – was always going to be a challenge.
I'm writing this blog on my way to Durham, a great city with a council going out of its way to embrace and enhance its cultural offer. I'm looking forward to a conversation about what we can do together, both in the short term and the long - building capacity and engagement.