Created in Birmingham – time to move on

Is it just me or is Created in Birmingham in danger of slipping into nothing more than one of a series of moderately useful listings websites for Birmingham. That is of course maybe all it’s meant to be but didn’t it used to be so much more? Didn’t it used to have more of an edge?

Didn’t it once hold to account those charged with funding the arts and challenge those who seemed to be ripping off artists? There’s a bit of back-slapping creeping into the comments that makes Brum seem a bit too cosy; as if we have an arts scene that’s not really worth getting worked up about.

I reckon a period of guest editing might spring it back into life. Give it to Pogus Caesar for a week and see what he says about Brum’s cultural scene. Rhonda Wilson would really kick some life into it as would Mohammed Ali. Whichever way, some thought into its editorial stance is certainly needed.

There’s an existing mini-discussion about my views on CIB needing to take more of a position over at Pete Ashton’s blog:

“[CIB should be] an agitator for, rather than simply advocator of, the arts. As it looks around at what’s happening in Brum perhaps it should be brave enough to point out what’s lacking, or at least be up for critiquing that which doesn’t make the grade. We’re keen for this sector to have a voice but until that voice is prepared to step outside the comfort zone it all feels a bit well, safe.”

In posting up my thoughts here I’m really saying that that time has come. Time to move on CIB – let’s start getting edgy.

45 thoughts on “Created in Birmingham – time to move on

  1. I must admit that I haven’t read anything on CiB recently that I hadn’t already read somewhere else. I’m not sure if this is a conscious decision by the team during the transition of the editorship: has Katie Spragg been asked to fulfil a new mission for CiB? Maybe they’re trying to sign post our activity to those outside the city, and trying to move away from being the creative industries village pump. As a reader, it would be good to know what the service is aiming to do now and in the future.

    Perhaps then we need not to look at CiB if they don’t want to be the provocative voice: is there a new voice or voices that might fill that gap?

  2. Maybe I’m a bit close to this one, but I’m not sure CiB has ever set itself out to agitate in the sense you mean. The aims of the site are stated pretty clearly:

    1. To find out what’s going on around Birmingham and promote it
    2. To show that blogging is a simple and effective way of engaging with audiences online

    Save for a handful of examples (and I can only think of Surface, Sanctuary and BCC parking under my tenure), any time a kicking has been handed out it’s been by the commenters, with CiB acting as a forum for it.

    That’s not to say there isn’t room (or indeed a need) for an editorial voice that’s critical of what happens around this city, I just think it might undermine the rest of what CiB does.

    Still, in a city where the lesser-funded of the arts are ignored by those who should know better, merely providing that forum for discussion and promoting independent arts in this way is somewhat disruptive and shouldn’t be underestimated.

    As for the examples of back-slapping, if someone gives me a nice mention on a blog then I tend to say thank you too. As well as being polite I strongly believe CiB’s strength lies in just that kind of engagement.

  3. Also interesting to read this:

    “I haven’t read anything on CiB recently that I hadn’t already read somewhere else”

    I know what you mean and I think it’s a good thing, although I wonder if it’s true for all 2000 readers. As Pete started saying very early on, when CiB is no longer needed it’ll have done it’s job.

    However, while things are a lot more connected than they were I still think there’s more to be done. The south Birmingham bias, for example – there are huge areas of the city that never get a mention.

  4. From my point of view then I may have taken CiB as something other than what it was: the best bits were the bits where you editorialised so I assumed that was the editorial line 🙂

    So if in fact it is a consolidation and dissemination platform, then you’re right it’s working.

    So is there more value by refining Dave’s argument: the question isn’t why isn’t CiB the agitator but why isn’t there something that is agitating? I don’t think there would be many people who think we don’t need to keep things stirred up.

  5. I’m not so sure CiB ever had an edge, to speak of. “Linking up creative communities” doesn’t say ‘edge’ to me. Nor, should it.

    Birmingham’s “creative” scene is cosy and polite, and a wee bit insular. Now that CiB is so central to that it’s sort of inevitable that the “public thoughts” tone (where no-one feels able to say they don’t enjoy any particular endeavour) would be the dominant voice.

    It’s not the CiB posts that are lacking, it’s the will of the commentors to say anything interesting. BCC parking department, or Surface (as “professional” promoters) were outside the ‘scene’ and as such viable targets.

    I’ve said it before, but I don’t think CiB needs to do art criticism — someone with credibility does tho’. And they need to say when somethings not good enough — BiNS does on wider issues, but art-wise as a personal blog I tend not to cover stuff I don’t like. CiB acts mainly a a pointer (and a preview) so criticism doesn’t sit there

    Is it only critics that are paid for it that go to see stuff they don’t want to? Could we pay Pogus (or anyone with the critical nous, writing ability and “presence”) to go and see loads of stuff and shoot from the hip?

    Or should we all be a bit more honest and less polite?

    Most art is shite, as most things in the world are from individual perspectives. There I said it. 😉

  6. Couple of things.

    Katie’s only had it for a month or so. It took me a good three months to figure out the voice and editorial stance (if any) and the meaty stuff you cite occurred from month 8 onwards, iirc. I seem to remember Chris had the same adjustment period and I’d imagine it’s harder for Chris and Katie as there’s a precedent and expectation (whereas I just got to make it up as I went along). So while these comments are welcome (at least from me – Katie might feel otherwise!) they’re possibly a little premature.

    There’s also the fact that each blogger on CiB has the right to do whatever they want with it. Chris chose to take what I’d been doing and evolve it into his own style but if he’d gone in a radically different direction that would have been fine. As long as the mission of “Linking up Birmingham’s Artistic and Creative Communities” is fairly intact. Unless he’d wanted to radically change that mission. Which would also have been fine. Same applies to Katie. She’s just whacked a new theme on the blog which lays the conceptual foundation for any changes. I’d expect those changes to start creeping in over the next month or so.

    I could, as you might imagine, go on and on about this but I end with a critical point. Pogus Caesar, Rhonda Wilson and Mohammed Ali should have their own blogs (Ali already does) where they set they work on setting the agenda and kicking life into Birmingham’s cultural scene. For me, CiB was a necessary to show people what could be done with a free website and a bit of time. The error people then make is in seeing it as “the place where discussion happens” when it’s ONE place of potentially very many. I don’t think it’s healthy for the cultural agenda of a major city to be squeezed through a small number of media outlets, and this has been proven with CiB’s systemic bias for the Moseley / Digbeth corridor. We need a thousand CiBs.

    Anyway, enough for now. Thanks for the needling.

  7. CIB clearly has tons of life left in it as we’re still a way off a thousand CIBs. So while we’re in this period where it is still seen as valuable we should consider more carefully what it tells us about the city’s arts scene. I just wonder whether it’s time to refresh the mission or more carefully think through the editorial stance so as better to reflect the vibrancy and diversity (or not) of the scene we’ve got.

    Pay Pogus for a week – that would be so great. The guest editors on Radio 4’s Today work a treat so why not that approach with CIB.

  8. OK, so, what I’m seeing here are 2 separate entities: CiB as a space; a ‘host’ if you like for the kind of debate/ comment/critical/ more edgy element that some people want to see. That’s up to the commentators, I think, not CiB itself; which facilitates that space. I think that if CiB took a really hard political/critical line it would be very divisive – and the whole point being to bring artistic/creative communities together

    The 2nd issue here is critical writing about artistic/creative endeavours within the city. Criticism itself is a hugely problematic issue close to my heart as a freelance arts & cultural writer. As Jon Bounds says, all art is subjective, so who has the right to say what’s ‘good’ and what’s ‘bad’?

    The other problem here is that most arts writers and critics will have a specialism, so can one person, with, say a background in photography knowledgably criticise a performance poetry show? ALTHOUGH on the flip- side, those people who are specialists aren’t always the best writers as it’s easy to bore people with e.g. a harangue on intricate technical meter issues in late Byzantine love poetry.

    The other problem depends on what the critic and the publication are both trying to do. If CiB aims to support the creative industries – which I believe it does – then what’s the point of attacking them? In my blog for the Birmingham Post, I tend to, as far as I can, only choose to write about good stuff, because I suppose one of my aims is to promote the ‘hidden gems’ of Brum’s artistic community. I’m not saying no-one should write about that bad stuff – it justr depends on what the writer is trying to do. Also, sometimes a thunderous silence speaks volumes….

    Perhaps what we need is a) for CiB to carry on with it’s linking/facilitating/hosting function (although people can still make critical and positive comment here – as they do now -)and b) another independant space for critical discussion on the arts in Brum; with, perhaps a more formal critical set up and a team of arts/cultural critics from different disciplines.

  9. In terms of an editorial voice. CiB’s generally neutral tone and lack of agenda has always given it the credibility to oversee any heated debate brought up in the comments.

    The ‘voice’ of the blog will never really make much of a difference as long as the flow, range and richness of information are enough to allow people to make their own opinions. People have got used to CiB as an ‘essential overview’ to help them to get a grip of what’s going on in the City. Most people don’t realise how fragile it is putting so much information through one avenue. But leaving them with the option to search for information themselves either aggetates them because they didn’t have to before, or makes them give up. A few devotes keep on digging and sharing information.

  10. I agree with your stance in your blog about CiB – “a bit of back-slapping creeping into the comments that makes Brum seem a bit too cosy”.

    However CiB aren’t the only ones who need challenging – I recently attended a Mobile Workshop run by LUCID – where Digital Birmingham’s marketing spokesperson gave a brief presentation to entice the Bham creatives sat listening in to help Digital Birmingham (DB) by providing content and using the channel/platform as a way to promote local Birmingham companies, they wanted all this for free and offered nothing in the way of even an introduction or promotion of the supporting creatives to potential companies who wanted to participate in the project, when challenged it was understood that the project hasn’t even got a guaranteed shelve life beyond a few years, why didn’t DB offer a more helpful and supportive role to make the offer more attractive to the both parties rather than use it exploit the hard work of bham creatives only to big themselves up!

    Why didn’t the management team in DB sit down and offer a solution which was well thought out and helped creative companies who participate actually shape the future of the project with a more thought out marketing plan. I mean really – how can ask creatives to come up with ideas to get local bham companies to use the channel for promotion, when DB themselves aren’t investing any resource or money into outdoor visible promotion for the types of target users?

    They wanted us do all the hard work of getting company buy-in and creative production while they sit back and take the credit for building the profile.

    As someone who works for DB what is your view on this?

  11. Jashpal: Doesn’t sound like you got a good deal out of DB at the workshop – I know some of details of this but not all and will endeavour to find out more. I’ve come on board relatively recently to do the kind of brokering role you mention – to see where we can create commercial opportunities for digital companies. I’m doing the presentation at the dissemination event for LUCID so we’ll see if we can’t get the message right at that event.

    Digital Birmingham does have a blog by the way where you’re more than welcome to challenge.


  12. Dave – I totally agree that CiB has lost it’s ‘edge’, and that would be because that edge came from Pete’s editorial style and in-depth knowledge of the city’s workings and idiosyncrasies. Chris after him took the platform and made it his own, and the result was his unique personal journey into the creative sector which he knew little about before.

    I have just taken over and I am still finding my feet. I am a relative outsider to Birmingham, with little contacts within the community. This perspective means that I will cover what is of interest to me, without agenda or bias.I am aware that the site can become a bit ‘cosy’ sometimes, but from an operational perspective that is only because dedicated CiB readers will come forward to promote their event / project etc and provide me with the right type of information (note that these are usually the type of events that won’t receive traditional press coverage).

    Jon – You, and others may have read what I’m writing about before, but I try to consider the many readers that are not aware of, or don’t subscribe to all of the brilliant Brum blogs or live in the city.

    I will continue to celebrate, promote and investigate the creative sector in the region. I will not use the site as a platform to voice my poorly informed opinions on the subject, as that is what they would be at the moment. I will endeavour to post about the issues that the creative sector faces and give the debate over to the readers.

    If anyone wants to write a well informed piece on an issue that is effecting the sector, I will be more that happy to consider it for CiB.

    “Pay Pogus for a week – that would be so great.”
    If anyone wants to speak to the people of Birmingham about the burning issues, they could set up a blog and I would direct the CiB readers to it.

    Thanks folks!

  13. I am tempted to write a post of my own along the lines of ‘Dave Harte steps forward as long-awaited arts champion’. Should I?

  14. That’s the last thing I am. Just thought it was looking a bit quiet over at CIB and given how much it’s valued thought it worth pointing out. Nothing more really. So far there’s been some strong points made for the status quo to be maintained.

    There’s a tendency to see CIB as an empty vessel, just posting up stuff of interest and letting people comment as they please. That suggests the current lack of vibrancy is down to the lack of engagement from us. But that’s like saying newspapers just tell us the news, that the choices they make don’t come with editorial bias.

    I’m heartened by Kate’s response above: “I will endeavour to post about the issues that the creative sector faces”. That’s what’s needed, nothing more really and it suggests a new editorial tone is being taken – excellent. The recession has bitten yet as far as Creative Industries is concerned but when it does we need a CIB with an edge to it to rage against the dying of the light – or something like that.

  15. Very interested in this discussion as I’m in the process of setting up a similar to CiB website for the creative scene in Nottingham – it’s a bit different over in the East Midlands as there are virtually NO sources of public funding for the creative industries (you Birmingham folks are rolling in it and have been for many years, don’t under estimate the impact of public money) so it’s very likely I would have to kick off the blog through a collective of altruistic unpaid bloggers and seek quickly to bring in sponsorship/advertising (or hope the faith of volunteers can hold good to make it work).

    This would be a very different approach to CiB, which I understand receives an OK sum of cash to pay for editorial, indirectly funded by the Arts Council.
    In this respect CiB cannot “bite the hand that feeds” – and I guess what Arts Council get out of it is more joined up promotion for their funded activities – amongst other benefits. So being a critical forum for publicly funded arts is maybe not desirable.

    I’ve always seen CiB as being about connecting – providing the marketplace to highlight or host other people’s discussions, but Pete’s right that Rhonda et al should have their own blogs or spaces for commentary where CiB can link to. Being unbiased, a neutral platform, is crucial to its success. Catalysing the use of social media in the creative community I think has been CiB biggest unplanned success.

    If anything, having seen the evolution of CiB, I feel now sites like Nicky Getgood’s seem to be more engaged and lively (and more frequent posts) than CiB – which sort of seems wrong as Nicky’s doing it just for fun, and she’s not cutting a fee for it – CiB should be aggregating and linking to more sources to fulfill its public remit.

    Pete’s giving me some great advice, but I’d be really keen to get any ideas from you guys as to how a boot-strapped CiB could work in another smaller and less connected city.

  16. On the funding issue – £500 a month was a pittance for the amount of time it took and certainly not enough to keep me in shelter/food/etc. I also kept myself at a remove from the funding (I knew it was from Creative Republic but had no idea where they got their cash from) so that sort of bias was never really an issue.

  17. “If anyone wants to speak to the people of Birmingham about the burning issues, they could set up a blog and I would direct the CiB readers to it.”

    Well said Katie.

    Instead of telling CiB what to do why don’t we just do it?

  18. Is there a case simply for agreeing a tag – eg brumartsdebate / #brumartsdebate – and encouraging blogs to use it? Then it can be pulled into wherever we want, including CiB and a new purpose-built site (if that’s what’s needed).

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  20. @Dave “That’s the last thing I am” Harte.

    I beg to differ. You’ve just stepped forward, raised a question, and ignited (or re-ignited) debate. That’s as a much as anyone has done. The only thing missing is the idealised notion of familiarity/expertise. Which doesn’t really exist, given that there are so many perspectives on any given issue.

    If you need further proof, note that Kate has pointed a post here. You are now a de facto arts champion. As is everyone else who makes the effort to join in.

    It might be worth developing the position a bit further, by asking one person per week/month to take an issue and post about it. Call it the Edge Tag.

    I’m stopping here. Any further comments will be in a post.

  21. “[CIB should be] an agitator for, rather than simply advocator of, the arts. As it looks around at what’s happening in Brum perhaps it should be brave enough to point out what’s lacking, or at least be up for critiquing that which doesn’t make the grade. We’re keen for this sector to have a voice but until that voice is prepared to step outside the comfort zone it all feels a bit well, safe.”

    Go on then. Do it. Design it. Be a guest editor. Contribute. Do something that agitates for the arts, rather than just appears to be agitating within the arts.

    I don’t think you’re ever going to get a single unfieid voice for Birmingham’s creative community if you fail to see the point of recognising evolution and nurturing different approaches, whilst doing the things that you want to be seen done yourself.

  22. You’re right actually. The post is a bit inward looking and I have some regrets about the tone in it. Sorry if it’s pissed people off. I just thought it might be time to reassess CiB’s editorial stance, nothing more really – thought I’d mention it that’s all.

    Birmingham and the West Midlands does have an organisation that seeks to represent creatives; it’s called Creative Republic. One of its concerns is:
    “it sometimes feels as if issues that affect us as an industry are overlooked by people and organisations that have the power to help and support us to grow, as well as those responsible for many areas of what the region is all about. To date there’s nobody speaking for us collectively to make our opinions heard. We’d like to see that change so we’ve set up Creative Republic to be that voice.”
    Since CiB is run through Creative Republic I think I was suggesting it better reflect that ethos.

    But it’s fine as it is really I guess. Sorry to provoke, didn’t mean to. I must try to find something more constructive to do in my twitter down time. Will stick to talking about running and gardening in future…

  23. I think the debate is over the wrong subject. i think created in birmingham (both original and present versions) provide a valuable contribution to the Birmingham Blogoshphere or whatever it is called this week. Perhaps a more valuable debate might be isn’t it time for Dave Harte to “move on” or perhaps “get out of the way so the rest of us can get on with some proper work.” Perhaps he could take his blogging about gardening and running more seriously and leave the rest of the Birmingham Creative thing to get on with work without distractions and meaningless diversions.

  24. and on the subject of other organisations Dave Harte quoted:

    Creative Republic. One of its concerns is:
    “it sometimes feels as if issues that affect us as an industry are overlooked by people and organisations that have the power to help and support us to grow, as well as those responsible for many areas of what the region is all about. To date there’s nobody speaking for us collectively to make our opinions heard. We’d like to see that change so we’ve set up Creative Republic to be that voice.”

    well, no prizes for my view on this……only sheep need a leader.

    What sheep could use is good administration, that works….but doesn’t attempt to lead anyone. Created in Birmingham provides a good administrative framework and long may it stay that way.

  25. This is a very strimulating thread and I think DH should not shy away from provoking dicussion as he does here. Critical thought is fine when as thoughtful and as well-qualified as it is here and it is good to see, mostly measured, debate enjoined.

    I for one am saddened to see that creative industries now seems to have been removed from the list of key topics covered by DH, whose acuity and perspective have proven compulsive and amusing reading by turn, but as serious as those equally important things, namely gardening and running.

    This is also, clearly, a personal blog. Given the nature of the personal and the voluntary nature of how one subscribes, reads and responds to such posts it seems rather censorious to suggest that: “Perhaps he could take his blogging about gardening and running more seriously and leave the rest of the Birmingham Creative thing to get on with work without distractions and meaningless diversions”. Such comments seem to pinpoint some issues and problems arising in the terms and tenor of the debate here and who exactly is authorised to speak and on whose terms.

    Bounds suggested that ‘Birmingham’s “creative” scene is cosy and polite, and a wee bit insular’. The consequence then seems to be then that a figure such as DH is not entitled to have an opinion? And yet opinion is, after all free and you don’t have to subscribe, listen or partake when it is offered.

    In relation therefore, and to pick up the cosy characterisation as well as some of the queries raised in Fiona Hanscomb’s helpful contribution, particularly ‘all art is subjective, so who has the right to say what’s ‘good’ and what’s ‘bad’?’ Well as far as the overextended remit of the creative industries, so called, stretches, don’t we all? As a member of various audiences at different times, and as a taxpayer, citizen and indidividual with some basic schooling I feel that I certainly have that right. Whether I want to share it in such forums however is another matter.

    What I would like to see more of I must say, and deferring to those who make their livings in the sector as ‘doers’, is to see more discussion and evaluation of what their peer community is doing from their perspective. This would, it seems, be indicative of a confident, mature and genuinely creative community.

    To this end then, apparently provocative posts such as this one, and the by turn, measured and provocative responses are evidence that such debates can and should be taling place in such public spaces.

  26. That’s stimulating of course, not strimulating – must be the gardening elements of the blog.

  27. Thanks Paul. That’s a fine piece, sprelling included. I agree that a thoughtful, provocative piece is not remiss around here. Wasn’t it DH who started ‘interpreting’ policy documents for us a year or so back? I am all for more of that, and similar ‘depth’ pieces.

  28. I’m very much a casual user of CiB, and do find it useful. I think the amount of debate you have provoked in three days goes to show that a lot of people do care about CiB and clearly you are doing loads right. There are a number of sites/blogs/ things about Creative Brum. CiB is one of them, but also has unique identity (and should not attempt to try the futile job of covering everything) – nothing wrong with your subjectivity, which lets face it, you’re not going to get away from anyway.

    I think the ‘guest editor’ idea is really good, and I’d love to see what other people highlight in Brum. I think CiB needs to organise selection of guest editors and support them to put up their bit. How you do this, and include some CiB readers voice is a tricky challenge in itself, but not impossible.

  29. Hi Dave,

    I held back on commenting on this because the comment-baiting “time to move on” seems to have got a few people’s backs up – not least mine. But it doesn’t seem to tie up with what you’re saying, so I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt.

    I won’t repeat what’s already been eloquently said above – I’m interested in funding vs expectations.

    The blogger on CiB (currently Kate) is paid a nominal amount each month to run the site. The trouble is that thanks to everyone who’s collaboratively produced the site over the last few years, the expectation is that it will always do great things, when that nominal amount probably doesn’t cover the budget for biscuits where you work. Expectations are even higher now too because of the two awards the site’s won.

    We drive a lot of traffic through the site, and I think you agree we do good things – in fact we show the big boys (Marketing Birmingham, City Council, etc.) that a micro-funded community blog can make a big bang for a small buck.

    But right now, if there were one thing you could do with your professional hat on it is to take into account the comments we’ve had above and see if there is any way that Digital Birmingham could use its significant influence to help us to continue providing the service with more resources to make it do what you think it should.

    If we want it to be more ambitious, that means more work for everyone involved and right now I feel we’ve proven our point and it could grow if we wanted it to. We’re just limited by funds.

    Dave – you’ve managed some fair size funds in your time, not least the nearly £1m that Digital Central had to play with.

    I know plenty of projects that align with the aims of CiB that could use their funds to support what we all see as a valuable online _thing_ for the city.

    Perhaps you could make it your aim to help us respond to some of the challenges you’ve laid down in a constructive way?

    Obviously we want CiB to be self-sustaining (which it is not achieving yet) and we’re looking at that long term through Creative Republic. I believe that Helga sent you an invite to be part of a small group to help us look at that a while ago. Shall I get her to resend it?



  30. Happy to use my professional skills. Least of all in identifying funding sources and writing bids. Also happy to join a group looking at that – invite welcome.

    I didn’t mean to get people’s back up but yes, I did mean to invite discussion because I thought that’s what healthy vibrant creative scenes do – they discuss and chew over their positions.

    But the reaction to my post has drifted to the personal, inevitable I guess, and there’s a question been raised over my right to talk about this stuff in the public sphere. I started a personal blog (inspired by CiB actually) to be able to part of the discussion but given I’m a lecturer/researcher/ manager type as opposed to a purely creative type maybe I don’t have a place in discussions about the creative sector – the digital sector maybe but not the creative sector. Not a problem really as there’s plenty of interesting stuff to discuss in that world and in the vibrant worlds of gardening and running.

  31. Great – invite winging it’s way to you soon.

    Sorry to point it out (and no sarcasm or anything intended) but after a year or so of blogging you’re bound to get one of these online conversations. Just have to follow the Rule of Thick Skins: do I care about the opinions of someone’s online persona enough to alter my behaviour?

    Personally I think Mark’s online persona necessitates a few other rules too.

    TBH – I don’t see many other people in your position getting involved in these kinds of conversations, so that’s to be encouraged. And whilst I might disagree with your timing on some of your posts (it seems to be Fridays at 6pm just as I’m relaxing for the weekend), I don’t have the faintest idea why you couldn’t say “take Created Birmingham offline and stop wasting taxpayers money on this artsy farsty waste of space – we’ve got manufacturing jobs to save” if you wanted to. Of course you’d get a robust response to that too.

    Aside from that – you should make an “About this blog” page containing the following points:

    * Who you are, personally.
    * Who you are, professionally.
    * What the blog is about.
    * What the blog isn’t about.
    * How the personal and professional bits sit together.
    * A disclaimer that says ‘these are my personal opinions and not endorsed by my employer” etc.

    That should make it clear which ‘voice’ you are speaking in – which isn’t clear at the moment.

    I’m getting increasingly tired of “That’s science, not creative”, “That’s digital, not science”, “That’s culture, not creative”, “Creative isn’t culture”, “That’s media, not culture”, “That’s digital, not art” and so on and so on. I say anyone has the right to comment on anything they want and these labels are increasingly useless to me.

    “Say what you like but expect not to always like the comments” I guess is the rule to follow – don’t get dissuaded from blogging because of a few personal jibes!

  32. I wouldn’t take my mock throwing-toys-out-of-pram too seriously. I’d welcome this level of discussion every week, never mind once a year. Useful advice on the blog thanks.

  33. Thanks for that Stef and Dave! I shall re-send the invitation (which was to work on a policy sub-committee – but you can get involved in any way you like – as can anyone) as I really value the work you do in this area to diseminate the type of information that creatives who run businesses either miss off their radar or don’t have time to read and (more importantly) THINK about.

  34. Fair play Dave, a good and positive debate has raged! I think everyone is in violent agreement on the need for some proactivity (nay even posturing?) in this area, which might have got lost in the original post, and the particular context. But provocative is good.

    With so many conversations going on these days, I don’t think we’re at a stage where ‘they’ can listen to every single one; hence the great thing about having a central point of reference, as CiB may have previously been.

    But the dialogue may emerge in other forms, or those tasked with listening (often in marketing, who more often than not see listening as a review of the latest stats, or some half-baked ofucs group) will get to grips with the tools on offer.

    Until then, nothing will be perfect, and it will be down to the individuals involved to take things forward. It’s ALL good, though, no matter what form it takes – in my view.

    But the debate MUST rage on, so all power to your elbow! More please!

  35. Do you know about Pogus Caesar’s new show at Symphony Hall?

    At the Melody Gardot concert with about 400 people looking at his new photographs of South Africa. in beautiful grainy black and white film…this guy never fails to amaze me.

  36. To the original point.

    It seems to me that if you’re not involved in projects that are funded there’s little chance of mention on CIB. Smaller independently funded projects aren’t as savvy when it comes to providing the perfect press release. Some artists are busy creating and find self-promotion difficult, especially when there are professionally trained PR people within funded projects to compete with.

    Are the independent artists slipping under the radar?

    With recent cuts in arts council funding, maybe blogs and PR machines like CIB shouldn’t alienate the smaller independent artists quite so much.
    They may be all there is to write about in the near future.

    I would love to see CIB a little more like it started, more avocation of creativity than the ability to attain public money.

    My fear is that CIB may well copy and paste itself into mediocrity.

  37. This is a very interesting discussion of the function that CiB does/should provide to the Birmingham arts community.

    What seems to be missing from the debate however, with the exception of the a few posts, is any attempt to relate these issues to the challenges facing independently produced art in a wider context.

    It is my personal view, that there is a greater level of energy expended by Birmingham’s arts community in competing for funding than there is in tackling the most serious issue. I perceive this issue to be the declining participation of audiences in independent art, as audiences in each sector of the arts repeatedly opt for large scale commercially produced art products.

    Again, to return to the original point, if CiB does not have a function to agitate for a change in the wider perception of independent art, who does? There is indisputably a need for a coherent plan to repair the health of independent arts in the West Midlands, and if CiB is not addressing this need, we need something else that does.

    This should not be viewed as a criticism of CiB, who have an excellent track record for housing debate such as this. I disagree for example with the assertion that guest editors would be of any benefit. If a readership which is 0.002% of the population of the city it serves were to waste it’s energy competing for who should have editorial control, rather than seek to complement CiB with other activities, it would be a loss for us all.

    So, in conclusion, CiB has an important role to play in continuing to house debate within the arts community of Birmingham, but that is the beginning and end of it’s brief as far as I understand.

    The question for all of us, is how can we lend our efforts to the issues raised by Dave in his original post (and those raised by the last poster) beyond the confines of CiB.

    I have my opinions, and my own plans, but I do not feel that this is the appropriate forum, and also feel uncomfortable raising a question and answering it myself. What does everyone else think we can do?

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