I went to this conference on Saturday: http://www.tate.org.uk/britain/eventseducation/symposia/9972.htm
It was a homage to WG Sebald http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._G._Sebald who died too early in a car crash. His work has been really important to me since I first discovered it. It also related to a touring exhibition called Waterlogged, organised by the Film & Video Umbrella which explored the ‘haunting’ of the East Anglian landscape and the sense of place created through writing and art. It was about the absence of the people who had been there before and given it some kind of spirit. When we go on pilgrimages to retrace their steps we find nothing but change, and also ourselves haunting the landscape. I liked two things about the conference. One was that it interspersed music, film and poetry with academic commentary. The other was that it was the landscape of my childhood. My father http://www.peter-baldwin.com/Originals1.htm is an artist whose work, without being imitative, is a close reflection on these themes of the spirit of place. My mother talks and thinks a lot about poetry and the Anglo-Saxon and Dutch history of East Anglia. So they live, and I grew up in, this theme. I felt oddly at home but adrift at the same time. Many of the people speaking or attending were also from East Anglia, especially Norfolk, and I met several people with connections to me, by family, place, past times or common interests. The question I asked at the very end had to do with the tension that artists feel between reflection and action. What is the meaning of work that unearths the traces of the past in the face of emergency? What is implicated in work that explores the falling into the sea of monuments a century ago, in the face of impending drastic sea level rises?
The DCMS announced that they have appointed creative programmers for the Cultural Olympiad in each English region: http://www.culture.gov.uk/Reference_library/Press_notices/archive_2007/dcms109_07.htm
A key part of their role is to encourage arts and cultural organisation to take part in the programme. They will also ensure that each region’s heritage is as well presented as its latest technologies. They will be working closely with the Regional Cultural Consortia. There are also programmers in place or in planning for the other home countries of the UK. It will be interesting to see how they will engage with museums, galleries, archives and libraries. The sector will have to be proactive to ensure that the programmes are building on their strategic plans and not imposing extra work which only results in unsustained celebratory events.
You can sign up to a newsletter targetting the cultural and creative sector:
The Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford needs to build a new £29m bookstore as it’s current buildings are 130% full. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2170770,00.html Many of their lesser-used (perhaps never-used?) books are stored in places like a salt mine in Cheshire. They need all the books to be in one place with more state-of-the-art collection care. The problem is Oxford’s susceptibility to flooding. It’s not so much that the building can’t be designed to resist floods, but that such a large building on a flood plain may exacerbate the flood threat to the city. It illustrates the question that will increasingly face us in the cultural sector: Should we sacrifice the care and discovery of our cultural heritage in order to focus on preserving the environment? What is the right balance?
An update: the plans for the new building have been given the go ahead
Today the Government launched an expansion of faith schools, using the British Library’s Sacred exhibition as a platform. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uklatest/story/0,,-6911363,00.html The theory goes that faith schools contribute to community cohesion. The expansion is to allow for more Muslim, Hindu and Sikh schools, as it’s considered unfair that there are plenty of schools for Christian and Jewish children. What about fairness to the 44% of children who have beliefs or ethics that fall outside an organised religion? What about the many ethnic minority families who want their children to be taught in secular or mixed-faith schools?
The National Curriculum is fundamentally secular, despite the anachronistic legal requirement of a daily act of worship. Apart from this, the values of the curriculum, if not the daily practices, and certainly the current innovations in thinking about education, promote open-mindedness and a critical attitude to all truths and dogmas. The more diverse the school community, in terms of its teachers, its pupils and the knowledge it explores, the more it will be able to deliver the requirements of the National Curriculum and create the innovative young adults we urgently need. I’m interested to know how the Government plans to ensure that faith schools will do this.
Dr Paul Kelley is a brave headteacher in Newcastle who wants to challenge the ‘daily act of worship’ law, to create a secular school that is more tolerant of diverse cultures. http://education.guardian.co.uk/faithschools/story/0,,2175879,00.html He’s been advised that he would stand no chance of success in his challenge as the Lords and Bishops would block it. His view is that an act of worship is no longer an appropriate activity in a 21st century school. He is not against faith, and he wants to increase religious education in his school, but he is opposed to the legal imposition.
I feel quite exercised by the fact that the BBC has cancelled Planet Relief, 18 months in the planning. Yes, Planet Relief might have been rather irritating but the situation is so critical, everyone in the cultural sector, especially the best funded organisations, should respond to the emergency. The senior news editors who believe that “It is absolutely not the BBC’s job to save the planet” have got their way. I wonder, if there was incontrovertible proof that the planet was being marauded by alien monsters who were causing massive droughts, floods and disastrous imbalances of biodiversity, would the BBC say the same thing and just opiate the masses with repeat episodes of Doctor Who? The BBC’s excuse is that the public prefer to learn through straight documentaries rather than through comedy and entertainment, so they’ve cancelled the show so as to be more effective in their communication of ‘both sides of the debate’. I wonder how much truth there is in that. Do people prefer to learn about science and current affairs through factual news documentaries or would they rather switch on comedy and entertainment?