Today I was invited to the launch of Birmingham’s “Creative City” initiative. A light buffet had been laid on but I knew it would be bad to eat any of it. Half-jokingly I told people I was boycotting it.

Andy Street, Chair of the Local Enterprise Partnership gave a turbo-charged speech in which he claimed that the Creative Industries are core to the LEP’s mission to create 100,000 new jobs.

Ed Vaizey, The Minister for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries, launching Catalyst, smoothly managed to suggest that in the Cultural Sector we’ve not been good at asking for money in the correct way from the private sector and when we’ve got it that we haven’t been very good at saying “thank you”.

Laura Dyer from Arts Council England told us that Arts Organisations needed to become “sustainable and resilient businesses”.

Councillor Timothy Huxtable, Cabinet Member for Transport, Environment that reminded us of the Big City Plan, described HS2 as a ‘game changer’ and made the error of name-checking Stan’s Cafe amongst cultural organisations acting as ‘drivers for the future’.

The Councillor’s error – or rather that of his speech writer – was political not factual. His problem was that throughout the backslapping, trumpet blowing, Creative Industry eulogising event a vast elephant was wandering into the room with a nude Emperor on his back. By name-checking Stan’s Cafe he gave me permission to stand up and ask the obvious unasked question: “Thank you for the name check, please could you explain why, if you value us so highly, are you cutting our £10,000 revenue funding by 100%?”

After thanking me for the question (cue laughter), the Councillor explained how superfast broadband was going to help us out. To be honest I didn’t follow his logic but that was probably me being slow. Fortunately Councillor Mullaney came to my aid, gamely explaining how things were much better for us all than they had been before our funding got wiped out. Now it all made sense.

There seem to be two ways of playing this political game: The James Yarker way (clambering out of the trenches, shouting “charge” and bodysurfing the barbed wire) or the Jonathan Watkins way (curating art for the Tory Party Conference). Well, time will tell whose tactics are more effective.

That may sound like I’m slagging Jonathan off, but I’m not at all. He has a much bigger project going on than I ever will and is a far shrewder operator than I ever could be. I admire him from afar. The plans for Ikon 2 look impressive.

I should probably have kept my mouth shut, but I blame Pete Ashton for egging me on. If you want to hear the various speeches that I so brutally summarised Chris Unitt recorded them and has them for your listening incredulity at Created In Birmingham along with the local politician’s attempts to answer my simple question.

It is now clear why it was right not to eat any of that buffet; for, once you have accepted food from someone it then becomes very discourteous to punch them in the face – even metaphorically. I threw the punch went to the markets and bought fish instead.

8 thoughts on “Politics

  1. Good for you James for speaking up. They gave extremely long non-answers to your question. Your point very clearly shows up all this political hot air for what it is, when the Council’s withdrawal of an already embarrassingly small annual grant of £10,000 is the actual reality.

  2. Great, James, glad you were there and this post is excellent – I’ll retweet – I couldn’t go mainly because of work but also I’m way to angry with recent shenanigans with our enthusiastic Brazilian partners and the way they didn’t get treated – even to a breakfast meeting (how well they manage to spray ‘no-taste’ onto everything they touch – food, ideas, etc) – I would have kicked off big time so thank goodness there were some articulate dissendent voices amongst the afraid and beaten down. and so it goes on. Hope you are all well, Sandra.

  3. Well done James – for outing the Elephant – from all the write up / sound up I’ve heard so far – by far the most interesting part of the day was that question – and an important one, that I know many others in the room probably were thinking about at exactly the same time… We must continue to ask these questions, and challenge things constructively. Good on you! and good for the rest of us I say!

  4. Well done James, I think you cetainly took the right tack, and I commend the point about the food!

    We think it works both ways, some chefs think it’s impossible to make good food for someone you don’t respect, just one reason not to do so.

    See you soon I hope.

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