Cultural Champion? Who, Me!

Whilst I try and keep the two separate this post does reference my day job.

Last night, Thursday 29th I had the honour of attending an awards ceremony held be Arts & Business at the Jaguar Landrover plant in Birmingham. The awards were for the Midlands Cultural Champions 2012. The awards celebrate individuals that through their commitment of time and resources support a wide range of community arts projects or their local arts scene.

This from their website;

“What is a Cultural Champion?
The arts in this country could not happen without the passionate support of thousands of individual and businesses who generously give their time, expertise and money to help our cultural organisations flourish and survive.
A Cultural Champion is an individual from the wider public or business community who has shown outstanding support and commitment to an arts or cultural organisation in their local community. Their contribution can come in many forms. Their support could be immediate or have been given over an extended period of time. Whatever their story, it is one that truly inspires others to realise they too can make a difference to an arts organisation’s cultural cause.”

As an ex art student, one time practising fine artist, previously self-employed illustrator and currently enthusiastic amateur photographer, I have a long standing interest in all areas of creativity, hence why I hang out on here and share the kinds of things I do.

In the past (10 years or more ago) I had a little circuit of café bars on Nottingham that I used to host independent exhibitions by local artists & students. It didn’t provide much of a return but it was self-financing and very enjoyable. A number of the artists either achieved some good experience, varying levels of sales & interest and in the case the students’ good grades for producing professional off site exhibitions. It was a good thing to do, nothing grandiose, just helpful and fun.

My day job is above all commercial, finding profit to keep the business running and growing, but as I deal with marketing as well I get to field a lot of inquiries for sponsorship. So with my back ground, and because I’m interested many of the more esoteric suggestions that come our way peak my interest. Also, as I’m part ‘group’, rather than just local I get a heads up about activity in the other towns in which we operate across the midlands.

For this reason in the past few years I have been able to help the Nottingham Museum & Art Gallery with their annual open exhibition, Derby Museum for the same, Derby Quad for their Format11 International Photography Festival, numerous student lead visual arts projects and also the Leicester Peoples Photographic Gallery.

I have been working with the LPPG since the idea first appeared. We have helped with branding, design, signage, exhibition support and display materials and enthusiasm for the project as a whole. It’s a unique space in the old library building in central Leicester. The project has been led by Ian Davies, an amazingly committed individual with a talent for networking and collaboration. It’s been hugely enjoyable and the gallery has started from a building site and is now the second largest dedicated photographic gallery outside of London according to BBC researchers.

As the gallery heads towards its first full year of activity and with a FaceBook group of over 430 active members it’s a unique organisation that allows almost anyone from the local community to exhibit their work and sell to an audience for a zero per cent commission.

The company has been installing new signage on the newly painted exterior today and we have the Mayor of Leicester coming to inspect on Monday. Again, just great to be involved, I even get to call the Mayor by his first name.

The Company has benefited from the association through some great PR & engagement with the local community and a whole new audience. With our current less than buoyant economy we need all the friends we can get.

So, whilst it’s really second nature to be helpful when it’s possible, vastly enjoyable to interact with creative people, and commercially beneficial to the day job, it’s even better when it gets some surprise recognition.

Hence the trip to Birmingham to be awarded a Cultural Champion 2012 Award. Insert smiley face.

Without being overt, I find it sad and short sighted that successive governments commit various acts of social & cultural vandalism by stripping arts organisations of their funding (Derby Quad lost about 100% of theirs recently) whilst they happily indulge ideological vanity projects, nonsensical radical reforms and fail persistently to act on the worst aspects of corporate collusion to deprive the country of taxes and social benefits. They are (politicians) all short termist & self-serving to a man either through intent or incompetence.

I was previously unaware of Arts & Business but as a Princes Trust funded body that encourages and recognises it is filling a gap left by the lack of any real governmental interest in the creative life of society. Well done to it for that.

If anyone who reads this is in the position to do so, try to encourage your employer to consider involving themselves with the many arts projects around the country. There are definite quantifiable benefits to doing so both in terms of a financial return and community engagement & social responsibility.

I would like to thank Ian at LPPG for the nomination and Arts & Business for the award. No speech or tears but some wonderful canapés and a very pretty certificate. I hope you like the pictures. Self promotion ends. Here’s a link to the Arts & Business article

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