The importance of dialogue

In December’s bulletin we wrote that OtherGen, along with our colleagues at Culture Matters Co-Operative, were seeking to establish an ongoing dialogue with major cultural institutions in the North East. The
purpose of this dialogue would be to consider the current state of
relations between the region’s cultural institutions, in particular Arts
Council England funded National Portfolio Organisations, artists working
in the region and local communities, in particular those that face
barriers to actively engaging in the arts.

In January we took some first steps in establishing that dialogue when
Mike Quille, Chair and Chief Editor of Culture Matters, and AUE member Martin Gollan, from OtherGen, met with Sarah Munro, Director of Baltic and
Andrea Philipson, Baltic Professor at Baltic 39.

The meeting provided the opportunity to explain why we believe it’s
important for cultural venues like Baltic to have strong links with
local communities and artists, to find out what Baltic is already doing
to secure these links, and to begin to explore ideas and theories that
might inform future actions.

To provide a framework for the discussion Mike and Martin produced a
short paper taking headlines from Arts Council England’s ‘Shaping the
next ten year’ strategy and setting out our ‘asks’ under the strategy’s
outcomes: for example that ‘people from every background benefit from
public investment in culture’. We choose to do this assuming that the
strategy will form a key guiding document for Baltic (and other NPOs).

The tone of January’s meeting however suggests scope to push beyond the
bounds of ACE’s vision, to pursue something more radical and meaningful
in terms of cultural democracy.

Martin Gollan also joined Mike Quille at a Culture Matters presentation
in January to the Newcastle Trades Council, which also has a strong
interest in improving the access of working people to cultural
provision. This meeting also suggested that there was local and regional
scope for developing a comprehensive policy which included other
cultural activities as well as the arts, and a programme of work for
developing dialogues with a range of cultural institutions (eg sport,
the media etc.) on the broad themes of enhancing cultural democracy in
the area.

A good start and we hope more to come, which we will report on here but
if you’d like to know more please email us at

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