Agenda item

Arts and Culture Strategy


The Arts and Culture Officer presented her report setting out an Arts and Culture Strategy for 2019-2024 and an Action Plan for its delivery.  She explained that:


·  In October 2015, the Heritage, Culture and Leisure Committee agreed to support further work on culture and heritage in the Borough following a consultation carried out by Nick Ewbank Associates.  Heritage had largely been addressed by the Museum’s new 20 year Transformation Plan but arts and culture had not been equally considered. 


·  In order to change that, and to understand the current arts and culture offer in the Borough, extensive research had been carried out, including a full SWOT analysis, an audit of all existing arts and cultural organisations in the Borough and conversations with local artists, arts organisations and collectives.  Combining this with the results of previous research and looking at the wider regional and national context, a new Arts and Culture Strategy had been developed which would help the Council to establish its aims and priorities for arts and culture in the Borough and ensure that it capitalises on all the benefits they can bring to society, the economy and the health and well-being of local residents.


The Chairman thanked the Arts and Culture Officer for her work on the development of the Arts and Culture Strategy and advised Members that if they were to approve the Strategy, Arts Council Officers would be invited for a discussion to find out how they might assist with applications for additional resources.


Councillor M Rose (Visiting Member and one of the Council’s representatives on the Maidstone Area Arts Partnership) addressed the Committee in support of the new Strategy.


During the discussion:


·  It was suggested that, with regard to the SWOT analysis, Cobtree Manor Park should be added to the list of Strengths as a key visitor attraction together with the aim, possibly in connection with the Business Terrace, for Maidstone to be the Business Capital of Kent.  In terms of Weaknesses, there was a need for an up to date, managed, data base to enable people to access information on arts and cultural groups/activities Kent-wide.  In terms of Opportunities, there was a possible need to mention the Business Improvement District either coupled with One Maidstone or separately.


·  Reference was made to the lack of information relating to arts and cultural activities taking place in the rural areas and it was pointed out that information could be obtained from Parish magazines and Parish Council websites.  It was also suggested that the potential to work with churches, community halls and local charities and to obtain sponsorship from local businesses should be examined.


In response to these comments and further questions:


·  The Officers explained that:


A data base had been developed and was now live on the Maidstone Borough Council website listing about sixty local arts and cultural organisations divided by category with a brief description of what they do, when and where they meet, membership fees and contact details.  It was a directory for arts and culture in the Borough, not an events calendar.  Discussions would take place with the IT team about promoting the directory through Google.


One of the actions in the Action Plan was to carry out a public consultation to identify the main barriers to participation in arts and cultural activities and if the Council was putting on events and activities people would be consulted on what they would want to do and what would benefit them most.  This would involve working in partnership with other Council departments and outside agencies.


More work needed to be done to identify all of the different arts and cultural groups actively operating in the Borough and areas where events are taking place and to add them to the data base.


·  The Chairman said that he would be working with the Officers to ensure that the action plan is delivered without putting unreasonable pressure on members of staff.  This would involve partnership working and engagement with the Arts Council.  Additional support and resources might be available once a comprehensive action plan is agreed.


RESOLVED:  That subject to the suggested amendments to the SWOT analysis set out above, the Arts and Culture Strategy and the Action Plan for its delivery, attached as Appendices to the report of the Arts and Culture Officer, be adopted.


Supporting documents: