Hello. I’ve got a desk at the SURF office and am starting to make new contacts and think about connecting back with some amazing individuals who have creatively worked in and around Greater Manchester for a long time. For me returning to work in Greater Manchester is another round of a circle.  I’ve worked here in different guises on and off over the last 23 years with various community arts projects, as a freelancer with lots of different arts organisations and individuals and in stints working in various art forms and generic officer posts at the Arts Council also. In the last few weeks Beth and I have had meetings with Manchester City Council Cultural Strategy team; with Kerenza McClarnan from Buddleia; and yesterday, with Manchester International Festival Creative Learning Director Jennifer Cleary. 

Manchester City Council Cultural Strategy team are optimistic and driving forward with plans despite extremely challenging situations and deep cuts to provision. Given the broad sense of what ‘cultural intermediary’ can mean I am starting to see how organisations such as City Councils fulfil a cultural intermediary function just as much as individual actors do.  For further information see Manchester CC cultural strategy team. With Kerenza we discussed previous work and Buddleia’s future projects, and approaches to long-term engagement in communities using art in the public realm ranging from pop-up projects to longitudinal artists’ residencies. For a recent Greater Manchester based project with Buddleia and Manchester CC see Moston Small Cinema

Our discussions yesterday were in-depth and thought-provoking regarding Manchester International Festival’s mission and the primary driver of artist-led excellence, see Manchester International Festival. The Creative Learning commissions under the banner ‘MIF Creative’ sit within the core of the festival programme and are directed by artist-led intervention. We discussed integrity in artistic practice and how that integrity works within communities.  MIF Creative operates under the principles of innovation, originality, internationalism and of developing high quality and inspiring cultural work.

There’s a lot going on in Manchester.  The city art gallery is currently exhibiting ‘The First Cut’. A fantastic exhibition demonstrating a wealth of ways in which artists approach the medium of paper. http://www.manchestergalleries.org/. This exhibition is worth a number of visits and I am hoping to go back and look more thoroughly in the holidays.  Chinese Art Centre http://www.chinese-arts-centre.org/ is currently showing two exhibitions, and Manchester Craft and Design Centre http://www.craftanddesign.com is home to a diverse and inspiring range of artists.  Lyn Gardner’s recent article in The Guardian on theatre production and arts cuts is well worth a read and is relevant to arts production and consumption as a whole, see theatre cuts and also Beth’s previous blog.

Have a lovely time over the next few weeks, and may 2013 bring much high quality thinking and doing!

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