The first meeting of the Culture Working Group was a lively event, and covered a lot of ground. From the introductions it was clear that One Great Win had assembled a diverse group of six contributors with a wide range of experience.
Most of the group had some dealings with local authority planning and administrative bodies, both positive and negative, and had developed strong opinions as a result. However, these were in quite discrete areas and in relation to specific projects, in sport and in the arts. Their “life-lessons” were valuable, instructive, and informed the subsequent discussion.
What is culture?
We were asked to define culture in relation to Winchester. It was pointed out that local artists were sometimes – wrongly – seen as vulnerable, charitable causes, whereas the culture of Winchester was “not just the grassroots.” It generates money for the city, and enriches lives. It creates an identity and defines who we are. Culture is the soul of the city. It enables, or it could, the rediscovering of relevance. Venues exist but are under-used, undervalued and ignored.
What’s working, and what’s not?
Thirdly, we were asked to list what was working or not working – the positives and negatives of our current cultural life. Winchester enjoys an array of prestigious visiting artists, an impressive heritage, several excellent organised festivals, superb Chamber and Classical music (both local and visiting) and a consistent programme of exhibitions. So much for the Credit column.
On the Debit side, it was felt that local artists were less well-supported and sometimes sidelined; that there were fewer contemporary art projects and live events; that there was less community-generated activity (or it was under-reported and insufficiently publicised); there was a lack of an overall Cultural Strategy and inadequate systems for access. Perhaps most significantly, it was felt that the voice of the city’s youth was poorly-represented, especially its large and economically active student population.
In time for the next meeting we will be researching local, national and international cultural case studies we can draw inspiration from to support cultural development for Winchester. Closer to home, we will also look into what the specific barriers are to the cultural offer being less than what we need as a city at the moment.
Featured image: Empirical at Winchester Jazz Festival, The Railway Inn. Photo by Anna Harding.
Share your views on what you might like to see for Winchester in the comments box below and read more from the group’s second session here. Don’t forget you can also join the conversation on social media. You can find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.