Our second group meeting was another lively and fascinating discussion, following an equally animated exchange of email between group members since the first meeting, with new research, information from several past projects, and sets of data being exchanged. Our work had been continuous. If week one had been about identifying gaps in provision, week two saw us dig into the detail and begin to propose solutions.
The first development was the establishment of a Cultural Spaces Audit. This is a list of venues and their facilities. Some initial work had been done on this, to which members will be adding. It was agreed to include potential venues, as well as existing ones, given that these could be enhanced or improved, to make them viable. It was noted that the use of pop-ups had been attempted in empty shops, as an example. This idea would be explored further.
It was felt that Winchester was very inward-looking, and had rebuffed approaches from other cities. Some institutions blocked projects, while others didn’t involve themselves in negotiation. Winchester suffered from a ‘market town’ image. Its creative population, 5000 strong, largely worked from home and lacked visibility. The City’s schools were interested in cultural projects, but lacked the time to engage. Hampshire Music Service catered only for schools. As far as community engagement went, its website linked, limply, to a list of choirs.
The answer to this stasis lies in enhancing grass roots energy. Winchester should position itself so that it attracts more artists and young people, who see Brighton and Bristol as more attractive. They want to live in creative places. 60,000 people internationally had objected to the proposed closure of the BMX trails at Bar End, ensuring their survival. Could there also be a Cultural Corridor, from River Park to Kings Walk?
Looking at examples elsewhere, the experience of Creative London had established four principles: Space, showcasing, funding and skills. Could a Creative Winchester be the way forward? The Manchester Design Manifesto was also cited as an example of cross-sectoral collaboration. It was necessary to involve stakeholders. There wasn’t one, single model, but potentially aspects of practice elsewhere could be adapted to the City.