Thursday, May 21, 2020

Covid-19 #12: Meet the Commissioner for Cultural Recovery and Renewal post lockdown

Neil Mendoza has today been appointed as the new Commissioner for Cultural Recovery and Renewal by the Government's Culture Secretary.

In effect he is the man tasked with reviving the UK's cultural sector post lockdown.

Why should you be interested?
You might be want to think how much planning is going to focus on the "traditional way of doing things" and "all the normal suspects" as opposed to who really needs to be represented at the table.

I suspect we're going to get a response 
  • very much focused on large organisations and 
  • NOT one focused in any way on people who are self-employed within the sector

Why do we need a Commissioner?

Our local, regional and national institutions have been trailblazers in coming up with innovative ways to reach audiences during the lockdown. Our focus now turns to paving the way for the reopening of the country’s cultural hubs including theatres, galleries, museums and entertainment venues, when it is safe to do so.Culture Secretary - Oliver Dowding

What is a Commissioner for Cultural Recovery and Renewal?

Apparently the Commissioner will:
  • provide an expert and independent voice to the government
  • advise on how UK culture and heritage can begin the road to recovery from the pandemic
Culture and creativity will be vital to rebuilding communities across the country and in sustaining our international standing as a creative nation. Helping the sector to reopen is a priority for the Arts Council and I very much look forward to working with Neil in support of the aims of the Taskforce.Sir Nicholas Serota

Who is Neil Mendoza?

Neil Mendoza
Wikipedia describes Neil Mendoza as
a British entrepreneur, publisher and philanthropist.
Neil Mendoza has had a career building businesses in the creative and finance sectors.
He is currently:
  • the Provost of Oriel College, Oxford
  • a Non-Executive Director at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (since 2016)
  • the Chair of The Landmark Trust - a UK charity dedicated to saving buildings of historical importance
  • the Illuminated River Foundation - a large art commission project to light London’s bridges
  • a Director of Bookmark Content  (worth checking out if you want to know more about digital marketing of content)
Previous roles included
He led the Mendoza Review of Museums in England (2017). (see The Mendoza Review: an independent review of museums in England PDF, 2.08MB, 110 pages). It looked at
  • what the national infrastructure for museums is and what it could and should be; 
  • the museums sponsored directly by government; and 
  • the challenges and opportunities for all of England’s museums. 
  • It made recommendations across the following areas:
    • Adapting to today’s funding environment
    • Growing and diversifying audiences
    • Dynamic collection curation and management
    • Contributing to placemaking and local priorities
    • Delivering cultural education
    • Working in museums: Developing leaders with appropriate skills & Diversifying the workforce
    • Digital capacity and innovation
    • Working international
I haven't looked at this in any detail but I do know from a career spent working for and with government that it's very unlikely for people to change their mind on what they think is important if they published a report in the last five years!

This is his Twitter account - should you feel the need to tell him what his new priorities need to be

What happens next?

The government press release announces that planning for how various economic sectors which are currently closed can be reopened safely

There are five sectors and task forces in the roadmap to rebuild Britain.

 These are:
  • Recreation and leisure, 
  • Pubs and restaurants, 
  • Non-essential retail, 
  • Places of worship, and 
  • International aviation
The first of those taskforces - Recreation and Leisure - is being established by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. This will be supported by working groups which include:
  • the entertainment and events group
  • sport, 
  • museums and galleries, 
  • heritage, 
  • tourism and 
  • libraries.
I can't see any recognition of the impact of coronavirus on the self-employed - such as freelance professional artists and illustrators.
The Entertainment and Events Working Group will
bringing together representatives from around the country to develop advice and guidance on the reopening of cultural venues across the nation, helping to get employees back to work and audiences once again enjoying our thriving cultural sector.
It will include representatives from:
  • Royal Albert Hall, 
  • Birmingham Royal Ballet, 
  • Really Useful Group, 
  • One Dance UK, 
  • Cadogan Hall, 
  • Association of British Orchestras, 
  • Nimax, 
  • Leeds Playhouse and 
  • The Royal Opera House.

What I'd like to see an analysis of how those employed in the arts are split across the different sectors and the extent to which they are 
  • either employed by large organisations - the likes of which get a voice in these working groups
  • those who are self-employed - who are very often ignored by the government (witness the arrangements for how to support people's income when it took a lot of banging on tables to make the point that there are LOTS AND LOTS OF SELF-EMPLOYED PEOPLE!

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