There will be a meeting for all members on the 15 March starting at 5:15pm.
We will be presenting the current situation of the media group and discussing the future.
The Bridge will not be closed April 1-14 as previously stated. The renovation work has been postponed.
Further details will be published as they come to hand.
We have been able to pick up a good deal on some used Mac Computers.
We have installed Pixelmator which is a cheap alternative to Photoshop.
Also we do have the equipment for film processing available for hire.
So there is an option to do traditional photography with digital darkroom process.
|A celebration of the Media Group’s time in the Media Workshop.
We will be shortly relocating to The Bridge (Corner of Hundens Lane and Yarm Road) and we thought it only fitting to have a farewell do for the Workshop that has been our home for the last 30 years.
There will be food, drink, slideshows and maybe a film or 2.
29 June 2012 – 1745-2000
Rufus T. Firefly: And now, members of the cabinet…
Rufus T. Firefly: we’ll take up old business.
Cabinet Member: I wish to discuss the tariff.
Rufus T. Firefly: Sit down, that’s new business. No old business? Very well…
Rufus T. Firefly: we’ll take up new business.
Cabinet Member: Now, about that tariff…
Rufus T. Firefly: Too late, that’s old business already. Sit down.
- Duck Soup, The Marx Brothers (1933)
As this post goes out, Darlington Borough Council’s Cabinet is assembling to rubber stamp a decision to end all funding for Darlington Media Group after 30 years of service to the town. Never mind that the decision has been delivered just weeks before it is due (on March 31st) to take effect, and that precious little notice is being given. DMG has become accustomed over the years to “plans” suddenly becoming “old business”. In a previous post about the council cuts, I explained how in the past, measures of our performance were simply forgotten about. I also expressed doubts about the likelihood of a Third Sector-led resurgence of the arts, given the local authority’s history of working towards a corporatist-inspired enabling council. Today’s decision confirms these doubts.
Darlington Media Group is now being asked to deliver an arts offer to the town without any financial support and without a roof over its head. Last year we recorded over 25,000 unique visits to a workshop designed for participation in the arts. We established a strong core of skilled volunteer support for an unprecedented programme of media and visual arts education, production and exhibition. Regular users of the workshop observed that it has never before been so busy. With such deep and active involvement from members of the community, and plans for a new Arts Vision aimed at strategically involving DMG, we submitted our plans for the next three years, confident that they resonated with the new reality. Apparently not. Hmm..
How has this come about? One glance at the list of organisations that have been offered funding, and how they have scored against the funding criteria, reveals the thinking behind the “third sector strategic grant” fund. Top of the score list is First Stop, the drop-in centre on Tubwell Row for anyone in need, mainly homeless people and young people. A close second is the local Citizen’s Advice Bureau, the service that helps people resolve their legal, money and other problems. These and the other organisations that received funding do sterling work in the town. But their role is primarily problem solving, helping victims of our grossly and increasingly unequal society. This hardly chimes with the kinds of aims against which applications were supposedly judged; helping people in Darlington become healthy, educated, skilled and financially secure, building more resilient and self-sufficient communities, making Darlington an ambitious and entrepreneurial place, and so on.
Much of this sort of language is of course spin. Accentuating the positives was always going to be a key role for an aspirational document like One Darlington, Perfectly Placed. But its use as a measure for this particular funding stream was misplaced. Clearly, there is vital work to be done in the town supporting those who are most vulnerable to the cruel economic policies of neo-liberalism as delivered in the UK today, work which DMG is involved with on a daily basis. By default, the Third Sector Strategic Grant Fund, the grand title for the fund that has supported our work these thirty years, has become a crisis fund. Hmm….
So the question still remains. Can the local authority really engage creatively with a willing independent arts sector to deliver the Vision for the Arts? DMG set out its vision of how this could work in our submission to the Arts Enquiry process. If there are to be cuts in public spending, and money has to be saved, facilities should be handed over to independent arts and community organisations with the capacity to renew and improve infrastructure through sweat equity as well as direct finance. In return, the town should expect an arts offer that proves popular and inspiring in equal measure. The model is, after all, widely practiced around the world. Berlin renewed many of its old tenements in the 1980s by giving squatters tenancy rights. More recently, Czech photography gallery Galerie 4, who led us to the author of our current photography exhibition, has been handed an old monastery building for a peppercorn rent by their local authority.
Darlington has the old building – Darlington Arts Centre. And it has the strong and willing independent arts movement in Darlington for Culture. DfC’s recent work in attracting enthusiastic crowds to the Arts Centre should surely give the local authority pause for thought when they decide on the wider fate of the arts. If DMG is to have its grant cut, we could still make a go of it in a DfC-run Arts Centre.
But the signs are not good. The official response to DfC’s plans has been lukewarm to say the least, with doubts about viability, concern about risks, and the lack of DfC “professionalism”. Instead, DBC are currently putting their faith in their grand plans for a new arts hub, to be built with the expected proceeds of the sale of the Arts Centre. A low risk strategy? No chance of the Arts Centre building remaining unsold? Or of further new cuts to council spending as a double-dip recession blows the bottom out of the government’s plans? Are these perhaps the kinds of risks that should be better addressed?
Herein lies the nub. Self-management, as a means of making financial savings, involves cutting waste at the top, by reducing management overheads. But this also means less paperwork, less hierarchy, less league tables, less point scoring, less lines of accountability. Self-managed groups are handed the tools for the job and given a set time to deliver. If they don’t deliver, the tools are taken away. That’s it. DBC’s ability to work this way has been consistently eroded over the last 20 years. With a combination of New Labour corporatism and Conservative lack of imagination, giving power to the community has become a risk too far. We now face the appalling prospect of faith being put in the very systems of governance that delivered this financial crisis in the first place, rather than a genuine alternative that can harness the energies and abilities of community.
Perhaps it is ironic then, that One Darlington, Perfectly Placed has at least given the town one national gong - the PRIMO (Public Risk Management) Europe Strategic Risk Management Award 2009. But then we are now living in a Never Never Land, where the government’s privatised job-seekers service believes that unemployment is primarily due to individual failure rather than a lack of jobs. Why not also argue, as PRIMO do, that risk management reduces crime and increases cycling in Darlington.