Friday, August 19, 2005

Keith Roker's Response

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has requested each local authority to produce a cultural strategy as one of its performance indicator targets. Local authorities have approached this in a variety of ways reflecting the particular characteristics of their patch and the priorities they possess. We have looked at thePDC draft and have a number of comments. In brief we cannot agree with the narrowness of the strategy's definition of cultureor with the parochial scope of the strategy itself. The strategy shows every sign of having been constructed backwards as it were with the aim of supporting andjustifying particular existing medium term local objectives of PDC, principally a Swanage sports centre. We consider that the strategy needs to be related to both PDC's vision statement andthe policies of other public bodies. PDC was criticised last year for not identifyingthe means through which its vision is to be delivered. This strategy offers an opportunity to come to grips with this issue.We had considerable difficulty with the definition of culture adopted in the draft.We do not think the list of examples of cultural activities given in government guidance constitutes a definition, or that PDC can rightly frame a strategy by cherry-picking items from that list. In particular we do not accept that culture can be defined as "leisure, recreation and sport." It is a truism that culture it is a leisure activity for those who may be described as its "consumers", however, as we discuss below, the provision of culture is asignificant, indeed essential, part of Purbeck's economy and so does not fall to bedealt with simply as a form of service delivered or enabled by the council. Culture needs to be recognised as being at the centre of economic development and not diminished to a tactic for getting kids off the streets. "Culture" has a number of meanings. The OED distinguishes between culture as representing "the combined understanding of a single group of people in contrast to any other" on the one hand and "The training and refinement of mind, tastes and manners....... the intellectual side of civilization" on the other.The draft is based on the supposition that a cultural strategy can be based entirely on the first of these. It takes it for granted that the population of the district constitute a single group of people sharing a common culture and that therequirements of a cultural strategy are achieved by identifying a hierarchy of theirdemands as evidenced through unstructured and unscientific survey methods. Thelatter definition of culture is either ignored of marginalized by reference to asurvey of sports and leisure wants which has been performed in a different context. We consider that the draft needs to be strengthened and balanced by being extended togive equal weight to the second definition.The decision to deliberately omit tourism is strange, indeed perverse. The draft says tourists "contribute to the cultural life of Purbeck" as if they danced around in national costume to the tune of pipes and tabors. In fact tourism is a cultural activity in itself, just as using a public library or listening to a record is. Tourism is the mainspring of our economy. It cannot simply be ignored by announcingwithout justification that the strategy is restricted to delivering services only tothe indigenous population and ignoring the role of culture in assuring their futurematerial well-being. Tourism is the cultural manifestation of human reaction to ourenvironment. Tourist policy at regional and County level emphasises the importance of providing anenriched and extended cultural experience for tourists which goes beyond andtranscends the traditional "summer holiday" of previous generations. These policies stress the role of "eco" or cultural tourism and very much revolve around the second OED definition quoted above. We consider that the strategy needs to relate to these policies and the Jurassic Coast Arts policy and identify the role of PDC in delivering and enabling these within the district. We think that a cultural strategy for an area with a tourism/environmentally based economy must therefore be a strategy for culturally based economic development in order to generate the wealth to provide for the leisure and sports needs, among others, of the local population. This accords with, and signposts a direction for the practical realisation of PDC's vision for the District "Thriving communities in balance with the natural environment." Tourism, a cultural activity, has the potential to enable communitiesto thrive. The delivery of this in the modern world is dependent on sustaining the environment and directing the human interaction with that environment.

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