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It’s rather hard to capture what’s going on here, what with multiple strands and all. But we’ve had a nice thread this afternoon about quality, and raising standards. Glasgow Science Centre presented their performance feedback approach, which is reassuringly straightforward and prompted interesting discussions about quality expectations.

…which fed rather nicely into Andy Lloyd’s session on excellence, drawing comparisons from the arts sector. Ironically, I missed half of that because I was having a discussion in the corridor about how important it would be to have a discussion about… er… the same thing. That’ll teach me to read the programme.

Continuing the theme of ‘deep discussions in the corridors,’ however, I’ve just had a rather head-bending chat with Jen de Witt of Kings and theatre director/consultant Stephen Wrentmore. Key points I want to remember:

  • I’m glad we haven’t got central funding. We wouldn’t know what to do with it.
  • If we were genuinely brilliant at what we do, we’d find it easier to criticise each other. That we find it hard is likely a damning indictment of where we are now.
  • Name a science centre that’s presenting an image of clear, dynamic leadership, raising the quality bar and making the rest of us quake in our boots. Why isn’t there one?
  • The business model for investing in quality products is clear; if we only invest enough to produce shows, say, that are ‘good enough for the next six months,’ we’ll eventually wither and die. Delivering progressively better work is a route to, in a decade, being able to say ‘look, this stuff is clearly brilliant. Here’s our research to explain why we ditched all this other stuff; here’s the improvement we see; here’s where we go next.’ In short: we’re investing in having a plausible pitch in a decade’s time.
  • Suppose we made a stunningly clear case for funding, in ten year’s time. What, exactly, are we working towards? Something like the Arts Council? Or more like 4ip? Or… what? Wouldn’t it help if we discussed what we’re after?
  • It’s a process. Funding — whether now or in the future — is simply a waypoint.

This may all sound a bit head-in-hands dour. That’s not the mood here. It feels like the discussion has moved on rather dramatically from the session Paul McCrory and I did last year (‘You’re all Rubbish!’), and that people are much more keen to discuss peer review, shared goals, and ongoing vision. I’m very excited about what I’ve seen today. I’m not sure what it’s for, yet, but that’s not the point.

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These sessions may well lead to a practical idea over the next few months, so watch this space. In any case, I will try and write up the discussions a bit more in case it triggers any more creative ideas!



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