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Notes from the Chair: 12th December 2011

Firstly, thanks to everyone who managed to respond to the proposed deregulation of parts of the licensing act, I know how difficult it can be to fit in time for extras, but opportunities to really influence changes in legislation that really affect our day to day work are rare, and worth taking when we get them.

 This week, rather than asking you to take on another national policy initiative, I’d like to take a few moments to reflect on what it’s like to run an arts service outside a local authority. In my day job I lead ADeC, an arts development charity, set up some seventeen years ago (well before I joined) to provide arts services, both strategic and operational, for the local community in East Cambridgeshire, with funding from the local authority. Our relationship with the local authority has matured and developed, through changes in political control, service reviews, and budget challenges; and we now also work with neighbouring authorities, in a range of different ways.

 In the past I simply felt that we were a bit of an anomaly, working very well where we were, but not a model that had been widely adopted. Recently that has all changed as more and more services reconsider the way they are delivered, and I’ve been reflecting on what it is about ADeC structurally that has helped it to not only survive, but continue to develop in increasingly challenging times.

 Obviously there are all the practical aspects that are important for small independent organisations, like budgetary control, business planning and so on; but I’d characterize these as necessary rather than sufficient. Yes, we absolutely have to do them, and do them at least reasonably well to survive, but they aren’t at the heart of what makes the organisation work.

 What really matters is the way in which the relationship between arts and community is written into the organisation: both matter and are equally important; artists and the local people we work with and for. Artistic goals and community goals are also equally important and are always in balance, working together rather than in opposition. This is not always an easy trick to manage, as different stakeholders can pull in different directions, and keeping that balance has sometimes felt like a significant risk.
 

Seventeen years on, we are still absolutely an arts development organisation, when it could sometimes have been easier to become just a development organisation, or just an arts organisation. My thanks go to the people who first drafted the objects of the organisation and put it on the right track.
Merry Christmas!
Jane Wilson
Chair of AD:uk
Tel: 01353 669022 Email: jane.wilson@adec.org.uk