Every so often the past and present parts of one’s life join up in a very satisfactory way and for me last Thursday evening was just such an occasion. I, along with a cross section of the great and the good, artists, arts organisations, creative businesses, arts and museum officers and consumers of Hertfordshire’s cultural life met at the University of Hertfordshire to attend the launch of the new Creative Hertfordshire website. It is, of course, the latest in a suite of websites that began with the very successful Creative Torbay and now joins its sister sites in West Sussex, Somerset and Swindon.
All well and good you might think but what has this got to do with AD:uk? Well the reason is for this item’s appearance is that if two Hertfordshire arts officers and one ex- arts officer hadn’t attended the AD;uk conference in Blackpool two years ago it is most unlikely I would be writing this piece now. Then we all joined an engaging break out session run by Mischa Eligoloff, Community Partnerships Officer at Torbay Council. Within a very short time he had convinced all three of us that what our county needed was its own version of his site.
Hertfordshire, a large shire county north of London, has a relatively poorly funded cultural infrastructure and lousy east- west communications which make moving around difficult, although it’s fine if you want to travel into London. At the same time there is a vast amount of high quality cultural activity on offer which is often unknown outside the immediate locality. This is as true of large professional organisations as it is of small voluntary ones. For example the Henry Moore Foundation based at Perry Green in the back lanes of rural East Herts, is probably better known in New York, Moscow or Madrid than it is in Watford, Welwyn Garden City or Stevenage.
So two of those original conference attendees duly reported back to their colleagues at the Herts Arts Partnership and the planning and fundraising got underway. (I as the ex-arts officer just sounded keen to all and sundry if asked). Two years later the site has been funded by ACE, all 11 of the local councils, the University of Hertfordshire and supported by Watford Palace Theatre, the county’s main NPO. This is a notable achievement in these straightened times especially as the county has seen cuts to arts and museums’ posts and reduced budgets.
Mischa was there again on Thursday and his enthusiasm caught the imagination of the attendees, just as it did in Blackpool. The site seems to be acquiring new members daily and Nick Denham who led the project reported that through the event one performer met an agent and by return was able to offer a theatre group help with props, costumes and sets from his own Youth Theatre store. So it seems the site is set to fulfil the promise of helping to link up the county in a way that hasn’t been possible before.
So if you are currently swithering about whether or not to attend AD:uk’s next conference, ‘Locally Sourced’ this November, perhaps this example might help swing you in favour of going. As to Hertfordshire, whether they know it or not, anyone associated with culture in Hertfordshire has benefitted from the three of us sitting in the Winter Gardens Opera House, Blackpool listening to a colleague from the South West discussing his website. If you’d like to see more go to http://creativehertfordshire.com/ or indeed the original http://creativetorbay.com
Catherine Davis is the Secretary and Trustee of AD: uk and is an independent cultural consultant.
Tel: 01462 458831 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.