Robyn Archer Departs Liverpool’s Culture Company
Robyn Archer’s resignation, announced today, as artistic director of Liverpool’s Culture Company leaves many questions about what the 2007 and 2008 celebrations are actually intended to achieve. Acknowledging this simple reality would help a great deal in making progress.
So the first question everyone’s asking is, Why? Why has Robyn Archer, after in reality such a brief sojourn in Liverpool, decided that Liverpool’s 2007 & 2008 events are not for her?
Only Ms Archer can answer that, of course, and she is unlikely to add much to her media statement that it’s for ‘personal reasons’. (Well, yes, but that could mean many things to many people.)
In the meantime, the question I would still really like to see a proper response to – and which I asked Robyn Archer directly on one of the very few occasions when I actually encountered her – is this:
By what criteria will we know that Liverpool’s 2007 and 2008 celebrations have been a success?
The fundamental question for Capital of Culture
There may well be more than one sensible response, but perhaps – who knows? – it was partly a lack of clarity in various quarters about this fundamental question which provoked the latest departure. (Some of us recall that the very first 2008 lead director also departed Liverpool, almost before he’d unpacked his bags.) Perhaps there are multiple possible answers – to renew and regenerate our city, to promote and celebrate communities, even, just maybe, to bolster ‘cultural’ activities as such – but no-one seems able to offer a definitive and widely agreed response.
Whether or not it bothered Robyn Archer, this question continues very much to worry me. There still seems to be a confusion in the minds of some local people about the difference between Excellence and Elitism, between the absolutely correct requirement that Liverpool’s cultural celebrations include as many local citizens from as many different communities as possible, and the frankly silly idea that anything which is, as they say, ‘artistically challenging’ is also somehow inappropriate in this city.
The real cultural challenge
How are we as citizens together to grow in our understanding of art, music, dance, drama, or anything else, if we are afraid to take it to people who haven’t encountered it much as yet?
Of course people should be offered and involved in artistic activities which engage them directly – ‘community education’ projects and so forth – but somehow we also have to encourage them to see that there is much more than that too.
The courage to offer leadership
At present, it feels as though those – and there certainly are several, on the Culture Company Board amongst other places – who are willing and able to promote the idea that we gain more from cultural experience when we permit it to challenge us – are being outnumbered by those who, to use the old metaphor, play to the gallery of small town politics.
The real issue is cultural and civic leadership. Liverpool will be a city fit for the 21st century when the local powers-that-be are ready to acknowledge not only how far we have already travelled, but also how much further there is to go before we can really call ourselves a Capital of Culture in the sense that most other European cities understand that term.
Then, perhaps, we won’t have to rely on the wonderful goodwill of just those seasoned artistic directors who show a commitment to Liverpool well beyond the call of professional duty. Only then will the lure of Liverpool to the international cultural community be irresistible.
Posted on July 4, 2006, in Arts, Culture And Heritage, Equality, Diversity And Inclusion, Events And Notable Dates, Liverpool And Merseyside, Politics, Policies And Process, The Journal. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.