Edition number 38; dateline 31 January 2011

A new way of thinking

At TLR Towers we were delighted to be able to announce Sam Jones as the man to take to the platform to deliver our inaugural The Leisure Review lecture. The Demos paper, Culture Shock, upon which Sam is to base his lecture, is the result of extensive work on his part within and alongside, among others, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Culture and Sports Evidence Programme (CASE), Arts Council England, English Heritage, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, and Sport England. He offers some challenging understandings and redefinitions of culture and the way in which the state might seek to reflect and support the sector. That his suggestions for reinventing the DCMS, establishing a council for cultural expression and seed-funding cultural activity are referred to in the paper as “provocations” gives something of the flavour of his intentions. Sam’s more specific recommendations – the monitoring of cultural activity; the development of new organisational structures; the development of a new relationship between culture, a sense of place and local government; championing culture as part of corporate social responsibility; and establishing measures of social value for culture – may not meet with universal acceptance across the sport, leisure and culture sector but they will certainly provide food – a groaning banquet – for thought.

The symposium’s strapline – “a new way of thinking” – was originally devised with reference to the format of the symposium programme, with its emphasis on discussion rather than presentation, but the unsettling speed with which the political, economic and financial situation has changed in the UK in the last twelve months has made the phrase doubly appropriate. As all our readers will be all too well aware, it is the nature of event management that colours have to be nailed to metaphorical masts at least 18 months in advance, leaving all event organisers at the mercy of the weather, the economy and the different understandings of what passes for honesty and integrity among the politicians and parliamentarians that canvas for our votes in general elections. While we are quietly confident that the inaugural TLR symposium will deliver against its promise to provide a new way of thinking about the sport, leisure and culture sector, we are buoyed by those who have already committed that most valuable of resources – their time – to come to Oxford to take part in a concerted effort to envisage a viable and sustainable future for the sector.

Whether this vision is of a radically new future for culture, as Sam Jones will outline from the lectern, or a reworked, re-engineered version of the current approach to service provision, only time, and those taking part in the debate, will tell. It is noticeable that in this issue of The Leisure Review, the first issue of volume five, there is a prevalence of the new; many of our contributors are offering innovative approaches in such areas as national agency funding, sports development, arts development, theatre production and coaching. There has also been the suggestion among some commentators (or at least a few on Radio 4; where else?) that the current political and economic climate is prompting many to undertake a fundamental reassessment of what they hold dear. In education, for example, there was talk of students beginning to look to courses that might deliver ideas rather than what might now be considered an out-moded concept of financial success. Why, went the argument, study something dull and earnestly vocational if there is little chance of a job at the end of it; why not study something interesting, intellectually challenging and personally fulfilling instead of taking your place in the queue of unemployed accountants?

Jonathan Ives



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“At such times of uncertainty and insecurity – and only the most senior bankers and Conservative members of the cabinet seem to be able to contemplate certainty at the moment – people begin to reassess their values and the value they ascribe to the things in their lives. ”

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