It's been a while since the last update and there have been a few things happening recently that have made me ask myself a question:
Why do we do this?
In particular, two things have got me thinking:
- The recent Town Hall Sessions Festival
- Our bid to the HLF for funding for the Halls Project
The fact is, both of these things are big projects/events in themselves and it is easy to get drawn into the idea that the project/event is the objective. I think, by taking this view, we are not seeing the big picture and risk missing great opportunities.
I was watching the Lottery Awards recently and the winner of the arts award was "The Man Engine" - www.themanengine.org.uk. Creatively it was fantastic (though it's a terrible website IMHO!), and reportedly it had been a big hit, drawing crowds wherever it went. On one level that is great, but the danger is that unless it is used as a catalyst for more sustainable change and development it is ultimately pointless.
Looking closer to home, to the festivals we have organised in the area (Bankswood and The Town Hall Sessions), the general feedback is that we put on a good show, everybody has a great time and the feedback is (almost) universally very positive. However, this is just one weekend and is driven by a small group of people. Ultimately, unless it evolves as part of something bigger, it will wither and die.
Likewise, the Halls Project and the bid to gain investment in this building via the HLF. Again, unless the resulting building is being used sustainably as the centre of the arts/music scene in the town, drawing people to the area and supporting the wider economy, it will become a white elephant and we will have achieved nothing.
In other words, we only deliver real success if these projects/events are a catalyst to drive sustainable change and development in the town.
So why do we do it
We do it because we want the festivals and the Halls Project to be a catalyst for change and, as is stated on the front page of this website:
“To support the economic development of Glossop through the promotion of music and the arts”
We want our events/projects to drive this wider objective rather than to be ends in themselves.
The value of education
As an example, let's look at one aspect of Bankswood/Townhall Sessions Festivals which is the involvement of Live Sound students on the technical team.
Feedback from the students suggests that their involvement is of huge value for them, and makes them more employable when their course finishes. We also know that students have gained employment directly off the back of their involvement in the festivals. In these days when education (and getting a degree) is seen as the objective, what we try to do is to remember that education is about developing skills that will be useful and profitable in future life. This is much more important than the piece of paper you receive on graduation day.
Through the festivals, and our wider activities like the Halls Project, one of our aims is to broaden opportunities of this real-world experience for people starting out in their chosen careers.
Looking forward to the day when this project comes to fruition, hopefully with the support of grant funding bodies like the HLF and Arts Council, the vision is to use the facilities within the complex - music venue, creative and retail space, catering space and restaurants - to give opportunities for those just starting out on their careers to cut their teeth in the real world, alongside established and successful businesses; businesses which, by being part of it, help make the whole initiative sustainable without the need to become beholden to stakeholders whose primary interest is financial return. This is not however pure altruism, the belief is that through their involvement, as they develop their ideas and skills they will also make Glossop a more vibrant and interesting place to live and work.
More than a vision - Reality
At Bankswood we have already created an environment where bands and members of the technical team playing their first "proper" gig, are on the same stage as performers and sound engineers who have experience at major national and international festivals like Glastonbury. Our aim is to use the projects going forward to expand and broaden these opportunities.
In a world where three years' higher education comes with a big price tag, or where apprenticeships can be seen as "cheap labour", our aim is to create situations where, for students paying this price (whether financially or in reduced short-term earnings), it is a real investment in their future earning potential not simply a number of years spent gaining a qualification.
Moreover, education is just one example. By creating a supportive creative environment, we aim to encourage people to give things a go and try out their ideas. Whilst some of these will fail, many will not, and the process of trying them out will hopefully make Glossop a better place to live and work and thus help the town thrive.
So when you are enjoying one of the festivals/gigs that we put on, or are thinking about how wonderful it would be if we could create a live music venue in the Town Hall, spare a thought for the real objective - to help make the town a place where creativity has a place to thrive and grow.