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« North Yorkshire Open Studios - Early Bird Deadline | Main | Compass Festival of Live Art starts this Friday »
Sunday
Nov272011

Are we there yet? 

Personal ruminations about the national Turning Point network and Turning Point Yorkshire and Humber by Steve Manthorp, Co-ordinator, TPYH

There is a slip road off the M621 in Leeds that seems to go full-circle several times before finally ejecting you into Hunslet.  Turning Point feels a bit like that to me.

 

What I mean is, the visual arts regionally and nationally seem to have been at this Turning Point forever: surely we should have actually turned by now?

The slip road formerly known as Turning Point

The name begs an important question.  Whence is the visual arts sector turning, and what is it turning towards?  For me, the answer is a harsh one.  The national Turning Point network has come into being because the visual arts sector has historically punched below its weight in terms of audience and markets, in terms of advocacy, in terms of its critical importance to the world we live in.  It’s a sorry position that very few who work in the sector, whether as practitioners, administrators or stakeholders can claim no part in.  That is the past that we are rejecting.

What we are turning towards is a sector that speaks with a coherent, collective voice; a sector which maximises its potential to change lives for audiences and participants and to enable its professionals to make a good living; a sector that celebrates excellence, and in which the excellent seek to help others achieve it too.

It’s clear to me that in Yorkshire and the Humber we have made a start.  13.7% of the total regional NPO spend 2012-15 has been allocated to Y&H visual arts clients, up from 11.9% of the total RFO allocation in the final year of the previous funding regime.  It may not be spectacular growth – and NPO funding tells only one part of a complex story - but it’s growth, nonetheless.

I believe that the regional visual arts sector is in a position to make further strides. I would not have taken up the role of co-ordinator of Turning Point Yorkshire and Humber if I did not believe that was the case. 

Beacon organisations and initiatives (it would be invidious to list some exemplars and risk omitting others) have done a great deal to raise the profile of the visual arts and to develop audiences with an appetite for it.  Those beacon organisations are now in a position to offer the support to the rest of the region’s visual arts sector that their pre-eminence - and the conditions of their NPO funding - demand.  Whether and how they do that will set a road map for the future direction of the visual arts sector in the region.  Knowing their officers and their collective dedication to sector and to region, I believe we have every reason to expect a bright future – but if any fail in that responsibility they can and should be held to account.

At the creative grass roots, several exemplary artist-led initiatives have inspired practitioners to work collectively in developing ambitious proposals of their own; and to seek project funding at levels that, historically, only ‘the usual suspect’ large organisations would have had the confidence to apply for – or inspired the confidence to be awarded that funding.

So have we turned the corner yet?  Perhaps we have.  There is a move within the national Turning Point network to change its name.  Maybe this is just a distraction, or maybe it’s a recognition that we have moved beyond ongoing crisis to a phase of growth and maturity. 

Any suggestions for a new name, gentle reader?  My offering – Round the Bend – fell on deaf ears.

 

Steve Manthorp

Co-ordinator, Turning Point Yorkshire and Humber

 

This post represents my own opinion and is, more than anything, an invitation to dialogue.  If you have any thoughts about what Turning Point should be doing to support the visual arts in Yorkshire and Humber, please share them via this site or if you prefer, email them to me privately – or just collar me at the next private view or event you see me at.

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