Being Brighton based, I’m really pleased that this year’s Nalgao conference is being held in Hove on 6-7th December.  This is the annual get-together of the National Association of Local Authority Arts Officers.  The title is a mouthful but it’s a truly useful support organisation for Council arts officers, who are invariably a tiny minority, with varying levels of influence within Council hierarchies.

Nalgao champions the arts at a local and regional level, and emphasises good practice in participatory arts.  With an interest in innovative projects, it publishes a substantial magazine called Arts at the Heart, well worth the read and downloadable from the nalgao website.  (One of my projects – the Bristol Estate Studios – was featured a couple of years ago: here if you’re interested).

This year’s conference is different from the usual in that it is likely to be dominated by discussion of the Coalition cuts.  What impact will this have on delivery and provision of arts activity by local authorities?  This is an anxious time for arts managers, as arts budgets are particularly at risk.  Arts and cultural provision is not a statutory requirement, and can be perceived as unaffordable luxury when public funds are tight. They’re also often seen as an easy target for cuts – and not least because its easier for elected members to sell this to their constituencies, in comparison to a proposal to changes in frontline services.

Heightening the drama, Ed Vaizey is promising to make a keynote presentation on the 6th, followed by a Q&A, providing an opportunity for delegates and the Minister to engage with each other – constructively or otherwise.

I’m  really looking forward to the conference to get a sense of how arts officers are planning to work with the situation we find ourselves in.  I’m hoping for insight and intelligent thinking, along with concrete information on the state of play.

If you’re interested in this too, I shall be tweeting from the conference using the hashtag #nalgao or you can follow me on @danylouise.  I’ll also be writing about it for a couple of arts publications, and will post links to them once they’re published.  Do you have any thoughts on these dilemmas? Or questions that might be answered at the conference?  If you do, please do contact me and I’ll do my best to address them.

More information on the conference is available on: www.nalgao.org/e107_images/custom/2010confbf.pdf

Until next week then –


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