I am delighted to see the first draft of the Arts and Culture Strategy being presented tonight. I would like to take the opportunity to thank Officers, and in particular Grant Thornton, for their commitment to this.
The current restrictions in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic have highlighted the importance of arts and culture to the health and wellbeing of people, and I believe the current circumstances add weight to the need for the development and adoption of this Strategy. When we were developing this Strategy prior to the lock-down, and as is still written in the proposal before you, the public consultation was set for May and June of this year. What plans are in place to mitigate any restrictions that may be faced by people or arts and cultural organisations that would want to participate in the consultation should the lockdown be extended to include part or all of the proposed consultation period?
I pleased to see that you are delighted and many thanks for your question. I fully concur with your sentiments with regard to the significance of arts and culture to health and wellbeing both generally and in particular during these exceptional and difficult times.
As you know this report was originally due to come to the meeting of the Executive in March, which unfortunately had to be cancelled because of the current situation, but I too am really pleased that we have now been able to reconvene and can consider this draft Arts and Culture Strategy. I believe that widespread engagement and feedback is essential to help us to further develop the Strategy and an associated action plan that fosters extensive collaboration to deliver on our ambitions for arts and culture right across the Borough.
In this context I am pleased to confirm that our newly appointed Cultural Development Officer, Jodie Sadler, started in the post this week and will have a key role in promoting the Strategy to arts and cultural organisations and working with them to develop more detailed delivery plans. Equally essential is wider public consultation and, in my view, this engagement needs to be more than virtual. Our initial consultation plans were looking to work with a range of partners to promote and get feedback on the Strategy at a number of key cultural events across the Borough as well as via social media and on-line channels. As this will now not be possible across the May/June period as originally planned, even if the lockdown is eased somewhat, I will be asking Officers to re-plan and extend the consultation period for as long as possible to facilitate the well-resourced active and face to face engagement that I think is absolutely needed and that our residents deserve; so yes we will be extending as I have said.
Thank you that is the kind of answer I was after. Obviously we can start some of the consultation even if we are in lockdown looking at social media channels because a lot of people are on there a lot more frequently at present and an extended period would be great. I would be keen to know when the working group meetings can reconvene even in a virtual manner?
I am looking into that now and I will get back to you very soon Sarah because we have started other consultations and other meetings using this facility called Teams and so I will get that information across to you very soon.