Bristol’s 20:20 Plan – or is it a 20:20 Vision.

by Geoff Hall on March 29, 2010

Bristol 20:20 Plan?
On Friday 26th March I attended WE:Network’s meeting for the launch of the Bristol Partnership’s 20:20 Plan, presented by Marvin Rees.

“The Bristol Partnership is the Local Strategic Partnership (LSP) for Bristol. It is a group of agencies or organisations from business, the public sector, community, voluntary sector, higher and further education, who are working together to make Bristol a successful city in Europe.”

My interest of course was stirred with the ‘Culture and Creativity’ Section, which I have to say had a limited view of ‘culture as environment’ and not on the mandate we have, to work culturally in all aspects of life to transform our city; imbuing life with a richness previously unimagined.  The rub for me herewith is its twinning with creativity and the scope of such activity.  Unfortunately, it is reduced to the lowest common denominator – a ‘everyone-can-have-a-go’ ethic!  This however, misses an opportunity to help those whose lives are focused on creativity as an artistic, aesthetic pursuit, that is, those whose work and well-being are inextricably linked to the creative economy.

Much work has been done on this with the Comedia group.   It’s focal point is the development of a creative milieu where the artist can afford to live and work.  See for more information.  If as indicated, Bristol wants to belong to the top twenty of European Cities, it has far to go, especially when we consider the artistic milieu of a city like Berlin.  What helps there is affordable housing for artists and ‘creatives’ and of course before we limit this need purely to economics, we should also consider the spiritual aspect of life, community and creativity.

The blueprint for the Bristol Partnership’s Plan, has ‘culture and creativity’ as a mere adjunct; a kind of utility for making ‘it’ happen.  Why? Because other than pointing to the obvious successes of the likes of Aardman, it is unable to see how best to aid the creative economy and facilitate future successes.  The three bullet-points of ‘culture and creativity’ are:

1.    Creating a sense of place.
2.    Develop the culture of our neighbourhoods.
3.    Develop Bristol’s cultural ‘infrastructure’.

However, identity is not just a sense of place, simple geography.  There is no 20:20 Vision here, just a utilitarian ‘plan’ to eke out a living from what we have and get some really creative people to package it for the Media Age.  It is ‘creativity’ of the built environment and not the imagination; structures before people, bureaucracy leading creativity into a well-placed and well-constructed drainage ditch.  Again, a Bristol initiative fails to understand the meaning of life and the uncontrollable spirit behind our creativity.  It is an apologetic for life in all its richness.  You can’t have realism without spirituality!  You can’t have a plan without a vision for all of life!

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