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"We need to think about arts like we do about finance: big and internationally"

Friday 01 June 2018

"We need to think about arts like we do about finance: big and internationally"

Friday 01 June 2018

Amid concerns surrounding “chronic underinvestment” in the arts, the Director of ArtHouse Jersey is calling for an industry body to be set up to help creative talents thrive the same way the finance industry does.

The Chair of ArtHouse Jersey, Philip Hewat Jaboor, along with those of the Jersey Arts Centre and the Opera House, Andrew Goodyear and Pierre Horsfall, penned an open letter to election candidates last month, urging them to recognise the “pressing need for the next government to address the ongoing viability” of their organisations - otherwise they could face a curtain call.

“…Jersey grossly underinvests in the cultural sector when compared to similar jurisdictions, including the Isle of Man, and has no coherent strategy for nurturing the creative industries. This chronic underinvestment has led to the Island missing opportunity after opportunity that would have benefitted our community in manifold ways, both economic and social,” they explained.

Tom Dingle, Director at ArtHouse Jersey, said the reception to the letter had been positive. A number of candidates showed a lot of interest in the work ArtHouse and met with  the team. “No one suggested arts were not important,” says Mr Dingle. “They were all generally supportive.”


Pictured: Extra funding is becoming crucial for local creative organisations.

However, this general show of support is not enough, says Mr Dingle - commitments to funding needs to be made, but it’s difficult for individual politicians to make pledges. ArtHouse has therefore written to the Culture department to not only voice their concerns with funding but also highlights opportunities in the sector. “We are in the negotiation stage,” he said.

“People do acknowledge the importance of arts. Any civilised society recognises the need for arts. This is the start of a conversation, we have a long way to go. We are at a point of change and we are looking for opportunities within that.” 

What Mr Dingle wants people to understand is that, while a creative activity might not be profitable, the value it brings is much greater. “A festival is the perfect example of that,” he explains. “The money it puts back in the community, through visits, hotel stays, etc and the way it raises the profile, it is so valuable.”


Pictured: ‘Paper Dialogues – The Dragon and Our Stories’ saw 5,000 visitors in under two weeks in 2016.

ArtHouse is in urgent need of resources. Extra funding would help the team grow. With only Alice Bravery, Producer, and Caitlin Serey, Communications and Development Officer, working with Mr Dingle, they are “very thin on the ground.” “With more people on the ground, we would be able to get more value out of what we do and raise the profile of what we do. We could look for ways to diversify our income streams and our programme.

“We have done a lot with what we have got. We support a lot of individual artists and have had great success with the Paper Dialogues Exhibition, the Artist Lock-In, the Skipton Open Studios, or more recently with Michael Pearce (whose ‘Beast’ movie premiered to rave reviews at Toronto International Film Festival, ed).”

More funding would also help ArtHouse secure a sustainable space for artistic residencies. This would in turn give them more visibility. Mr Dingle explains: “As we are not building-based, people might now know who we are but hopefully they know the work we support. If you think of Book of Mormon, a lot of people don’t know who produced it.

“If you look at the Isle of Man, we are getting less than half of what they are getting. We are not asking for a lot more money but it would make a huge difference to what we do.”

However, it is not just ArtHouse Jersey that needs more money. Investment is needed across the board, and local arts could benefit from an industry body that would be able to pool resources. “We have Jersey Finance even though the industry is thriving. We don't have an industry body for the creative industries and there are many more opportunities that could be capitalised upon were there a greater focus on the sector. We need to have the stimulus to grow arts in the right kind of way.

"There are, of course, other potential ways of stimulating this area of the economy and States portfolio without a designated industry body, which can all be explored. The problem is Jersey only thinks locally. We need to think like the finance industry and think big and internationally. We need to think of how to nurture the unique talents we have.” 


Pictured: The creative industry could take a leaf out of Jersey Finance's book says Mr Dingle.

For the ArtHouse Director, there are huge benefits to be reaped from connections with the rest of world. It will help promote what Jersey artists do. Mr Dingle says that the Battle of Flowers is a great example of the huge 'history of doing' among islanders. “We have 70 artists involved in the Skipton Open Studios - just that number is huge,” he adds. “And we are only scratching the surface. We are a hugely creative island.” It would also help convince foreign artists to create a body of work in Jersey, “away from city life and the humdrum.” 

But more importantly, it would be beneficial to all islanders. “The thinking needs to change, arts are not something that is just nice to have. The way the whole world is changing, with a growing population, climate change and technology, there is a requirement for a creative skills set. The creative industries are the most resilient in the face of automation. They are a key component to allow us to stay ahead of technology. If you think about the health budget, we have seen huge benefits through Art therapy."

"There is a serious threat and the stakes are higher than just not having a play next month,” continues Mr Dingle. “We need to prioritise Arts. They are relevant to every States department, Education, Health or Tourism, but they are not at the top of the agenda for any of them. We need a collective thought and to set a proper plan."

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