Post-conference reflections

The LGA/ cCLOA conference in Cardiff was always going to give a barometer reading of the sectors’ mood after the first serious set of savings have begun to bite and council cultural budgets for 2012/13 have been set.

I have to say that I came away with an impression that the glass was ever so slightly half full, with some determination evident among delegates, to do what was needed, to work collaboratively, and grasp the opportunities to sustain and improve and in some cases transform culture, sport and tourism services.

A menu of ‘2012’ inspired plenary and workshops will always leave us with a feel good factor, but with 140 days to go to the start of the Games, many delegates were actively going the extra mile to engage communities and maximise 2012 benefits, and importantly developing legacy planning.

Leaving the ‘2012’ factor for a moment there were some notable highlights that got me scribbling in the note pad and illustrated agendas needing a cCLOA broader input and conversation with partners.

Firstly, the ‘Future of Libraries’ ably facilitated by Cllr Florence Nosegbe (LB Lambeth) and ‘Improving Museums and Archives’ featuring Somerset’s excellent joined up Heritage service illustrated for me that visioning, transformation, technology and digitisation were all at the forefront of leading sector conversations. On the subject ot harnessing low cost/no cost technology in these tough times, it was with interest I read an article by the Museums Association on the use of Pinterest, an interactive pin board, to increase people’s enjoyment and interaction with collections. 

The case for supporting the sector’s workforce development and skills for 21st century service is clearly also at the heart of the agenda and our colleagues at CIMSPA were keen to highlight how leaders of the future could be supported through their Rising Talent programme.

Secondly, Vince Paliczka facilitated an excellent workshop developing our thinking around leadership in the ‘tough times’. The summary from this workshop will soon be available on the cCLOA website, but the session reinforced the resources, expertise and good practice we already have in place to support members and how as a network within cCLOA we can support each other.

Resilience, clarity of message, influencing and positioning, and managing the political interface were all explored in the context of our sector operating in a more ‘localised’ framework.

The big opportunities were confirmed by delegates over the conference – commissioning through health and well being, culture and the creative sector growing jobs, the local economy and importantly the visitor economy, and of course that 2012 legacy.

David Moorcroft urged us in his call to action not to reflect in 2013 and have that ‘if only’ moment. So let’s not disappoint, let’s work together and support each other (through cCLOA) and grab these opportunities. In addition to promoting initiatives to encourage grass roots participation such as Opening Night In and Super Saturday, he alerted us to the Community Games toolkit, which encourages communities to celebrate and interpret the Games in a uniquely local way (Innovative ideas include ‘throwing a tantrum’; I’m sure we can all think of some promising talent for the gold!)

One final conference top tip was illustrated by Harriet Harman – answer those tricky questions by returning it straight to the questioner. Good tactic and produces much better answers!

Best regards

Richard Hunt, Chair, Chief Cultural & Leisure Officers Association

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