Coales' Notes: Accommodating the complaints: Gordon Coales, director of the Wormwood Arts Centre, unveils his response to the 'National Strategy for the Arts' and some unusual new initiatives

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The Independent Culture
MONDAY Back to work. After the storm, a period of re-structuring. This morning I had a long meeting with Fiona.

I admitted having made a serious cock-up over the whole Alan affair. I said I realised that I should never have tried to take an artistic decision against her better judgement, and therefore proposed a division of responsibilities. All strictly artistic decisions would be up to her, Bob and whoever we found to replace Juliet. Everything else - the image, money and above all the people side of things - would fall to me. Between us: co-ordination naturally, but non-interference.

The suggestion went down well. We agreed to a two-month trial period for this new arrangement. For me it feels instinctively right.

My thoughts turned immediately to the restaurant. So many arts establishments are closed down, only to be converted into eateries - so here we have a facility with which to beat the enemy at their own game. Our goal must be food of an ever higher and higher standard. The V&A of course tried this gambit a few years ago, but they were badly let down by their caterers. I remember having an utterly vile apple and cheese soup there.

TUESDAY My new role is a positive revelation to me. I find my mind is teeming with ideas. Thinking about the imminent conversion of County Hall in London to a hotel, I wonder if we might not also try to offer accommodation. There are a number of spaces in the Centre that could be turned into rooms with en suite shower.

This would, I believe, be a real first for an arts centre. It should probably be part of a whole package (aimed at foreign visitors). A week at the Wormwood . . . A tour of the building . . . Free tickets to all shows . . . Room service . . . (Can't be bothered to get up? An artist or performer will visit you personally in your room.) And, at the end of the week, the chance to contribute to an important administrative decision. A unique opportunity to participate in the busy life of a traditional - but controversial (emphasise this) - arts centre, situated very near the heart of the English countryside.

Outreach. Democratisation. Money. It's got everything. Bit of a fag to organise though.

Fiona brought in the shortlist of applicants to be next year's artist-in-residence. I had to explain to her that this was just the kind of area that was no longer my business. Bob came in later (rather conspiratorially) to say that, as the last artist-in-residence had been 'flagrantly, and with respect, a disaster', shouldn't we be thinking of widening the residency programme. He proposed a performer-in-residence. I scent a power struggle brewing. Happily, nothing to do with me. My responsibility is to the people.

WEDNESDAY The final version of the Arts Council's 'National Strategy for the Arts' document appeared today. It seems amazing how out of touch they are with certain very basic necessities. The document endeavours to represent every possible voice within the arts world, but with one staggering exception: the general public, the arts users themselves. What we lack - it seems blindingly obvious now, and how typical of the arts - is any kind of complaints or feedback procedure. What in my view the Arts Council should make its most urgent priority is the establishment of an arts watchdog body (OFFART, presumably). Or at the very least an arts Ombudsman. There must be someone to whom a member of the public (if, for instance, that person has had a particularly unpleasant evening at the theatre) can write, and make their feelings known.

The Ombudsman would then be able to investigate the matter and reply to the member of the pulic, perhaps to apologise, or perhaps to explain why - for very good artistic reasons - it was absolutely necessary that a bad time should have been had. Either way, feedback would have occurred. I shall be developing these ideas, and keeping the new arts minister apprised.

THURSDAY Trying to work out some sort of small-scale project which we could initiate, which would set an example to the arts world. But still groping.

FRIDAY Today I cracked it. I see now what our course should be. Very shortly I shall be inviting applications for an 'audient-in- residence'. Applicants will be absolutely bona fide members of the general public, with no previous creative or critical experience. The appointment will last for six months. Successful applicants will receive a small retainer and space in the building. Once a week, they will be available for consultation by staff and artists. They will be living, breathing representatives of the public, within the very body of the Centre. Their only duty is to attend every single performance, exhibition and event which takes place over the appointment period.

On reflection, I have a sense that, as it stands, the position may still not be quite attractive enough. So I think we will offer free meals too.

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