Maggie Atkinson: Culture is getting down with the people and sharing their lives

Related Topics

Who's saying what culture is? Phil Redmond on Liverpool '08 has said that, as well as introducing and glorying in the Greats – who are of course great because they are the greats, but also in part because we delight in them and continue to say they are – we must be wiling to get closer to the floor and start where the people there are.

They may not all be where you or I would like. I'm talking about the families who either don't know, or don't actually care, where your or my theatre or concert hall or gallery or museum or park or beautiful garden might be, and who would not know how to get in, literally or metaphorically, or engage with it, if they did. They are, for example, the mums and dads in my borough who, nearly five years into its existence and despite living a mile away from its shining curves and accessible programming, have been to The Sage Gateshead once, because their child was singing in our showcase.

The researched and recognised danger of those of us who can, metaphorically speaking, read the Latin in the books in the chained library of the arts, saying to those who can't, "here is the life blood we live by and so should you, but it is here on our terms," as we who love it are almost bound to do, is that as we say it, the circle of some people engaging and some not is sealed. If we are not careful, we create cultural palaces – real or psychological – which some people don't come near even though that's what we expect of them and think we are enabling them to do. Or if they do come once, they don't come back.

If what some people with whom the arts and culture engage want is something that's filtered through their life stories not ours; if they want and in the first instance need what is safe on their terms, possibly bounded by a reality influenced by the Beckhams, the PlayStation, the X Factor, graffiti, the Simpsons and the soaps, then that's where we start. And with some we will get a lot further, and with some we may not. A lot of the most creative things that happen in my community are sparked by the young people themselves, by youth workers, by young offenders' workers, by volunteers. Schools are creative. But they no longer work in a bubble called schooling, so neither can we.

From a keynote speech by the Director of Children's Services for Gateshead delivered at the RSA yesterday.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Graduate / Junior C# Developer

£18000 - £25000 Per Annum + bonus and benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Brand Engagement Manager - TV

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: This is your chance to join a gl...

Primary Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Experienced Primary Teachers We are curr...

European Retail Sales Manager, Consumer Products

competitive + bonus + benefits: Sauce Recruitment: My client is looking for an...

Day In a Page

Read Next

i Editor's Letter: Take a moment to imagine you're Ed Miliband...

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside  

Autumn’s subtle charm is greatly enhanced by this Indian summer

Michael McCarthy
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits