You may say we are dreamers……we hope we’re not the only ones…..
Sometimes, I think Southampton may be ‘The Whingey City’, especially when you get a bunch of us creative types in a room on the subject of ‘the Cultural Quarter’. Thing is, I’m starting to feel that the negativity just really ain’t getting us terribly far.
Last week, the new SeaCity Museum opened just a block away from us. A very different sort of place to ours, of course, starting with the £15M price tag. It’s all part of a long-planned creation of a ‘Cultural Quarter’ in our neck of the woods, which will eventually embrace many of the current venues (City Art Gallery, Mayflower, the new SeaCity Museum, the Guildhall and Guildhall Square, the new Millais Gallery opposite us – and perhaps somewhat less officially as we’re independent venues, not allied to the council: The Art House and our neighbours over the square, The Cellar. There are also plans, quite a way along now, for an Arts Complex on the old Tyrell and Green site, which will house (we hope) John Hansard Gallery, theatre spaces and City Eye – not to mention programming by Art Asia and the Nuffield Theatre.
OK, so this plan is taking a bloomin’ long time – it’s positively glacial in it’s progress and that’s no lie. Yes indeed, it’s costing a lot of dosh to make happen and public dosh is in short supply. Fair enough, we often think fondly of the Gantry and wonder why it’s been such a long wait…………. and still waiting………… for an Arts Centre in a city our size. Yup, we were as annoyed as many people were when Art Asia lost their dedicated space in the complex – and we said so, and spread the petition (whoop, there it is again!).
Thing is, we LIKE culture and heritage…. ’tis our purpose, our passion, our raison d’etre if you will! Whilst we’re not going to go nodding our heads at every scheme the council come up with, we have to speak out and give praise where praise is due.
We’ve had a little gander at SeaCity and, we’re just going to come out and say this – it’s pretty darn impressive. It works well as an interactive, world class museum space which tells the story not just of Titanic (though it does that, very well) but the whole of the city’s Maritime history. So, when we shout about it on facebook, it’s not because they’ve paid us to (they haven’t) or just because it’ll do us good to bring people into the area (of course it will – but it also has it’s own in house cafe!), but because we took a look and we liked what we saw, and wanted you to get there and enjoy it (if history is your thing).
Seeing SeaCity turn out so nicely, well, it’s made us feel a tad optimistic about the other plans. We dare to hope it’s a sign of things to come. This makes us feel a little thrill of happiness, right here in our hearts. It does.
We also know quite a few of the people involved with Art at the Heart, a project to get the ball rolling on the cultural quarter, which has already organised some spiffing events. They are good folks, they care about art, they work their socks off and – most importantly – they’ve delivered some quality arts events to our neighbourhood. So yes, we say nice stuff about them too – cos we mean it!
Thing is, it’s a pretty tall order to bring together the cultural life of a city. We could sit here and point fingers at the mistakes made along the way, or we could cheer the successes and hope for more of them. We think Southampton deserves a better cultural scene, or at least a more cohesive one – we don’t really see why we can’t be as cool as Brighton or Bristol (without the high property prices). We reckon if we ALL pull together as a city and (dare we say it?) be positive about what’s happening, things may get pretty darn exciting around these parts as the next few years go by. We also reckon it’s a foregone conclusion that if we continue to complain in chorus about how it’s all so dreadful, things will pretty much stay as they are.
Oh – and we don’t think it’s the “council’s job” to make things arty, we think it’s something the whole community needs to rise up and make happen. Or we may get another shopping centre. Just sayin’, is all.
There’s already a lot going on, a huge amount has been achieved to date and it’s looking good for the future. We like to shout about the good stuff – who’s with us?!
It’s been occurring to me rather a lot lately that much of the misery in our culture, often ascribed to ‘attachment’ would actually be better described by ‘entitlement’.