Notes from my week –

Some chunky stuff this week. Excellent meeting with Leeds University re big new programme possibility – possibly with two other Universities as partners too – interesting times: sense of growing mutual respect as we each became aware of what work the other is doing. HE and micros & SMEs and a link to the new EU Innovation for Services Sector agenda where creative industries are in pole position; EU offering real opportunities for creative businesses but beware! you do need match funding partners with real cash, not ‘in kind’ –

Brief but good chat with Beatrice Pembroke, of the British Council, about the work in Africa. It’s an exciting time with a lot of change going on – Nigeria seems to be leading the way. Had most fantastic time there just two weeks ago. Think I tweeted about some of the extraordinary artists I met so won’t go on about them again but… (Want to use the word ‘inspiring’ but it seems to have gone into major overplay, especially in the arts world. ‘Exciting’ used to be the word to avoid but ‘inspiring’ has now taken its place. How effectively overuse removes the colour and depth from a word).

Then fascinating day with Case for Optimism 2 – led by Teo Greenstreet, Lucy Neal and Hilary Jennings, it was a follow on from initial Clore conference session, looking at role of culture helping to change attitudes and behaviour to address climate change and the other big challenges we face. Two highly considered and thought provoking presentations by Peter Lipman of Sustrans and Transition Towns; and by Paul Allen of Centre for Alternative Technologies. Quiet and gentle men, both, but their talks had the thrill of authentic and informed passion. Then a number of group sessions – very moved by one leading artist who had embraced this agenda some years ago and who now faces the agonising decision as to whether or not to have children, as his wife nears forty. This was a shock to me – as a relative novice in this agenda, I had never considered such a situation. It seemed, and seems, unthinkable. But, my god, does it bring home the hard reality of what we are talking about and the really fundamental change in behaviours, expectations and attitudes that will need to take place. It was a pretty emotional day, although entirely, I think, unsentimental. And it was optimistic. Fascinating exercises mixing and contrasting the present experience with experience of 200 years hence. Once you let go and allow yourself to get lost in that future imagining, it completely transforms your perception of what is now. All in all, a significant day for me: I can’t go back to the way I was – CIDA will need to take this on board as we work with companies and artists to imagine their own futures. In the end, it always comes down to values and behaviours.

And values intervened again today. Core values are those you stick to even in the face of business disadvantage. So I did. But I loved the work itself and it really hurt.

To tonight, and the Question Time with J Hunt (gosh, can’t even bear to write his name and he was predictably crass: but what delicious irony to watch a debate about social mobility in the Oxford Union!) and Simon Callow – the biggest mystery is why Simon Callow? This really is not his metier! As someone else tweeted, he should stick to the day job – so sad to see him go down, not just here but also in Jamie’s Dream School – of all the actors up and down the country who are so practised and so expert at working with exactly these kind of disenfranchised kids, who on earth decided to bring in Simon, for whom it is clearly a foreign country – did no good for him nor for our sector generally: we can be so much better than that. Some wonderful stories and successes, though. And whilst talking TV, has anyone been watching Goldie’s Band – it is sensational! Think Soweto Kinch is my new hero. Normally I can’t stand this sort of stuff but gosh, this is qualitatively different and has uncovered some absolutely amazing talent! Again, very emotional though – feel daft sitting watching with involuntary tears welling up – oh god, that reminds me of the unspeakable Nick Clegg/Jemima Khan interview. Sometimes, politicians seem to lose all perspective and this was a classic. Toe curlingly ghastly! And finally to Vince Cable who really does seem to have lost all authority. He’s (rightly) bleating on about the scandal of Universities all charging the maximum but no-one is listening. There’s apparently only a £500 differential between going to the top University, Cambridge, and the lowest ranked University, (the London South Bank, I think) – it’s insane; as students become more savvy in their new and unaccustomed role of customer, things will have to change in HE – but it isn’t Cable who’s going to make that happen, no matter how much he chunters away!

Enough, no more…………I started with HE and I’ve ended with HE – how alarming! are they really becoming part of society again?