The Country and Leisure Service Lead’s report provided the final draft of a Culture Strategy and Action Plan for East Devon for the future development and enhancement of the Council’s ambitions for cultural development. The Culture Strategy was a ten year statement of intent that sought to build on the existing work of the Council focussed mainly around the Thelma Hulbert Gallery (THG), as a cultural hub and the Arts & Culture Forum through a more cohesive and strategic approach to arts and culture and also sought to add capacity and resource into meeting these ambitions.
The Strategy clearly identified the need for additional resource to enable delivery on the many actions identified and recommended the appointment of a Cultural Producer role. The Cultural Producer would sit within the THG team and be focussed on developing funding applications to the Arts Council and Cultural Development Fund as well as developing new cultural partnerships, projects and activities with East Devon’s artist and cultural community.
The Countryside and Leisure Service Lead’s report also recognised how an enhanced cultural programme could help to support and link into the District’s distinctive cultural tourism offer through better promotion and marketing of the Council’s work on the emerging Tourism Strategy. This was linked directly to the social and economic recovery of the district. The Culture Strategy also through its five themes encompassed what it wants to achieve and three themes related to how it would deliver making it an effective strategy. There were also a developed set of objectives and actions within the Strategy to enable implementation.
The Culture Strategy presented an opportunity to place culture at the heart of the Council’s recovery planning (both economically and socially) and along with the planned Leisure and Tourism Strategies provided the strategic decision making framework for these areas in the Council Plan.
The Chair introduced and welcomed Hollie Smith-Charles, lead consultant FEI, to the meeting and she presented the draft culture strategy to the Forum. FEI had been appointed by EDDC to develop a shared 10-year vision for culture in East Devon, with a cultural strategy that set out goals, principles and objectives that reflected local needs and ambitions, and a practical delivery plan. Evidence was gathered in February/March 2022 to help shape the strategy and included research, mapping and consultation, creating a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis. The strategy would be aligned with the new tourism strategy and reviewed by the EDDC Climate Change Officer.
The vision was for East Devon to be a vibrant cultural ecosystem whose distinctive communities and outstanding natural environment were enhance and enriched through creativity, curiosity and collaboration. The values underpinning the strategy were to be:
· Connected with nature.
The strategy had eight themes. The first five were ‘what we would do, and the last three were ‘how we will do it’. There was also a set of indicators to measure impact.
1. Strengthen and support the ‘people that do’: to support the unique, community led cultural organisations whose efforts enhanced the high quality of life and wellbeing in East Devon’s towns and villages.
2. Protect and enhance the natural environment: to establish East Devon as an innovator and regional beacon of culture-led environmental protection, enhancement and activism.
3. Cultural tourism: to establish new cultural products, partnerships and promotional activity, to mutually benefit and grow the creative and visitor economies.
4. Creative enterprise and skills: to build inspiring talent development pathways for the current and next generation of East Devon creatives.
5. New places for culture: to ensure all East Devon residents, especially children and young people, could experience high quality culture and creativity in their local areas.
6. Connectivity: to support the sector to connect, work collectively, share best practice and lever investment through greater joint working.
7. Cultural leadership: to be ambitious and enable change by bringing together a diverse range of partners to drive forward and advocate for the Cultural Strategy and secure inward investment.
8. Capture value: to ensure continuous learning and improvement by monitoring and evaluating the change that creativity and culture has on people and place.
On behalf of those present the Chair thanked Hollie Smith-Charles for presenting a clear and easy to understand strategy.
RECOMMENDED: that the Arts and Culture Forum recommend that Cabinet:
1. Notes the significance of culture to the District and the importance of supporting recovery from the impact of the pandemic.