Now, I’m switching to The King’s English, or as it is for you the Queen’s English, because this conversation should be understood by everyone, not just those of us lucky enough to hold on to our Scots roots. Culture is for the many not the few, right?
They can take our language but they can’t take our culture right? Na. Wrang. It’s not that they’ve taken it, it’s that we’ve given it up on a plate and then we’ve gone and bought it back from them in a bastardised form.
Today you doff the cap. In my day I flung the creepie. Well, no more.
Through 2018 here at McRenegades, I will be revealing my Cultural Manifesto, in the face of (and sadly I think, most likely against) the run of play which sees Culture defined through the terminology of the cultural imperialists.
This year we’ve had a ‘cultural’ conversation running, with the goal of developing a strategy that will become a policy. (yawn) I don’t know if you’ve been involved or chucked in your penny, or flung your creepie at them, but I’ve not seen much more than cap doffing in the whole process. Cap doffing and the wee greedy eyes of those who are determined to keep their noses firmly in the trough, or milk a cash cow. It’s time to redress the balance.
And that’s why I’m taking on the task of talking Culture.
In 2018 I’m going to fling the creepie at the cultural elite.
Gonnae join me?
So where do we start? How about this question:
What is Culture?
And more specifically what is specifically Scottish culture?
Is it a) something requiring investment in order to yield a financial return. An industry performing among other industries as an important part of our economy to make our nation efficient and dynamic.
Evidence for this view would be that £293 million was spent on culture (and its allied industries tourism and external affairs) but we should note that this is less than 1% of the 20016-17 Scottish Budget… The value of Culture is that we punch above our own weight. It’s an industry that can attract hundreds of millions of investment from outwith public funds and this money allows nearly two million ‘public participation opportunities’.
Our flagship creative and cultural industries (the funded ones) put us on the international map or stage keeping our heads up in the global marketplace to show that we’re truly ‘cultured’ in many fields – including literature. This ‘sector’ employs over 1600 people and generates over a £150 million in turnover. What’s not to love?
Our ‘culture’ attracts foreign visitors and gives us a sense of pride. We can take their money and we can spend our own money and in the process some folks make a good living out of it and the rest of us are ‘entertained’ in ways deemed suitable to deliver the optimum economic outputs.
Or b) A vital part of our social identity. In a very real sense we ‘are’ our culture. What does that actually mean? Try this for size.
What do waulking songs, ceilidhs, party pieces and guising all have in common? They are participatory. They are Scottish. They are community. They are everyone getting up and contributing. Taking their turn, doing their bit. Whether you are a feartie or a gobshite, whether you are guid or pure gash, it’s about all of us, coming together to SHARE our experience of life. We do this though song, dance, story, poems, in the process showing a sense of a world where everyone has a part to play and no one is above having the pish ripped oot o’ them.
At their best Scots don’t take themselves too seriously (see you Jimmy) and we have a dry, dry sense o’ humour born of our understanding of the harshness of life and the beauty of our landscape. We make things. We share things. We laugh together and we cry together. We drink together and we eat together. The key thing is we ARE together. And we all appreciate each other (even when we could see the ither yin far enough awa’) We understand that friendship and family and community are values that money cannot buy.
That’s our culture. It’s participatory. It’s not about paying a fortune to sit in the stalls and be performed at or preached at or told we are too wee, too puir and too stupid to take any part other than paying audience. It’s not about professional or amateur. It’s not about MONEY. It’s not about chasing funding or second guessing about economic forecasts. It’s not about deeming yourself a success because you managed to secure a grant which allows you to tell everyone you are professional and charge a fortune for sharing with them – or rather performing ‘for’ them.
These days you pays your money and you takes your choice. If I say culture and your first thought is money, I suggest you may be missing a vital point.
Right now, we’re aye being told it’s a) but I’m afraid from where I’m standing it’s got to be b) every time. Perhaps you’ve never thought about it like that. Then it’s time to start thinking. Otherwise you’re complicit in selling your birthright and your very identity to the highest bidder and then buying back as cheap version of it as you sit and sook up the ‘professionals’ telling you what you have to think.
Don’t be fooled. Fling the creepie!
Join me in crying out for our culture as a non-commodifiable value.
Like I said, I’ll be developing my cultural manifesto over the next year, monthly on McRenegades. You’ll have your chance to pitch in and share your thoughts. You’ve had your chance to do that https://beta.gov.scot/policies/arts-culture-heritage/culture-strategy-for-scotland/ if you knew about it! I went to one. It took me weeks to find out when/where I could attend. It was full of the usual suspects. They all seemed more keen in preserving their own jobs and getting money to keep doing what they do, than in exploring culture in any meaningful way. The ‘culturally alienated’ was a concept they couldn’t deal with. Participatory culture is something they can pay lip service to but really they seem to believe that culture should be ‘done’ to people even if the ‘done’ means ‘provided’.
If you missed that particular boat, how about having a look at the online offerings.
I had a look around there too and I was scunnered.
When I last looked (yesterday) there were five ‘emerging themes’ READ THEM AND WEEP. None of them have any comments attached. Nae wonder.
For those who like facts and figures and statistics and analysis, well, let me just say it didn’t need Google analytics to work this one out. The sample size is not big.
Here are a few first observations on the quantitative data.
Let’s call it ‘never mind the quality feel the width!’
In total 23 ‘ideas’ and 23 ‘comments’ on those ideas were generated.
That’s a massive total of 46 ‘interactions.’ You couldn’t do the sum that would show what percentage of the Scottish population of 5 million this is.
Of the ideas, 3 were generated by Scot Gov, leaving 20. Of these 20, they were generated by 16 individuals.
Of the comments, 3 individuals commented between 2 and 4 times and 11 came from one-off comments.
(there’s some crossover of those who give ideas and make comments)
The total number of individuals engaged in the process comes out (by my reckoning) at about 22.
If we break down the ‘engagement’ over 5 months it comes out as follows:
July yielded 10 posts and 16 comments (4 separate days) 4 posts in a day twice – the first two days, which saw 8 posts and 16 comments.
Then things really tail off.
August yielded 9 posts and 4 comments (7 separate days)
September yielded absolutely nothing.
Oct one date 13th yielded 2 posts and 2 comments
Nov one date 13th yielded 1 post with 3 comments
And on the basis of this, and a bunch of ‘closed shop’ events held around the country (at very short notice and poorly advertised) we are going to ‘make policy’ and ‘develop strategy’?
Good luck with that, then.
Is anybody going to hazard a guess at what any of this costs? Doubtless it was ‘planned’ and ‘designed’ and staff time was given over to it.
At the end of the day, this year's McRenegades Clan Gathering saw 20 posts in one day generated by 10 individuals (real and fictional). If we get more than 20 comments over the day I reckon we can consider ourselves to be doing well compared to the National Cultural Conversation. Clearly, small is beautiful. Certainly we should never worry about being 'wee voices' again.
On a more serious note, I wonder how many of the actual ideas and comments on the online exercise will even be explored or adopted as part of the strategy? I’ll be looking out for them. The qualitative comments will form part of my ongoing exploration as I develop the Cultural Manifesto. Why am I doing this? Because you can’t be arsed. Because I understand why you can’t be arsed. But someone has to do it. This is about not just preserving but saving our culture and our cultural identity. I would just ask you to think about that for a minute. We are in danger of becoming culturally extinct through lack of interest. Isn’t that what the cultural imperialists want? I’m just a wee wifie wi’ a creepie stool. But I’m going down flinging it. I hope you’ll join me. After all, participation and sharing is an important part of Scottish cultural identity, isn’t it? Or should we just follow the money?
You'll find me right here every month next year. Dates and times to be confirmed, but look out for me, or LIKE me on Facebook to be kept right up to date.