Great to see the Nicks and Neils of this world patting themselves, and ACE, on the back for having protected "front-line" arts activity from the worst of the cuts. No doubt their good friend Mr R., (Let's cut the arts) will be pleased to note RFO executives already "regretting" that their "education, outreach and community programmes" will be first to be affected.


Was I being a little too idealistic in thinking someone might have said, "The first things that are going to be cut will be our executive's paypackets" or "we're going to have to chop wigs (what is it with wigs and National Theatre productions?)" or "re-cycle our sets", or "take our productions out onto the streets", or "invite smaller, more vulnerable organisations in to share our newly acquired, publicly funded spaces...."

Back on the frontline
There was a different buzz. What inspired me about this weekend's Taking Part Conference was that, despite knowing they are about to be hit not only by ACE cuts but also by the decimation of the local authority, education and social welfare budgets, there was a real sense of solidarity amongst the regional/small arts organisations present. A determined "where there's a need, there's a way" spirit.

Great too to see such animated cross-generational, cross-sectoral, trans-national sharing of experience, strategies, knowledge and ways forward. And Jude Kelly, placing the Southbank's commitment to art and engagement so firmly at the core of its vision.

Is it a gender issue?
This was a conference for people working in third sector, higher education, arts and cultural organisations in the field of arts and social engagement. What Mr. R. damns as arts having to prove "their social worth". Interesting then that one of the questions from the Open Space session: "Why have we ended up being such a homogenous group?" flagged up the "more women than men" gender imbalance. Wonder how often the big boys take themselves to task over the imbalance that dominates the rest of the arts world?

Like those parts of the public sector currently facing the heaviest cuts, this is the one arts sector where there is a preponderance of women. Is this then what makes it more expendable when it comes to deciding what kind of "art" and "artists" might need protecting?

Taking Part was about how we can work in partnership to create a civil society. Be nice to hear some of those big boys speaking up for the rest of us.


Chrissie Tiller runs her own consultancy