Purbeck District Council recently put out a “consultation draft” for a Cultural Strategy for Purbeck, with an appended “Draft Action Plan” for comment by “cultural stakeholders,” a term which would seem to apply to the whole population of Purbeck, so I take the liberty of responding.
The aim of the paper is unquestionably laudable. It is circumspect and liberal to a fault, exuding an almost pious political correctness; bending over backwards to accommodate “diverse” points of view. It is in short a sincere contribution to debate, presumably compiled by a committee of the Purbeck District Council, (the members are unnamed); but it is fatally flawed to my mind by its labyrinthine structure, by circumlocution and euphemistic jargon, which end up by rendering it virtually unreadable. It is a confusing mass of tautology, abstraction and tortuous platitudes. Take for instance the title, which exemplifies the authors’ mystic redefinition of Culture. The title is: “Castles, Carnivals, Coast, Heaths and People,” they might have added “Cabbages and Kings” for real portmanteau inclusiveness. The paper attempts gallantly to bridge the gap between such diverse concepts as: history, environment, anthropology, places, cultural figures, events and processes.
To preclude confusion you will find that, for what it is worth, the “scoping” of Culture is definitively defined in Section 1.4.1. Ultimately, anything they want to talk about is labelled “Culture”- in its broadest sense – sort of! This produces a strange juxtaposition of the sublime and the ridiculous, the pretentious and the mundane, so that after acres of verbiage, a kind of anti-climax occurs, it appears that what we are aiming at realistically is improved ping-pong and toilet facilities for minorities and people with disabilities in every Purbeck village hall. With very few exceptions, the writers have a horror of the concrete and particular. There is no mention of the lively cultural pursuits of theatre, opera, choirs, musical comedy, book clubs, creative writing, sculpture, local history, town-twinning, historical pageants, ballet and Morris Dance, to name but a few of Purbeck’s cultural pastimes. You wouldn’t think that Poole had a great tradition of pottery, or that Purbeck had an Arts Week with hundreds of exhibits; that Purbeck can boast creative furniture-makers or tapestry-restorers. Even in the much emphasized area of sports, there is no mention of scuba-diving, rock-climbing, jet-skiing, wind-surfing, yachting, fishing, shooting. All these pursuits are taken for granted, the authors will doubtless argue, and are subsumed under “Culture”, but each one deserves at least an acknowledgement in any outline of plans for the future, lest they be overlooked, and they are far less abstract, more immediate and relevant to the public than questions of “access” or “biodiversity funding”. Some of these unlisted activities could potentially change the face of tourism in Purbeck, and revolutionise its economy and culture. And how can we talk about “access” just in terms of bus services and wheelchairs, when the Ministry of Defense has denied access to the best of Purbeck to resident and tourist alike for 10 months of the year over a period of 65 years. I’m sure the army pays a peppercorn rent to the county for these thousands of acres, just as they pay lip service to environmental considerations while devastating the terrain, but the fact is that the Army Ranges constitute a blatant theft of Purbeck’s cultural resources, as flagrant and mercenary as BP’s theft of millions of tons of oil from under our feet.
It is ironic that Purbeck District Council should list dozens of Public-Private partnerships who might be persuaded to put a few coins in our yawning cultural bucket, without even a mention of these fatcat beneficiaries of Purbeck’s rich resources, who spend more on public relations and advertising than they do on their Dorset poor relations.
As I see it, there are at least three cultures in Purbeck – the vestiges of a rural culture, the culture of the tourist and tourist provider, and the culture of the unemployed, the retired and second-homer. The competition between these groups and their conflict of goals makes it very difficult to devise a single improvement strategy. However a few cultural measures that are in the common interest come to mind and should be added to the concerns of the Committee, which are legitimate despite the critique above and despite the tedious prose of the draft Strategy.
I think the draft should be redrafted in plain English so that anyone in Purbeck can understand its call for action. I believe the following measures would help to reverse our cultural slide:
Pedestrianisation of town centres to reduce congestion, noise and pollution.
Revision of Bye-laws to combat vandalism, littering and hooliganism.
Emptying public litter bins when and as needed, not just once a day.
Creation of an auxiliary community police force to combat disorders.
Creation of Public Works Projects for the unemployed and volunteeers.
Banning of alcohol consumption in public places.
Make shop-keepers responsible for cleaning the pavement outside their premises.
Provide a scrubbing machine and water to clean pavements
Council sponsorship of a non-profit Purbeck weekly newspaper, a public radio station and free municipal wireless internet service to improve communications.
Posted by ian lowson to swanage view