…from Maidenhead and District Arts Council.
Not that anyone would notice.
Time has been a bit tighter for me lately, but this has had no bearing on my decision – I am capably managing the day-to-day running of our glorious Art on the Street, while enjoying my new and adored job, and still spending enough time with my beloved family for them to be sick of the sight of me.
This is a question of my conscience.
Last year, Jen Whitehead, Steph James and I agreed to join the executive committee, with a belief we could inject a little modernity and marketing know-how to an organisation that was feeling directionless. There were elements of Maidenhead Arts I was already uncomfortable with, but I felt I could contribute something really positive to the cause and maybe make a little difference to the profile of our local art scene.
In the short time I have been affiliated with this group, I have been endlessly disappointed.
Art does not exist without people. In order to champion and represent the arts anywhere, it is crucial that people come first. Maidenhead Arts do not know their people. And in the time I have been on the executive committee, I have not seen or heard of any evidence of the ‘outreach’ committee members doing any work to rectify this. Without these relationships, Maidenhead Arts has no business speaking for its members.
Until I joined Maidenhead Arts, I had yet to meet an arts organisation with a surplus of money. Given their bank balance, I am astonished by their frugality. Their constitution purports to promote the activities of around 50 member groups and takes a membership fee from them in exchange for doing so. Over the years MA regularly applied to the Louis Baylis Trust for money that then sat in the bank. I highlighted this at an AGM and was assured that Maidenhead Arts would no longer apply for money when it had funds. This turned out to be untrue.
Recently, every household in RBWM received a letter asking them to vote for a cause to be funded. The newly named ‘Summer of Arts and Entertainment’ was among the causes asking for votes to receive RBWM (AKA taxpayer) funds. This is the new name for the ‘Summer of Culture’ – the result of an enthusiastic, happy meeting of creative minds who wanted to show our town just how much is happening through voluntary arts. It was agreed that Maidenhead Arts, as a charity with money in the bank, should rise to its commitments and lead this project.
And then it landed on its arse.
I am embarrassed and ashamed to have given confidence in Maidenhead Arts to everyone who attended and supported a great idea. I was naive enough to believe that Summer of Culture would be lead with openness and good spirit. Instead, it’s been renamed, re-purposed and outsourced. Minimum effort. Minimum cost.
I cannot be associated with this. It’s not the spirit with which I approach the arts. I have no appetite for an environment that ticks ‘art and culture’ boxes. My passion lies in what beauty we are capable of creating. It breaks my heart to see an incredible organisation, one accomplished enough to create as powerful and supportive a cultural environment as Norden Farm, ultimately have no control of its own affairs by ignoring its members and deferring to appointed members of the local authority.
I have resigned, but I am not resigned. My energy and passion for what we do is as strong as it’s ever been. Maidenhead Arts has no future, but the future of arts in Maidenhead is as independent and prolific as ever.
It’s time to start afresh.