Issue 208
May/June 2019

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May 26, 2019

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Editorial Comment

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Putting the culture back in agriculture

DESPITE ONGOING cuts at central and local government level, Arts Council England continues to trumpet and champion the worth of the arts, not only for their own sake, but also for their value to individual and community wellbeing, to education, tourism, and the economy.

A while back the arts economy was claimed to be worth more than the motor industry. No surprise now, but shocking then. A new report, the "Contribution of the arts and culture industry to the UK economy", from the Centre for Economic and Business Research, claims that, in 2016, at £ 10.8 billion, they were worth more than agriculture.

Hard to quantify, but probably an underestimate, if hidden, external costs are taken into account.

Conventional agriculture is wholly dependent on oil, not just for fertilisers and chemical sprays, but, hugely, for power. Worldwide, its carbon footprint is directly linked to climate change, loss of topsoil, water... and foliage, vital for converting CO2 to oxygen. All to meet increased demand for palm oil, soya, and meat.

In Britain our countryside's soul, so inspiring to artists, writers and musicians, is being ripped apart, as agronomy removes the 'culture' in agriculture.

Equally impossible to quantify, the hidden added value of creativity, but for certain we need art and culture more than ever, for vision, insight, wisdom, humour, and the courage to change.

Once farms created beautiful landscapes, giving life and purpose to rural communities. Increasingly industrial agriculture contracts operatives with no affinity with place or community, damaging the land and its creatures.

Food, healthy or otherwise, becomes just another bankable commodity from land, itself a mere investment asset, dehumanised, relying on robots, chemicals and computers to be stripped bare.

The dignity, hands-on creativity and joy of growing good food, central to a decent culture, is still with us, but more often in gardens and smallholdings than on farms.

Very appropriate, then, that the Royal Society of Arts has set up a Food, Farming and Countryside Commission to look at a more sustainable, and human way forward.

Now it's time for the arts and culture to join with farmers, scientists and economists to explore better ways of working, respecting, and drawing inspiration from the land. Whether it be re-wilding, forest farming, organic farming, or soil conservation, the earth needs love and care.

Time to take back control

OUR RAILWAY system is in total chaos – again. The hapless Mr Grayling has made such a mess of things that they have had to ask the rail operating companies what they should do next.

Easy, say the rail companies: hand the whole thing over to us, lock, track and barrel and we will shovel even more of your money into our back pockets.

Although the solution is glaringly obvious and is desired by the vast majority of the population – as many as 80 per cent in favour according to some opinion polls – anything rather than a return to national control is put forward.

The fractured system known as privatisation has been the disaster predicted in these columns. Re-nationalise, but do it in an inspired way. It can work.

You read it first in ArtWork (honest!)

PECHAKUCHA Reaches Berwick-upon-Tweed!

Pecha what?


From a Sushi Bar menu, perhaps?

Right, as in Japanese, but more food for means Chit Chat.

Just gossip?

No....more sharing, showcasing and meeting likeminded creative types – artists, architects, musicians, poets, film-makers....

I get the picture.

Twenty actually...


That's right. 20 images of work, on screen for 20 seconds each. It all started in Japan, back in 2003, when two architects came up with the idea. It's proved a great way to bring together creative people who often work alone, but find that, once they realise who else is out there, often just around the corner, there are plenty of opportunities for interesting collaborations and partnerships.

So coming to Berwick-upon-Tweed now?

That's right, joining over a thousand towns and cities worldwide. Thanks to a new initiative called the Berwick Creative Guild, and with support from Berwick Visual Arts and the Royal Society of Arts.

When, where, who?

Berwick Visitor Centre, Walkergate. Wednesday May 29, 6.30 to 8.30.

The line-up for this event includes Helen Stephens, artist, writer and illustrator; Gerry Turley, artist, writer and illustrator; Foldyard Gallery, artists Dave Watson and Morag Eaton; Anna Parker, artist; Kathryn Elkin, film-maker; and more to be confi rmed. Numbers are limited. Booking by email is essential, to: It's free, although donations are invited, and there will be refreshments.

And the next one? Late July. Email, as above, to be kept informed.

The Perfect Gift! New Scotland's Stations - Northern Books

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