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'The best must be made more widely available...'

What’s the collective noun for a gathering of the great and the good of the contemporary cultural world? That was my question as I looked round the room at the top of the Royal Festival Hall last week. There must have been at least 300 people there, representing every aspect of the UK’s cultural scene, local and national, private and public alike. 

The occasion was the publication of the DCMS’s Culture White Paper, the first white paper for culture in more than 50 years and only the second ever published. Presenting the paper, Minister for Culture Ed Vaizey paid tribute to Jennie Lee, the originator of the 1965 paper which underlined the then government’s obligation to sustain the arts and ensure that ‘the best must be made more widely available’.

Last week’s message continued in very much the same vein and focused on inclusion, emphasising the drive for increased access for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds as well as the importance of cultural place-making, for example through the new Great Place Scheme.

We’re passionate about the role that culture can play in building communities and creating places in which people want to live, work – and have the opportunity to thrive. It’s something we’re known for around the country – whether it’s handling the opening of cultural centres, like Manchester’s HOME, or in changing the perception of places through art with incredible initiatives such as the British Ceramics Biennial in Stoke on Trent. 

We’ve been working recently with the London Legacy Development Corporation and the Foundation for FutureLondon to advise on the communication strategy for the Mayor’s Olympicopolis project. In the newsletter, Matt will tell you more about that as well as giving you a preview of Estuary, an inspirational new festival along the Kent and Essex shorelines which we’ll be working on this year.  

In other news March has seen us getting down and dirty working with DigVentures, a brilliant social enterprise and archaeology crowdfunding platform. Members of the public are invited not only to support archaeological digs financially but also to come along and get their hands dirty. 

Our first two launches attracted an extraordinary amount of media attention – not surprisingly when I tell you that they were amazing crowdfunding campaigns for excavations of a lost monastery in Lindisfarne and a Bronze Age burial mound in Morecambe Bay which was discovered by a metal detectorist…. 

Very satisfyingly, thanks to the widespread coverage, the Lindisfarne campaign was fully funded within 7 days and the Morecambe Bay story has already reached 50% funding.  That’s what I call a result! 

Prizes were also very much on the agenda this month with the announcement of the longlist for the new-look Man Booker International Prize. The news of the 13 writers on the list was cause enough for excitement and generated a heart-warming amount of coverage, not just in the UK but also in all the authors’ home countries. Elena Ferrante’s appearance on the list with The Story of the Lost Child was the cue for yet another level of coverage as the media, starting with Newsnight and the FT, attempted to cherchez la femme.

For those of you who have been living on another planet, Ferrante is an Italian novelist whose true identity is not publicly known. Speculation about her identity is rife but she holds that ‘books, once they are written, have no need of their authors’. The shortlist is announced on 14 April, so you may be hearing more of her then …

Katy and Rosie meantime were in Muscat to run the announcement of the 2016 International Prize for Arabic Fiction (IPAF) shortlist. The six novels were revealed by a judging panel chaired by Emirati poet and academic Amina Thiban at a press conference hosted by The Cultural Club, followed by an evening discussion panel. 

The week of events fostered a valuable new relationship with Oman and the Prize. Katy and Rosie were privileged to accompany hosted visits to Muscat’s various cultural landmarks, including guided tours of the Opera House and the brand new National Museum, representing the second ever British delegation to visit the latter ahead of its opening in April. They also met with the Omani Minister of Information, Abdul Munim Al Hasani.

You can read more about the shortlist here. The 2016 IPAF winner will be announced at an award ceremony at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr, Abu Dhabi on Tuesday 25 April, the eve of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair.

Closer to home we announced the shortlist for the tenth International Dylan Thomas Prize – a multi-disciplinary prize that aims to support and nurture young writers from around the world. You can read about the contenders for the prize here and the winner will be announced at a gala ceremony at Swansea University on International Dylan Thomas Day, 14 May. 

But just to answer that question, I’m still not sure what the collective noun is.     An installation possibly? An influence? Perhaps even an appreciation….  I’d love to hear your thoughts…! 

That’s about it for this month. We’ve lots of excitements in the pipeline for the weeks ahead so I look forward to bringing you more Four Colman Getty news next month. 

Till then, all best

Dotti  

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