Archive for februari, 2010

Training business coaches

Last September Department of Culture together with Department of Enterprise, Energy and Communications proposed to put around 70 million SEK (around 7 million euro) in developing the cultural and creative sector 2009–2012. The aim is to create better conditions for entrepreneurs within culture to develop their business ideas (for Swedish readers look here). Exactly how this will be done is still shrouded in mystery. As it seems it will be done in dialogue on an institutional level. But where are the actual cultural entrepreneurs?

In Region Västra Götaland about the same has been proposed by the Secretariat of Culture together with the Regional Development Secretariat (Trade, business and industry development). An action plan has been developed with ideas on how to work with enterprise development within the cultural field.

One idea, on both state and regional level, is that first of all you need to train business coaches in cultural and creative industries in how this field works. The thought is that money is already put into support like incubators, mentoring, coaching to small and medium enterprises, but these hardly ever reach the cultural entrepreneur. A good thought. Of course this support should also encompass the cultural field. But why hasn’t it so far? Well, basically since all the requirements and methods for support, coaching and mentoring are built on the traditional industry. The thought that other conditions and circumstances might be claimed in the cultural field, is often met with a sigh: ”Oh, those Artists think there are so special!”. It’s based on a thought that Artist consider themselves as an elite with very special conditions, a notion also found in the report from the Committee of Inquiry on Cultural Policy last year.

It leads to two thoughts. One is that if Artists find that there are specific conditions in running a business within their field, if this is their notion, the only way to handle it must be to find out what bearing it has. The other is that business coaches easily falling into the argument that there is no difference running a cultural business than running something in other areas have probably never taken the time or effort to seriously analyze how it works running your own business within culture.

Just step into any Art Exhibition Hall in any country, like the exhibition now running at Röda Sten by Artist Sislej Xhafa. Sit down in front of his gigantic sculpture of Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi and reflect on: What is the business model behind this Artist? What is the product he is selling? Could he live on that as a business idea, and if not, what are relevant questions and suggestions to help him find ways to live on his Art?

Nätverkstan has the assignment from Region Västra Götaland together with other partners within culture, to put together a program; training business coaches on how the cultural and creative industries work, and how cultural entrepreneurs run their organizations or businesses. We will keep the readers posted on how this will work out.

28 februari, 2010

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Equality in Performing Arts

News channel Ekot, Swedish Radio, presented new facts of sexual harassment in the theatre-world last week. The radio sent 1600 questions to people within performing Arts in Sweden about their working situation. Among actresses, 45,5% – half of all women asked – answered that they had been exposed to sexual harassment; of the male actors 10,8%. Horrifying figures (look at the statistics here). The debate is running warm. But it’s not that it is a new issue.

Already in 2006, a State Committee was looking into the gender and equality situation within performing Arts in Sweden. They presented a report, Plats på Scen (SOU 2006:42), showing serious deficiencies in equality at the performing Arts institutions, urging for more intensified equality regulations at all decision making levels, from state authorities to every institution.You wonder what happened? Did the institutions follow the regulations? Or is it the connection with reality that is missing, regulations always risking to only become a paper product if not taken seriously?

The two New York-based Artists Sharon Hayes and Andrea Geyer question gender and equality in an exhibition now showing at Konsthallen in Göteborg. Like when Andrea Geyer is doing her one-person demonstrations, in one of them carrying a sign with ”I am a man” written. The meanings in the signs are referring to situations in the past, where this quote was picked from an afro-American demonstration in the 60s, where ”man” referred only to ”human”. In it’s simplicity, an effective way to question who has power in society. There is a lot still to be done when it comes to the complex equality question.

Download Plats på Scen here: 4e61f43d.pdf .

20 februari, 2010

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Not seen = none Existent

It’s difficult to confirm an exact figure, some show about seven hundreds different cultural journals are produced in Sweden covering areas like Art, society, philosophy, feminism, environment, design, literature and much more. This wide flora of voices in the societal debate has been seen as an asset, even a vital condition, in Swedish debate and democracy. With the journals interest and knowledge in specific areas, and deep analysis combined with reflection, they are often the first to highlight processes, discussions, injustices, trends, and social issues. And the larger newspapers are soon to follow. Not that everything published is liked by everyone, but it’s an important voice, a vital piece in the democratic puzzle.

The situation for these journals is somewhat peculiar. 134 journals sent an application to The Swedish Arts Council last year, 103 printed cultural journals and 16 Internet based got a small state support for production. It’s a support designed to cover loss. Practically this means that to be obliged for this support you must show a minus on your account, an economic loss, each year. Not difficult at all. In fact, hardly any of these small journals have money enough to pay all the people involved. They are produced in a combination of voluntary and professional work. Nevertheless, this has for years held them in a tight economic grip. If you would make a small profit, you loose the support. So, there is no incentive to try to build a strong economy. Finally the Department of Culture is suggesting that this condition of loss is abolished from the support. It’s been quite contradictory in the dialogue with the journals, a new decision would aslo go more in line with the era where state and regional institutions talk about, and often require, external funding such as sponsorship or other solutions.

The Swedish Arts Council has during the last two years been vague as to how and if the production and development support will be changed due to proposed changes from the Government, especially due to changes proposed in last years Culture Bill. And it’s still a big cloud of uncertainty. We are now into the first quarter of an annual year and many, as for instance the Cultural Journal Workshops, don’t know if they will be able to continue their work or not. Plans made and activities have to wait for the decision that has not yet been taken.

A necessary step is distribution. Another area in limbo, where the Swedish Art Council is signaling this should not be of state responsibility anymore. With the small numbers of subscribers and small portion of sold numbers each month, a reality these journals face, they are not the most attractive pieces for a bookshop to keep on the shelves. You can argue for democracy or the important input these make on the debate climate in Sweden. If they don’t bring in money, they will not be put on the bookstore shelves. This suggests for a specific solution for distribution and marketing of small-scale journals, something that has been done. Nätverkstan has since 1998 held a support from the Swedish Art Council, that from 2005 grew to be quite substantial, to build up and offer distribution network, register solutions and marketing. Now the future is uncertain. For Nätverkstan it’s of course sad. It’s a core activity. Over the years a strong distribution network of 387 bookstores, museums, and other retailers around Sweden has been built. For the cultural journals it’s very serious. It will result in very few or no distribution channels. And what for? It can hardly be the money.

The budget post where cultural journals are found in the state budget is called ”Culture, media, faiths and leisure” (my translation, in Swedish: budgetområde 17, Kultur, medier, trossamfund och fritid) and was last budget year 10.3 billion. Cultural journals got around 22 millions in production- and development support in 2009, which is 0,2% of the budget post. Distribution support was last year 1,550 million SEK, a disappearing small part of the same post.

Read about the consequences for the Cultural Journals if the distribution line is cut in the report newly published by Nätverkstan: konsekvenserna.pdf.

Read more posts on cultural journals, such as Cultural Journals in Sweden and ”Time for culture” • The Swedish Culture Bill or at the debate at the site of Förening för Sveriges kulturtidskrifter (the Association for Swedish Cultural Journals).

The Culture Bill, Tid för Kultur (my translation: Time for Culture) can be downloaded here: a7e858d41.pdf.

14 februari, 2010

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Beyond Bollywood in Göteborg

When Bangalore-based film director Girish Kasaravalli introduces his film Gulabi Talkies at the Göteborg International Film Festival and Museum of World Cultures in Göteborg, he very humbly describes his idea as trying to grasp three processes in India that occurred simultaneously: The war between India and Pakistan that affected the relation between Hindus and Muslims, the change in fishing regulations on the coastal villages in Karnataka, and the introduction of private and public cable TV in villages. He wanted to show the effects of these processes in the everyday life in a small village.

The film is one of the films within the theme Beyond Bollywood at the festival. It has lifted the question of independent film making as such, as well as the Bollywood film industry and the specific situation for filmmakers in India. At the seminar after the show of Gulabi Talkies, Girish Kasaravalli and film- and theatre person Prakash Belawadi discuss the situation in India and point out that a theme like ”Beyond Bollywood” creates another misunderstanding. It’s as if Bollywood films are the narrative, everything else is beyond. This is not true, they say. Bollywood might involve a lot of money (often connected to either illegal or accounted activities we learn), but seen in the number of films produced, it’s a small part of films – less than 25 procent – made in India. Yet, it’s seen by the world as the pan-India, while in fact it has very little to do with ordinary life in India.

There is a strong urge for simplicity, for stereotypes. Francis B Nyamjoh, Head of Publications and Dissemination in Senegal, quoted before on this site, writes in Cultures and Globalization: The Cultural Economy, that the global cultural entrepreneurs; the large film, music and literature companies are asking only for stereotypical stories from African scene. They don’t want to distribute alternative stories, since this is said not to sell.

At a workshop in Nairobi last September (look under Kenya) many of the participating writers were saying that if you want to sell, you need to write stories of the Big Five, the largest wild animals in the African wild life. Otherwise no one will invest money or distribute your story. Doreen Baingana, a Uganda-born writer wrote a beautiful story of three sisters growing up in modern Kampala a few years ago. The Tropical Fish has won prizes and can be found on searches on the Internet. Anjum Hasan is a Bangalore-based writer who recently published her book Neti, Neti, a wonderful story of being a young woman in modern Bangalore. So, there Is no need among young women in the world of these stories?

Who is continuously reproducing the need for stereotypical stories? The audience, customers, distribution chains, large global entrepreneurs, investors? Perhaps Internet can be an important tool to change this.

Photos and film: Leif Eriksson, Filmhögskolan Göteborg University.

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4 februari, 2010

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Authors

Lotta Lekvall
Director of Nätverkstan, a Cultural Organisation in Sweden. Nätverkstan provides services …

Cultural and Social Entrepreneurship

On this blog we would like to explore entrepreneurship from a cultural and social point of view. Or rather put forward entrepreneurial initiatives within these two fields.

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