Yesterday the Arts Industry Council of South Australia invited all good arts bods along to a fora at the Mercury Cinema featuring a unique opportunity to hear the Honourable John Hill, Minister for Health, Minister for the Southern Suburbs, Minister Assisting the Premier in the Arts and Mrs. Isobel Redmond, Leader of the Opposition, discuss their Governments response to arts industry concerns and their Governments position on the Arts in South Australia as we head up to the 2010 state election in March.
We at CWTP were there and thought we should give a little insight into what they talked about but also score the two on their performance.
First we’ll look at John Hill. Now we at CWTP like John infact we like him far better than Mike because we think he gets the arts. However in our humble opinion we thought that John Hill, who spoke first, mostly in Isobel Redmond’s absence, did not fair as well as we thought he would – his summation of what has happened in the arts across the state in the past 7.5 years was just that, a summation. He sort of told us everything that we knew already because hey, guess what … we were the ones that were actually involved doing it in the first place!?! John displayed a good broad knowledge across all of the arts sectors from regional to urban, from the big institutions to the little, from film to theatre, right through to the recent venues debate. We actually congratulate this administration as they haven’t done too badly. Much thanks must go however to the good peeps at Arts SA keeping the ecology smoothly running on the crumbs left over from bailing out Festival Centres, building film hubs and turning virtually every festival annual. John mentioned our festivals often, as they are the platform where his government likes to concentrate, as these are the places where a mass of arts / public interaction can and does occur and we concur … to a degree. We were however a little disappointed that there was very little future visioning on his behalf. If his party were to be re-elected we would have to wait until mid 2010 for a review of the State’s Strategic Plan to possibly and hopefully contribute to and then find out just what future directions the state labor goverment has in store. John did mention that if the new RAH was to go ahead and be built over the existing west end railyards then he’d be certainly interested in seeing the old RAH site in the east end turned into some vauguely exciting freshly plumbed and electrified new arts hub / outside space where the Garden of Unearthly Delights could be housed every year. Excuse me John but the Garden is not South Australian run, it’s a pox on our Fringe and in our opinion they can just piss off! Delivering an exciting future vision of the arts to an in house arts crowd of about 50 or so does not get you any media coverage what so ever so we forgave the Min’s relatively lacklustre “steady-as-she-goes-everything-will-be-alright” tone and sent him on his way to launch some Northern Territory / South Australian health communication system thingamebob that he seemed far more excited in … Score 7.5
Next was Isobel Redmond, funnily enough this time in John’s absence – it was sort of like witnessing a couple not bearing to be in the same room as each other as they negotiated their divorce papers! This opportunity was most of the gathered’s first experience of the state Liberal Party’s potential new minister for the arts and their first ever possible Premier and Arts Minister in one. And you know she didn’t do too badly. Isobel’s interest in the arts might come from having a daughter who’s into amatuer musicals and wants to get into NIDA and a son who works at BASS and plays in a heavy metal band but she is involved in State Theatre Company’s Dramatic Women so she must be familar with that particular company’s work and their utterly artistically void opening nights. Isobel admitted that as she is in opposition she isn’t privy to all the information the current administration has BUT she did make a good attempt at trying to convey her understanding of arts ecology – possibly mentioning a newly learnt buzz phrase “grass roots community” a few too many times but enough for us to realise that she was trying to get her head around it. Although we were a little worried at her distinct dislike for and inability to pronounce “parkour”, she did however strive to answer all the questions that the AIC provided her, something that comfortable John did not. Isobel thinks that the RAH should stay where it is with a saving of 2 billion dollars and be close to it’s feeder schools and amenities and instead over the west end railyards build a newer cultural precinct close to the Festival Centre. That sort of makes sense but she’s very vague as to what this cultural precinct could actually entail – we think it might look a little bit like a football stadium … Score 7.3
An Arts debate at this level of politics in this day and age is mostly full of platitudes or in John and Isobel’s own words it’s “bipartisan”. It really does seem crazy to us that any discernable difference between our two parties boils down to the positioning of a new hospital . Go figure!?!
We await with more interest.