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Cultural Hunting and Cultural Gardening in Leeds

March 22, 2011

It seems that the dust is settling after the extravaganza that was Frankenstein’s Wedding came to Leeds.  Broadcast live on BBC3, with clips filmed in advance across the city and a live audience of 12000 at Kirkstall Abbey the event was nothing if not ambitious.

It strikes me that the production was a lovely example of what can be achieved through a strategy of ‘cultural hunting’.  We attract BIG culture to the city and participate avidly in its consumption.  ‘Cultural hunting’ is about attracting outsiders, usually on a temporary or short-term basis to provide an experience that we could not put on ourselves.

In contrast to a strategy of ‘cultural hunting’ is one of ‘cultural gardening’.  This would be characterised by nurturing the competence and capacity of cultural producers that are already in the city, enabling them to explore the edges of their potential and develop their talents and vision.  It is a strategy that ‘starts from where we are, and works with what we have got’.

Getting the balance right between attracting talent from elsewhere and investing in growing your own is always tricky.   There are parallels in how you develop football clubs (do you buy your team or bring them through an academy) and how you grow an economy through attracting inward investment or growing your own.

Is Frankenstein’s Wedding and its ilk really what Leeds is looking for?  Or is it a more stable platform from which we can develop and showcase more of our indigenous talent?

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