It has been an intense few weeks. We have moved from creative imagination and idea generation to the energy sapping bureaucracy. We have sorted event licences, insurance, performers contracts, forms for artists, vendors and volunteers, done risk assessments, and more. We know these are necessary and recognize that our event has probably been improved by these hoops that we have had to jump though. We need to keep our volunteers and public safe, formalizing agreements with those involved is key, and a certain level of admin is good for sanity.
It has felt hard at times. This one event has meant separate ongoing conversations with over 10 members of council staff alone. The event spans economic development, licensing, park land, environmental health, disability access, business development. And, like Rumsfeld, we don’t know what we don’t know. I am sure there are departments in the council that we haven’t even dreamed of yet that we probably should have contacted.
Let us not forget, dear renegades, that bureaucracy exists to keep things stable. It’s very reason for existence is to prevent change. So the intersection at which creative action and bureaucracy meets is always going to be an interesting one. It can feel quite thrilling. Creative compliance has become our watchword.
We are realizing that, quite unintentionally, we are becoming ‘Big Society’ in action. We didn’t mean for this to happen. But if Big Society is the going to happen others will face the same problems as we have. They will have to engage with structures that don’t yet know how to engage back. They won’t quite fit the criteria on the forms they are given, and they won’t quite be able to tick all the boxes and there will be frustrations and confusion and then the conversation begins. There will be dialogue about what lies behind the forms. And these conversations will happen between people, not between the ‘council’ and ‘service users’, and people will have to start becoming responsible for their actions and decisions. And, actually, it will probably be quite good.
Our council have been great. They may not have always known what to do with us, but they have given us enough space to carry on. And in return we have tried our best to be compliant with the rules that matter.
I heard that Liverpool, one of the governments flagships for ‘Big Society’ has written to Cameron opting out because the government didn’t help them enough. This made me laugh. It seems to me that they missed the point.
I have higher hopes for my hometown.