For me the term Sideshow is more than appropriate. A selection of works that conform to the same academically informed notions of ‘practice’ as those of the main show. Far from being a ‘Brit Art Show’ this selection is a show of ‘Art made in Britain’ within rigorously defined parameters that not only manages to highlight the commercialisation of the British Art School system in the last twenty years (which is dependant on overseas business) but also to exclude virtually (with one or two notable exceptions) all artists in the East Midlands.

Sideshow was conceived as a local response and redress to this but has spectacularly failed to deliver on that count. So what chance that this major event will ‘talk’ to the people of Nottingham and that they will talk back……probably none.

Very good community arts responses in themselves do not mask a wider lack of ambition in this event’s delivery which does not bode well for the future of all the arts (not just an increasingly cliquey and academic minority) e.g. the new CCAN and other projects.

A truly democratic and accessible arts would take note of all strands of art-working practice and all groups. This event talks to itself a bit like the mythical man-on-the-bus and can people be blamed if they choose to vote with their feet rather than being engaged with its ‘strategies’, for sale ‘new-media smart-alecry’ and ‘sense of irony’.

A failed opportunity in my opinion but in a city blighted by lack of genuine support for the arts for many years and a collective lack of self-worth highlighted by laughable comparisons to Barcelona and Berlin not entirely unexpected. It is time Nottingham believed in itself and its artists and became the ‘New Nottingam’ so beloved of the advertising campaigns.

That confidence has been damaged by this event not strengthened and it may take years to repair. It is time to start building from the roots up and not expect the importation of outside artists to trickle down. We have the people here it just means looking to our own strengths rather than elsewhere. Lets have a bit more ‘proud provincialism’ and a bit less ‘international glamour’. Let us stop chasing shadows…….


April 2006