I came to Nottingham in summer 2002. Even then the cultural map was fairly exact. All ‘creative finances’ trickle down from EMDA / ESF funding through the gatekeepers of Broadway, no rx City Council, seek University, Regeneration Quangos etc etc. There are cultural geographical reasons for this. Broadway is a child of the original artistic groups in Nottingham and beneficiary of the goodwill and undoubted good work those original agencies established including Co-Operative Education, Nottingham Film Society, City Lights Cinema and, in 1982, the Broadway Cinema. The new 5 Million pound rebuild is a long way from the original Weslyan Chapel that housed it. Alongside the ‘mythical’ playhouse and Midland Group agencies Broadway is the third pillar of the ‘creative Nottingham’ so beloved of administrators and funders.

Now though the goalposts have shifted and the funders badges have quadrupled as EEC funding though ESF and regional regeneration partnerships have entered the scenario. What we are left with is not one but two contrasting and competing edifices of ‘cutting-edge’ culture from 2008 onwards. Broadway draws on a great deal of Trent University art and design experience…e.g. Nottingham Creative Networks and new Digital Arts development whilst the new CCAN gallery is allied with the Nottingham University Art History Department ( who already influence the Djanogly Arts Centre…basically a University showcase with a public remit).

With all this activity how does the ‘non-aligned’ artist hope to prosper? Well basically one does not. In the gap between these two ‘alumni’ driven institutions is a large grey area from left lion to artists lead initiatives, to community arts organisations who try to pick up the scraps of funding left and compete with each other in equal measure. Most fail or scrape along.

For many artists the ring-fenced ‘digital cliques’ are not available and consequently the access to equipment. It will be interesting to see how the projected New Art Exchange fares financially or whether it becomes stuck between a rock (CCAN) and a hard place (Broadway) in the tightening funding scenario on offer. Most Local Authority funding will deplete in next few years as council tax increases and funding cuts bite. The Arts Council package recently revealed will simply keep things as they are now(post the April 2007) cuts for which most commentators are extremely thankful.

What bothers myself and many another ‘mid career’ artist of whatever persuasion is that outside the high profile ‘digital initiatives’ there is virtually no exhibition space available and little audience prepared to purchase artifacts. A recent open studios showed the lack of interest in the large and talented range of artists that through cheaper rents can afford to produce work in this city. We face an over-supply of artwork and an under-supply of audiences.

One of the first initiatives to break this digital / analogue divide and by ‘analogue’ I refer to messy real artifacts in whatever medium..paint, silver, plastic………is the following…

Broadway have instituted a digital ‘advert’ scheme to enable local producers of all persuasions to get their messy real objects and practice in front of the great and the good at Broadway. All well and good but once again there a few stones blocking this new ‘channel’. Most non-digital artists do not have the resources or the the ability to create their own advertising slots. Far better would have been an attempt to utilise the skills of the ‘digerati’ to make adverts for fellow non-digital artisans. If half the money spent on recent ‘creative elite’ shindigs such as ‘unleashed’ ( the creative elite are a self -defining group) was instead spread more evenly across the makers instead of the supposed shakers there would be more sense of a genuine ‘creative network’ instead of the marketing slogans and opportunities thus far foisted on the people of Nottingham.

Making adverts may start to address the ‘digital divides’ but it only addresses a small part of the problem. With an increasingly ‘digital-born and bred’ clientelle there needs to be education too to enable the computer obsessed, facebook generation to actually see anything produced by other means. Broadway is a valuable showcase but where is the showcase for the non-digital? Suggestions on a postcard please……and anybody suggesting local artists will be filling the new CCAN can be classed with those who believe the earth still flat and tinfoil stops alien abduction……or are we all to be pleasantly surprised? Time will tell……