The first port of call on this busy three-day visit was the House of Commons where we met with the Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport to discuss its current Inquiry into the Future of the BBC. We were keen to discover how as members of the CAL Committee we could contribute from a regional standpoint, to upcoming talks on the renewal of the BBCs Charter in 2016.
Discussions also centred upon how we in Northern Ireland can continue to develop and boost our reputation and capacity for local television and film production. This issue is particularly important to the Committee given our recent inquiry into maximising the potential of the Creative Industries here.
Northern Ireland is becoming more popular as a hub for film and television production and we firmly believe that now is the time to fully capitalise on local skills and talent. Our report has called on the Department to establish a ‘one–stop-shop’ to provide advice and guidance to those already working in the Creative sector and access to education and skill development for those wishing to enter the industry. My Committee firmly believes that there is so much potential to create new jobs within the industry here and that this in turn will act as a key driver for greater local economic growth.
One of the key report recommendations we talked about was the creation of a specific Culture, Arts and Leisure e-strategy, to include provisions for information on current child protection policy, to be more readily accessible online. We also discussed the need for organisations working with vulnerable groups to have access to a standardised system of training, advice and education. The Committee outlined its recommendation to DCAL to Pilot a chartermark which could become a recognised ‘best practice’ brand. This would provide assurances to parents and guardians that the groups their children attend have fully regulated and approved safeguards in place.
During our discussions both committees agreed that while the safeguarding of children and vulnerable groups must be a priority, undertaking this on a pan-EU basis does present very particular challenges.
In the afternoon, we travelled to Chiswick to visit the Arts Educational Schools London (ArtsEd). ArtsEd is a specialist drama and musical theatre college with strong links to the theatre industry. It also provides an independent day school where students can study core subjects alongside their chosen performing arts classes. Northern Ireland does not have a dedicated performing arts school which means that many of our local young people must travel to London or further afield to receive training. We were therefore very keen to discover more about the foundations needed to create and establish a good performing arts framework, as well as the funding implications and possibilities.
With Derry-Londonderry’s year as the first UK City of Culture coming to a close and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Derry City Council already pledging £900,000 to continue the cultural transformation of the city, we are keen to ensure that a meaningful legacy is planned, created and nurtured. It is crucial that local communities and Northern Ireland as a whole can continue to benefit from what has proved to be an exciting and inspiring year. Paul told us more about London’s 2012 experience and how the development of the Olympic Park and sporting venues have become catalysts for the social and physical regeneration of the Stratford area:
A very deliberate decision was taken by the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority not to make the velodrome a multi-use venue. With superior concert venues close by and the majority of other sports catered for in the Olympic Park, it was decided that the velodrome would not diversify. The Authority takes control of the velodrome in January 2014. Outside the building the BMX track has been redeveloped for use by the general public and will host its first competition in March 2014.
You can find out more about our work, completed and upcoming inquiries and how you can contact us by visiting the Culture, Arts and Leisure Committee webpage.