Thursday, September 04, 2008

There's an intriquing job on offer at the moment: head of culture and lifestyle. It's for Hull City Council and the accompanying pictures in the ad are of an illuminated old building, an ultra modern one, a djembe drummer and blond girl in a swimming pool. I wouldn't expect, of course, a local authority to be at the cutting edge when it comes to visuals. It would test anyone's skills, but the copy below it reveals why our arts are in trouble.

"As a corporate team player, you will bring your experience and ability as a strategic and inspirational leader, a successful track record of delivering change, and an understanding of the impact of culture on our priorities for the city and its people...."

Wouldn't a year 11 kid be ashamed to have written that? Swap 'culture' for 'drugs', 'public transport', 'cycling', green issues', 'energy', 'the health service', 'recycling', 'policing' or any other issue a local authority might be involved in and it makes no difference.

And how can you be head of lifestyle? As if all those different lifestyles were formed below in a pyramid, somehow arranged hierarchically. And cultures....or cultural practices (? unclear, too), dotted between them. I wonder what the bottom line would be and the top two?

The obvious thing, of course, is to look at the website. And that clarifies the bizarre placing of the word Veredus at the bottom of the ad. Veredus, unsurprisingly, is a consultancy the council's using. It means post-horse (pony express, mule train etc. etc.). And it's part of Capita.

So, it's also no surprise the language of this advert, the job description and person specification are interchangeable. That's how to make money - create a format and sell it hundreds of times just changing the date, place and time.

But back to the job. Perhaps the head of culture and lifestyle should be an expert in, um, culture? A poet or sculptor, a film-maker or song writer, a director, conductor, composer - there's plenty of us around who've clocked up a fair bit of experience. Maybe she could have lived several different lives.....a spot of single parenting, a bit of travelling, a couple of years as a carer, a year or so in tipi valley or in the hills around Carcassonne?

Apparently this is not a priority. The first thing listed under knowledge is "Extensive knowledge of the financial, legal and social environment within which Local Authorities operate." The second is: "In depth financial and commercial awareness, with strong analytical skills and an excellent aptitude for developing innovative solutions to highly complex problems."

Ah, so we're looking for an accountant are we? Well, not an artist. Not a teepee dweller. The sixth and final requisite in the knowledge section is this: "A comprehensive understanding of a wide range of Cultural Services."

Hull, hijacked by consultantspeak. They're not alone - there's barely a public organisation in the country with the courage to speak like its workers.

Shame on you Hull, city of plain talking Philip Larkin, who for all his failings summed up the post-war navel gazing of wealthy, industrialised 20th century cultures with a brilliant two lines and well placed expletive.

Shame on you for not even referring to some of Hull's poetic icons Larkin, Marvell and Dunn.

So I'm proposing the city council might be besieged by applications from some of its cultural icons. Some of us remember the days Micky Mouse worked long hours in Fleet Street. is the website where you can download the job details.

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