Chair’s Report, AGM 2012

Andrew Baker. 

To begin with I think it’s worth explaining exactly what Stafford District Arts Council is. We now have a revised Service Level Agreement with Stafford Borough Council which explains what we are and what we do:

  • SDAC exists to support the Arts in Stafford through funds provided by Stafford Borough Council, We are an independent group and the membership of the committee, which allocates funding, is open to any member who wishes to stand and be voted for at an AGM.
  • Stafford Borough Council has agreed to three years of funding for SDAC. We are very pleased to have this promise at a time when funds to the arts are often under threat. It’s a very generous provision and it’s up to SDAC to make sure the grants are used to the maximum effect.
  • The Service Level Agreement (SLA) defines what we do and establishes the independence of the SDAC – while making sure that the funds are used to support the policies of the council. This is seen as a partnership while affirming that SDAC is fully independent.

1.1 To maintain and develop a full and effective partnership between SBC and SDAC in support of the Council’s policy objectives and the activities of the SDAC.

Who do we serve? Always an important question. We serve everyone within the Borough area – and we need to remember this inclusiveness:

1.2 It is also acknowledged that the SDAC reflects the geographic, demographic and social characteristics of Stafford Borough. This agreement takes note of that diversity.

The SLAs reminds us that the SDAC shall at all times consider the manner in which its service can be developed so as to become accessible to the maximum number of Stafford Borough residents as possible.

Our role is defined as:

a. To promote the arts in Stafford Borough

b. The provision of guidance and support to member societies and individuals

c. The provision of grant aid to arts related societies and individuals

d. To facilitate interaction between individual artists and societies and SBC

To achieve this SDAC has to function within all the usual rules of a constituted organisation. We have to explain ourselves and provide a full account of ourselves and the Borough’ support can be questioned if we do not fulfil our obligations.

This all has to be carefully defined as we are very fortunate in having the promise of a grant of £10,000 each year for three years from 2012/13 to 2014/15.

SDAC has members who can be individuals or organisations and these members can apply for funding to support their activities.

We can also support the arts in other ways and in the last few years we have made grants from our own initiative to local arts activities. This is very important as we have a responsibility to everyone in the Borough and, as the SLA makes clear, to the full diversity of people.

For example, we have supported prizes in the Staffordshire Open Art, particularly on several occasions for children, but also this year a £500 second prize. Open Art is a very important event that encourages artists, amateur and professional, to enter an open competition where only quality matters. This year we have also supported the Stafford Arts Festival which brings a spectacular range of arts to a very wide audience.

Overall the audiences that can be seen to benefit from SDAC grants are very wide and becoming wider. Some of the groups we sponsor may have small audiences, others can have audiences in the hundreds and thousands. We can report figures back to Stafford Borough Council to show the impact of funding and this is why it is very important that we have post event evaluations from people and groups we have funded.

The new SLA gives us a chance to make something of a new start and to think carefully about our role. The funding we can provide is generous and it can be used to develop the arts in new places, to new audiences and for new art forms. It is very good to see the ongoing success of activities beyond the town, such as the Adbaston Concert Society and to cultural groups like the Kerala Association – but we need to widen our range. Surely, for example, there are young people who need support, and more opportunities to bring events to other parts of the District.

We do want to encourage a wider range of people to be members, we would like more people to bring different viewpoints to the committee so we can make wise decisions in allocating grants. We also welcome ideas for initiatives – and new areas where SDAC can make an impact.

We are very lucky indeed to have SDAC as an independent group funded by our local council. It’s a privilege and something of a luxury. Let’s see the next three years as a chance to help make the arts a vital part of everyone’s lives in Stafford.

28th September 2012

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