Models of success

Paul Bogen

The first thing is that no two places are the same. One of the mistakes a lot of people make is seeing a successful culture centre and thinking you can replicate that model in your own city. You can take some elements but you have to work with your own city and it's own situation, it's own demographics and it's own geographics and everything else. And there has to be a need and demand. You can't just create something because you think it is a good idea. 

The way we work is that before we build anything, we spend two years consulting the community. We went to them and asked what do you want, what don't you want. For me, that is the way to start with any cultural policies – to go out to the people, both the existing arts community but also the audiences that don't go to cultural events, as well as the audiences that do, and really find out what people want and what they don’t want, what the situation is. Then from that you create partnerships and you develop a building or a centre based on those findings. What usually happens however is that someone sees an old building and thinks „that would be a nice culture centre,“ gets an architect in, comes out with a fancy plan, builds something… and then you find out that no one actually wants it, you don’t know how you’re going to finance it and no ones comes to it. 

So my advice is – Start with the people, not the building, number one. Create a partnership with the community, bring people together rather than separate them. Keep politicians out of the process, completely. And don't build anything or create anything unless you know how you're going to finance it once it‘s open. 

Old buildings are not necessarily the best solution for culture. Sometimes you better build a new building. It's cheaper and it's easier. Don't be to nostagic, I would say, for old buildings. Because, on one level, when you look at old industrial buildings, their history can be quite a negative history, e.g of exploitation of workers. The most important thing is that you have to have the right people running the organisation and those people need to have the right skills and background, but they also need to be patient about what they're doing and they need to know why they are doing and what they are doing. The worst thing is to advertise for people, bringing them from the outside, I wouldn't do that. It needs to come from the grassroots.

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Paul Bogen

Paul Bogen

Consultant, project manager, researcher, fundraiser, writer and trainer

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