In December 2014, the City of Cape Town passed the Arts, Culture and Creative Industries Policy, after just over a decade without a cultural policy. Zayd Minty, of Creative City South, was the Manager of the department at the time, responsible for its development. This piece tells the story about the making of the policy and its current status, from his perspective.
A New Mandate
The City of Cape Town established a directorate for Tourism, Events and Marketing in 2011, mandating it to position the city globally and improve its visitor economy. The Directorate included a series of major venues (the Cape Town and the Athlone Stadia, the Good Hope Centre, and the City Hall) the city's World Design Capital 2014 team, and the Arts and Culture Department. The three pressing challenges it chose to address, under its new executive director (ED) Anton Groenewald, were to find a solution for Cape Town' World Cup 2010 Stadium (which was costing R10 million a month to maintain with very few events to show for it), secondly, to increase the number of events in the city, and thirdly, to develop Cape Town's visitor brand.
Arts and Culture was one of the smaller aspects of the directorate. The department had a total budget of R40 million: included in this was R16million for projects and grants, and the salary of 30 staff positions (of which two thirds were filled, with 10 newly created posts - at that point unfilled). This in total made up just under 0.3% of the total city budget The department had recently been upgraded from a unit and moved from the Social Development department where it had been a minor element from the early 2000s. I was employed to fill the senior post of Manager. I had been with Cape Town Partnership, a non profit largely attached to the municipality working on strategic urban issues, where I developed the Creative Cape Town project and initiated the World Design Capital bid, writing the winning bid book. Previously I'd done research on Cape Town as a cultural city for the Isandla Institute and had run two of the City's One City Festivals - then a project of the municipality. This background and my work as a cultural manager from 1993, meant I was well acquainted with the dynamics of Cape Town's cultural ecosystem and both regional and local government.
One of the key scorecards of my job for that financial year was to develop an Arts and Culture policy and there was a great deal of pressure to complete it quickly. This proved to be an impossible task to deliver that year for a number of reasons.
First, there were broad institutional issues. The ED was committed to building a strong team out of his senior staff, a number of whom were new to government, while simultaneously trying to maneuver the directorate through very complex political waters. At a very early stage the directorate was under regular internal attack, including two unsubstantiated forensic audits. This would lead to the seemingly frustrated, Mayoral Committee member responsible for the Directorate, Grant Pascoe, defecting from the ruling Democratic Party in early 2014, adding to the Directorates difficulties.
Second the ED wanted to drive an agenda of attracting/incentivizing events to fill the events calendar outside of the traditional summer "season". These included arts related events. The ED's broader vision for the arts and culture department was to "raise its bar" and for it to play more of a strategic role, including "thought leadership".
Third there were departmental change issues. I was inheriting a department which had had little attention for some time. It was mainly running workshops for young people, putting on four concerts a year in poor areas, running a modest grants program and had 8 cultural centers, 3 of which were functionally inoperable, and one was in a dire state, functioning largely as a tourist trap. The Department had little contact with the broader cultural community, and few strategic partnerships. It had not had a senior staff member for a number of years and was in need of some reshaping to meet the new demands. The cultural policy thus had to straddle the past work and at the same time respond to a developing new role for the department.
Because of the new mandate of the Directorate, which later took on the Economic Development portfolio of the city, the policy was shifted from being an Arts and Culture Policy to being an Arts, Culture and Creative Industries Policy (ACCIP). This spoke in addition to a key strategy of the national Department of Arts and Culture to further the creative industry through its Mzansi Golden Economy program. A key emphasis of the latter was to put mechanisms in place to further economic development and job creation drawing on culture.
Developing the policy
The policy was developed in three ways. First the old Arts and Culture policy was assessed against the work of the department to date - the old policy was used as a key template for the new one. Second a series of research initiatives were embarked on: the phase 1 of a cultural mapping project of the city, an evaluation of the departments cultural infrastructure work, research to develop the public art management framework (also on the scorecard) as well as research to inform the policy itself. Third, the department began engaging more actively with the cultural sector. This included the establishment of working groups around events and cultural promotion, and the department additionally started an annual Arts and Culture Indaba which brought together stakeholders. The latter was used in the first year to surface new issues for the policy and in the second to test a draft of the policy.
In addition, I began internal networking in order to get an understanding of how other parts of the city used culture, this included work done in spatial planning, heritage, libraries, facilities and recreation, all of whom sat in different directorates. We recognised over the process that as a department we were only providing an aspect of the broader cultural services of the city, and there was an opportunity to optimize the broader city service. Thus the policy that finally developed, was not one just for our department, but spoke to all the different aspects of the city's work in culture. To make this aspect real, the proposal of a transversal internal body, which included all departments in the city working culture in some form, meeting quarterly, was key. The body was convened once in late 2015.
It was a steep learning curve doing the policy - I had no experience working in government. I had to build an understanding of systems, legislation and form an internal network, while at the same time hiring new staff to fill the vacant posts (or potentially loose the budget in the next cycle). I recognized that while I had inherited a committed small team of staff (bar a few challenges), the majority of the staff had learnt about culture while on the job, with only three with any formal education in the cultural sector. When we finally brought on new staff, we prioritised personnel with cultural experience to ensure we had a team with broad working experience in cultural making or management. The downside was that most of the new high level staff had no government experience and, like myself, had to learn fast and hard. In order to get maximum input from the old and new staff and to draw the learnings from them towards making of the policy and furthering its implementation, team building and staff development was critical.
In an ideal world, I would have lobbied harder to delay the policy delivery, and planned the research we had to work with better, prioritising completing the cultural mapping using a tender. However despite it all, much of the policy was founded on an evidence base that was sound. The policy was conceived as an iterative one, to be evaluated annually with new data, through engagement with the sector and adjusted through the legal processes that governed policy development.
All policies of local government go through vigorous oversight processes. The policy had two iterations and both times went through a public participation process (this was in addition to the Indaba), and after every change went through an internal process. The latter was to check legal compliance and was, in addition, heavily scrutinised by the Strategic Policy Unit to ensure it spoke to the rest of the policy frameworks of the City. Lastly it was subject to political oversight, first through a Portfolio Committee (a multi-party body made up of councillors, reflecting the proportional makeup of Council), before it went to Council for final ratification in December 2014 .
The Policy's Key Intent?
The key policy intent was position the department as an enabling hub, coordinating between internal departments, provincial government stakeholders and those external to government in the cultural sector. Thus the two central elements in the implementation plan was the development of the external and internal governance bodies within a year of the policy being established. By developing a participatory governance approach the policy built on the learnings of 1996 policy as well as on emerging best practise drawn from local cultural policies around the world. This relational approach to policy implementation and oversight was meant to work with emergent issues, since we recognized as a department we had to be able to respond to sector and context shifts. For these reasons too, research was identified as a critical future role of the department. Extensive cultural mapping produced by the department was planned to be transferred to the City's GIS system, this was to be made public so that the cultural sector could draw on it for neighbourhood cultural planning processes. This would have enabled a greater democratic use of publicly funded data collection.
A second big feature of the policy was a focus on cultural infrastructure. We had identified through that the IDP office (the Integrated Development Plan which all South African municipalities need to deliver), that the city was receiving a number of requests to provide community arts or heritage centers. This demand was echoed during the policy's public participation period. Drawing on extensive research, as well as consultation with art centers in our portfolio, a Cultural Spaces unit was set up and new staff employed to meet the new role.
A Lead Project
One of our key flagship projects to deliver on the Cultural Spaces program was the Langa Cultural Precinct initiative. This included a revamp of the Precinct's Guga S'thebe arts centre, the only active facility we had in a marginalised community. This had been built as part of a challenged RDP Community Arts centre programme, opened in 2000. During the development of the Langa project, a set of German universities designed, and built from scratch a new theatre which it donated to the arts center to provide a missing element - a dedicated covered space for performance. The precinct included the Langa Museum as well as the Post Office Museum. All three spaces, were located in complex of public space that included a park and a community hall. The elements of the precinct were working poorly at the time we started the initiative and the centre was functioning as a tourist trap rather than a space for cultural development We began an extensive process of consultation which included a three year plan to turn all spaces around, beginning during the World Design Capital 2014 year, ensuring that the precinct was developmental as well as semi sustainable.
The Cultural Spaces program took an innovative approach to managing space, which was written about in a previous blog. This approach was to ensure the centre was in a good shape physically without defects, and with a good security system in place - thereafter it was to be offered via a public bidding process, to an appropriate functioning cultural non profit with at least three years in existence, and with the ability to run it semi-sustainably (ie without drawing on local government for operating costs). As part of the 2016/17 business plan two of the centres which were not functioning, one in Woodstock and another in Goodwood, were meant to be offered to the public. The department was actively looking to add new centres and was in discussion to absorb the Lookout Hill facility in Khayelitsha into its Cultural Spaces program
Cultural Rights at its Core
At the core of the new cultural policy is Cultural Rights. In other words ensuring that people in communities have access to culture and can participate in activities of their own selection. As such cultural rights are strongly connected to and speak to human rights and have an emphasis on social justice. In its introduction, the 2014 cultural policy stresses the complex story of Cape Town as one of division - a critical feature of its forward thinking was to bring to focus a greater emphasis on inter cultural work to bridge this divide. It is in the furtherance of this aspect that participatory governance (drawing especially on the cultural sector as a key player in delivering the policy), and the provision of under-utilised city owned buildings for cultural centres were prioritised. The latter provided the space from which cultural activity as decided by the public could be fostered. Thus it enabled a bottom up flowering of activity rather than one determined by government. In this way service provision was less about the programmatic provision of workshops and or the delivery of city conceived events, and more about creating an enabling context that allowed citizens to activate their voice according to their own choosing in line with human rights.
A final aspect of the policy was a focus on Public Life. This too was central to the cultural rights notion allowing a program to be developed to further creative expression and to give voice to citizens in various ways in the public sphere. This was conceptualised beyond monuments and public art, but was shaped initially around the city's extensive collection of such. A detailed catalogue of all the city's public art and monuments was commissioned. Part of the Public Life agenda, and alongside the development of the policy, a public art management framework was developed. This program will be written about in a later blog.
The Policy Past Its Adoption
In an online article, post ratification of the ACCIP by council, key cultural leaders commented on the policy, speaking to its strengths and potential challenges. Prophetically, cultural activist and cultural policy expert, Mike Van Graan raised the perennial South African government challenge of implementation glitches and non delivery.
In mid 2015, the ED resigned. The Tourism Events and Marketing Directorate was first unbundled and later dismantled, and the Arts and Culture department was absorbed back into the Social Development Directorate. This took place shortly before a bruising restructure within local government in mid 2016. For a number of internal issues, I left before the end of the financial year, in February 2016, shortly before the department was demoted to a unit. After my depart, all key elements of the implementation plan, as well as the planned follow through on the Langa Cultural Precinct project, and the broader Cultural Spaces program were not actioned. The department thereafter reverted back to being programmatically focused rather than being centred around enablement. This was a decision taken wholly within the administration, at the level of the Directorate, and did not muster public participation, nor go through a political oversight process. When asked for comment, the City suggested the 2014 policy is due for review in the 2018/19 financial year.
However two key projects initiated during the policy making period were delivered on - the City joined UNESCO as a Creative City of Design, as well as becoming a member of The World Cities Culture Forum. In addition, the policy was put forward for an award and was commended by the UCLG Agenda 21 for Culture Commitee, who identified it as case of good practise.