Does Culture Matter?

That was my starting point for the week, at a debate organised by Queen Mary College in Mile End Road. The debate itself was self-contented and surface, despite some interesting expositions from Keith Khan , Cressida Hubbard of Artangel, Stella Hall and Stefano Harney. Brian McMaster had been touted but failed to appear.


But the question came home in chats over wine in myriad settings during the week, with people who feel swamped by their family, income and networking needs, to the point where their own creativity is quashed. It is proven – indeed we know it inside ourselves – that being able to exercise one’s own creativity promotes self-worth and fulfillment, quite apart from any question of fame and fortune. In times of recession, keeping channels to creative activity open and well plumped could be a lifeline for the Britain’s morale and ability to launch out of the hard times. To boost resistance to viruses, eat well and exercise; for resistance to the kind of low spirits that put off friends and employers alike, keep up your esteem and self-worth through creativity.


A quote from AS Byatt in an interview in the Guardian on Saturday puts this much better: “I think of writing simply in terms of pleasure. It’s the most important thing in my life, making things. Much as I love my husband and my children, I love them only because I am the person who makes these things … who I am, is the person that has the project of making a thing … And because that person does that all the time, that person is able to love all these people.”


The installation artist Rachel Howfield is exploring similar ideas in her blog as part of an ACE-supported period of re-focusing on her creative practice.