Spirit of the age?

Photos@Flickr (tag: Black Cloud Bristol)

Some wealthy and painfully middle class hippies – sorry, “artists” – built a big shed (surely a “remarkable new temporary structure? Ed), cheerfully called The Black Cloud, in Victoria Park yesterday.

So locals now have a weird state-sponsored miserabilist temple of environmental doom in their kids’ local park for the summer holidays. Yipee! Or should that be Hippy?

Now first up, if a bunch of hippies want to build a shed in the middle of Victoria Park so they can invite their mates in to talk anti-modern claptrap about the environment and the end of the world they’re quite welcome to … If it’s at their own expense.

But why should we pay for it? And if we do have to fork out in the name of cultural improvement for all, why can’t the money at least be spent on people who aren’t fringe loonies with a fruitcake agenda?

Because rest assured, the people behind this – “internationally acclaimed artists Heather and Ivan Morison” – are fringe loonies.

This becomes immediately apparent if you leaf your way through any of the three leaflets, available at the park yesterday, published to accompany their shed building enterprise. Presumably because expending as many resources as possible explaining your urgent environmental message is OK then?

And what do these two artists have to say for themselves?

The Morisons’ art practice involves activities as diverse as gardening, kite flying, science fiction writing, anthropology, skywriting and for the past four years, the development of an arboretum in Wales.

Er … Pseuds’ Corner anyone?

Really, does anyone, anywhere, outside the slightly odd public sector environments of UWE and the council – who are funding these people – take a couple of wealthy hippies flying kites as “art practice” seriously?

Thought not.

But let’s move on to glean what we can about the structure of their structure from their voluminous publicity. Not surprisingly it’s mainly high-end dippy hippy drivel that leaves no cliché unturned:

The artists chose the shabono, a circular structure built by the Yanomamo Amer-Indians from the Amazon, as a starting point for the oval form of The Black Cloud.

Well you would wouldn’t you? Because if you’re looking to build a shelter from apocalyptic environmental catastrophe, you’d immediately turn your back on your own culture that can produce nuclear bomb proof shelters and instead consult the collective wisdom of an obscure South American indigenous tribe.

After all, there’s so much we can learn from them isn’t there maaaan?

But perhaps it’s best not to dwell too much on the finer detail of high-art apocalyptic shed building. Although you might like this one: the shed, we’re told, “is built entirely from timber harvested from the artists’ Welsh arboretum.”

Fabulous darling! Do you get a free arboretum with every council flat in Wales these days then? Possibly not, as it doesn’t sound like our struggling artists are working out of a Swansea estate:

For the last two years, they have been creating a series of ‘Escape Vehicles’. These are buildings, vehicles and structures, which explore the human desire to escape the modern world along with our interest in imaging (sic) future catastrophes

Really? I must have missed this headlong rush of the masses to escape the hell of longevity, nourishment, relative wealth, dental anaesthetic, foreign travel, immunisation, central heating and the rest of the trappings of the modern world.

Are Heather and Ivan maybe mistaking their and their privileged mates’ slightly off-the-wall desires with everyone else’s?

Who knows? Not sure Heather and Ivan do actually. Because does this desperate desire to escape the modern world only kick-in once Heather and Ivan have cleared their shed building site of the heavy machinery and power tools they used to build it in the first place?

I think we should be told. And you might well be if you’re in their Guardian reading target market and fancy spending a few hours listening to Heather and Ivan and friends in their new shed.

Get down to Victoria Park on 5 September for their ‘How to Prosper During the Coming Bad Years’ (get a lucrative public art commission? Ed.) workshop exploring nothing less than “the future of humanity” with Heather, Ivan, science fiction writers, future thinkers and environmental campaigners.

Can you imagine?

Personally I think I’ll be going down the pub and watching the football instead.

This entry was posted in Bristol, Bristol South, Culture, Environment, Global warming, Windmill Hill and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

122 Responses to Spirit of the age?

  1. chris hutt says:

    Now where have I seen this before? Ah yes, over the past few weeks this ‘shed’ has been manufactured, using the latest technology of course, in a modern steel ‘shed’ (old diving Centre) behind the McArthur building near the SS Great Britain.

    Work included using a powerful propane burner to char the surface of the wood to create that authentic post-apocalyptic effect, whilst simultaneously releasing copious amounts of Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere so helping bring about said apocalypse.

    I think I can see why the Council and UWE should want to fund this from our taxes. Both like to present themselves as some sort of authority on environmental issues, but anyone with a sound understanding of environmental issues can instantly see what total bullshit those presentations are.

    Ergo, it is in the interests of the Council and UWE to keep as many of us as possible in a state of ignorance over basic environmental issues. Bamboozling us with a lot of muddled clap trap, as thoughtfully provided by our artisitic duo, fits the bill excellently.

  2. Driveldetector says:

    What a load of sneering drivel! Your article has the same tone as the stuff posted by bnp supporters.
    I wonder what you hope to achieve with your football down the pub -maybe to prove to your mates how working class you are?
    Yeah go on and watch a load of overpaid tossers kicking a ball around and see what that does to provoke thought about the environment.
    Anyway, what makes you assume these people are self-serving doom-mongers I wonder?
    You may be right. But I will go along and find out for myself.

  3. Earlybird says:

    If you had spent less time reading the leaflet and more time actually watching what was going on you would have seen what I saw: dozens of local residents working very hard to build the Black Cloud and hundreds more enjoying the live music, sunshine and atmosphere of the day. I live nearby and am very proud that a small park in south Bristol can put on an event like this.

  4. atlanticjaxx says:

    Fair piece,
    although years of football obsession will do little good trust me..
    If theres one thing about Bristol that gives me the utter shits, its the non-stop drivel spouted by idiot hippies who are worse brutes than they will ever know or understand.. Come and and do it in Poets Park where communities need real help..

  5. thebristolblogger says:

    Anyone know how we might calculate the carbon footprint of our environmental shed?

  6. Malcom Wright-Pratt says:

    Can I be the first person to mention ‘The M0dern Parents’ from Viz please. John Fardell couldn’t make it up!

  7. Dormouse says:

    According to the Post report “The pavilion is made up of triangular timber panels taken from the artists’ Welsh arboretum. It has a central area for performances and discussions and will remain on site until December 6. Bristol City Council will then be given the option of buying it so it can remain in place.”

    So the main focus of the next four months is going to be persuading people to pressurise Bristol City Council to buy it (with our money of course) in December. Then we’ll also have to pay for the maintenance of a structure which is manifestly only suitable for temportary use. Typical of the Council to allow themselves to be manoeuvred into such a poor negotiating position.

  8. The Bristol Blogger says:

    i. Is it worth anything?

    ii. If it’s a commercial enterprise are they being charged a commercial rate of rent for using our land?

  9. chris hutt says:

    “Is it worth anything?”

    Intrinsically, no. In fact it’s a liability, so has negative value. But value is determined by supply and demand.

    On supply, the (con) artists have secured for themselves a position as monopoly supplier by having their product, and their product alone, already located in the market place.

    All they need do now is whip up popular demand, based on total ignorance of the costs (are we told how much this is costing us, or what the environmental costs are? Of course not).

    Next step – Council is forced to buy and maintain this heap of junk at our expense. Nice one con artists.

  10. Martyn says:

    If BCC can allow a protocabin to be left abandoned at Snuff Mills (a popular woodland and wildlife haven lying within a Conservation Area) it wouldn’t surprise me if they allowed Victoria Park to be turned into a wood yard.

    Seriously, isn’t it good the park is being used for something different and that people get the chance to hear a variety of perspectives on the future? It’s good people are encouraged to do outdoor activities, like kite flying, otherwise the big corporations continue to profit from people sitting indoors playing computer stations.

    On an even more serious note, BCC and other arts bodies should be funding our long lost and well loved community event – Ashton Court!

  11. badnewswade says:

    The wierd thing is, I live in spitting distance of Victoria Park and I’ve never heard of this thing. Then again I do live in a Council estate so presumably am not in the intented “target market” of guilt-ridden yuppies, eco-capitalists and other bourgeois types. Will check it out sooner or later, with a reasonably open mind I might add.

    I hope they don’t buy the thing as it is liable to simply turn into a chav shelter, allowing criminal types and other bad heads to hang around in the park even in poor weather. Then again, maybe the Council plan to show off their caring credentials by using it as a homeless shelter. Who can tell…

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  13. Rob says:

    You can never please all of the people all of the time. I was there on Saturday (along with quite a few others) and everyone seemed to be enjoying the open space and the spectacle of the structure being assembled. I’m not too sure about the middle class hippy reference – I suspect that could be levelled at most artists simply by reading their promotional material. After all, if they said ‘We are building a barn’ it wouldn’t sound very interesting would it?

    I spoke to a lot of people on Saturday – some liked the Black Cloud and others didn’t. It seems to be generating quite a bit of comment and isn’t that what art is all about?

  14. Paul Smith says:

    Chris Hutt I notice a contradiction

    You say the wooden structure is scheduled to stay in place until December 6th. I think there are special activities involving wooden structures a month earlier

  15. thebristolblogger says:

    if they said ‘We are building a barn’ it wouldn’t sound very interesting would it?

    I really can’t see why they can’t say that. It sounds far more interesting and down to earth to me than the pseudo-intellectual waffle they’ve chosen to use.

    It seems to be generating quite a bit of comment and isn’t that what art is all about?

    No it isn’t. This blog has created quite a bit of comment but it’s not a work of art.

    I could even throw some clever-arsed background in if you like – the title’s a reference to Hazlitt and it’s informed by the work of Gramsci – and it’s still not a work of art.

    Chris hits the nail on the head in his first post when he says the Black Cloud “is a lot of muddled clap trap”.

    Art, you see, has internal coherence this nonsense utterly lacks.

    There’s a world of difference for instance between, say,t he work of John Keats and this blog that no amount of public funding, intellectual waffle, the support of the local university, public participation, public debate or liberal environmental concern can ever overcome.

    The Black Cloud not only fails miserably environmentally, because of that it also fails artistically.

    Paul –

    is the Labour PPC for Bristol West suggesting we burn the Black Cloud?

  16. chris hutt says:

    Rob “I was there on Saturday and everyone seemed to be enjoying the open space and the spectacle of the structure being assembled.”

    Don’t people normally enjoy the open space in Victoria Park? I thought that was the whole point of parks. As for the spectacle, yes, people tend to stop and observe a spectacle, until such time as they’re asked to pay for it when they start to exercise some discretion.

    In this case we are being forced to pay for it through taxes whether we like it or not. If we then look on at the spectacle you think that signifies approval of the expenditure of our money? It doesn’t.

    If you really want to know what people think of it, tell people how much it is costing them. Divide the total public subsidy by the small number of people who interact with it in some way, then ask them whether they’re happy to be paying so much for it, or whether they would prefer to have their money back.

  17. badnewswade says:

    That would seem to be the nub of it. Bristol’s essential services, particularly social services are often cut in the face of “budgetary needs” and who is suprised when our Robin-Hood-in-reverse council keep coming up with pointless junkets like this?

  18. Earlybird says:

    Could someone explain the ‘peseudo-intellectual waffle’ about Hazlitt and Gramsci and ‘internal coherence’. I’m just a simple girl who went to a great event on Saturday and look forward to visiting this new addition to my local park. Thanks to all those who made it possible, including, of course, all council tax payers.

    As for value for money, it’s a shame that this blogger thinks the value of anything can be reduced to a simple formula of dividing a cost by the numbers of people who directly benefit. Is this what they mean by ‘internal coherence’?

  19. chris hutt says:

    Earlybird, if you think this was value for money, could you let us know how much it costs? No, you don’t know either, do you.

    Doesn’t it occur to you that the unwillingness of the council/UWE to let us know how much of our money they spend on these things is telling?

    I’ve no doubt that the spectacle of the erection of shed was engaging for many people, but does that justif any public expense? Or do you think it vulgar to ask how much of our money it’s costing?

  20. thebristolblogger says:

    It’s nice to see Early Bird has joined the consensus that the shed is environmentally destructive and has no artistic merit. Instead it’s now justified on the basis that it made for a great event.

    As I say in the third para of the post if people want to do these sort of things why can’t they pay rather than us?

    And, as Chris asks, how much did we pay for this event.

    Oh and internal coherence sets a work of art apart from a stupid pile of junk. There is a difference. It’s odd that those in favour of this ‘art’ don’t seem to know what art is.

  21. well I had fun. And I live on a council estate. says:

    Caught in the act – BB and Chris discuss art and community events:

    http://pandemiclabs.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/03/waldorf-and-stadler.jpg

  22. chris hutt says:

    “Well I had fun” so what are you trying to say? That the Council can tax and spend to their hearts’ content as long as you have fun from time to time? Bread and Circuses?

    Sorry to shock you, but don’t you think there might be more to life than having fun? Perhaps we have responsibilities to others and to the economic and ecological systems that sustain us? Perhaps we should expect not to be lied to and patronised by the council? Perhaps they should tell us how much of our money this is costing?

  23. well I had fun. And I live on a council estate. says:

    I fear that you are funnelling your anger about many other things that ‘the Council’ does onto one event that may not be as worthy of your ire as you feel it is. That’s all. Easy target, anyone?

    And yes, of course life is about more than fun. But you wouldn’t deny that fun is part of life, surely? Maybe you should try having some, as then you might relax a little and come across as less highly strung in your online writings?

  24. Other says:

    Yes I’m sure people enjoy the open space of the park and maybe they will enjoy it more now they have something else to look at. Then again maybe they won’t. Sometimes you like a piece of art sometimes you don’t, sometimes you ‘get it’ and sometimes you don’t.

    I decide what I consider to be art and whether I like it or not and so, obviously, can everyone else. I don’t know anything about Hazlitt or internal coherence I’m afraid but then again I don’t really need to do I?

    As for the funding argument it’s a tricky one. Nobody likes to have to pay for things they don’t want but I guess that’s why we have elected bodies, so that they can consider proposals and take the right (?) decisions on our behalf. Chris over to you ……….

  25. The Bristol Blogger says:

    I don’t know anything about Hazlitt or internal coherence I’m afraid but then again I don’t really need to do I?

    Dunno. But I’d have thought it might be useful if you understood the difference between something that fucks up the environment and something that doesn’t.

    That way you won’t spend your life being ripped off by wealthy conmen.

  26. Rob says:

    I thought we were talking about what art is and is not rather than what damages the environment?

    You really think that the artists are wealthy conmen and they have ripped me (and you presumably) off? Very amusing.

  27. Anon says:

    “It seems to be generating quite a bit of comment and isn’t that what art is all about?”
    No it isn’t

    “No it isn’t. This blog has created quite a bit of comment but it’s not a work of art.”
    Oh dear, fatally flawed “logic” – the original statement said nothing about art being the only thing that might prompt quite a bit of comment.

  28. Earlybird says:

    Could you explain in what way the Black Cloud fucks up the environment any more than any other equivalent object or project? It is made of wood from wales (not china). It used almost all local paid and volunteer labour. Yes, there were fork lift trucks used and they were not solar powered, so I guess that is one factor to consider. The wood is preserved and protected by scorching it, not by using chemical preservatives. Apparently (as chris hutt tells us) the scorching was done using a blow torch, not a natural process, but I imagine this was to cut down costs.

    All building projects use up energy. In this case I think the energy used is worth it.

    I’m guessing here, but what if great and unusual projects happen more and more on our doorstep and not just further afield in London, we might be encouraged to stay in Bristol and enjoy what is nearby and not travel as much.

    What is the carbon footprint of the Banksy show? 1000s of people driving (even flying) in to see it must add up.

  29. Lizzie R says:

    Ooooh – just found this site – it’s k=just like the daily Mail. Anti public sector, anti-art, anti hippy. Now where do I find Peter Hitchens frothing at the mouth about single mothers??

  30. chris hutt says:

    EB “The wood is preserved and protected by scorching it, not by using chemical preservatives. Apparently (as chris hutt tells us) the scorching was done using a blow torch, not a natural process, but I imagine this was to cut down costs.”

    After blow torching the wood was then painted with something liquid, a preservative presumably.

    EB, don’t you think it odd that the promoters of this project are so reticent? They won’t tell us what it’s costing us, or what the manufacturing process is, or what the environmental impact is. What do you think they have to hide?

  31. Paul Smith says:

    of all the things to be angry about in the world – this does not seem to rate the excitement being generated on this site

  32. thebristolblogger says:

    Could you explain in what way the Black Cloud fucks up the environment any more than any other equivalent object or project?

    What are you calling an equivalent object or project?

    I’m judging it by the criteria it sets itself, which is based:

    “on a month-long research visit to Bristol to investigate environmental issues”

    and:

    “Situations [i]s part of the Arts & Ecology programme at the RSA (The Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) in association with the Gulbenkian Foundation.

    Arts & Ecology is a programme supporting the work of the arts in examining and addressing environmental concerns in an international arena.”

    You can hardly blame people for “examining and addressing environmental concerns” in the work then can you? Isn’t that what it’s about?

    What is the carbon footprint of the Banksy show? 1000s of people driving (even flying) in to see it must add up.

    Probably. But Banksy’s smart enough not to make grandiose claims (environmental or otherwise) that his work can’t live up to.

    Lizzie – I’m quite happy to be compared to the Daily Mail. If you bothered to read it rather than sneer at it you would know – that for all its faults – it consistently contains some of the best journalism in this country. Their work on Stephen Lawrence and shaken baby syndrome comes immediately to mind.

    Anyway, from what I can see, this blog seems to be the only place that has bothered to look closely and say anything original about this Black Cloud. The arts press just seem to have swallowed the press release whole and published it as indisputable fact.

    If the the price of not being a passive consumer is comparisons to the Daily Mail, I’ll take it.

  33. Lizzie R says:

    Daily Mail – fine example of journalism. Bloody hell, you really mean it!

  34. Martin says:

    To Lizzie

    I don’t always agree with BB – I think he’s overly obsessed with the World Cup, for example – but he’s right about the Daily Mail. The problem with all the sneering lefties is that if the journalism they read isn’t biased to their views then it’s dismissed as some kind of fascist rant. People like you, Elizabeth (I bet you hate that) bleat on about ‘balance’ and ‘proper journalism’ when all you really want is Socialist Worker rubbish which is, if anything, even more biased. BB is right to start a debate on what – in my view – is the classic ’emperor’s new clothes’ attitude to art. In other words, if the trendies say it’s great, then heaven help anyone who disagrees … “you just don’t understand modern art, darling”. If in doubt, listen to the saps who are falling at the feet of Banksy. I went to the exhibition, I quite liked it, but does it make sharper social commentary than, say, Matt in the Telegraph? I for one doubt it.
    Pass the houmous.

  35. Earlybird says:

    BB you still haven’t explained why the Black Cloud fucks up the environment in any way other than using machinery and technology to aid in making the work. I havn’t read anything by the artists that claims the Black Cloud is carbon neutral or eco-friendly or sustainable or any of those other claims made so often by so many.

    and I think you might have misunderstood Lizzie’s comparison with the Daily Mail. I don’t think she was comparing your style of journalism with that paper’s campaigning on issues of justice that spring into your mind, but rather the paper’s tendency to be spiteful, hypoctical and narrow-minded.

    Chris Hutt seems to think the organsiers have something to hide? What did the orgaisers say when he asked them his questions? What part of their answer was he not happy with? It doesn’t seem to me they have anything to hide. I was there watching it go up, along with 100s of others on Saturday; an open and transparent process, surely?

  36. chris hutt says:

    EB “Chris Hutt seems to think the organsiers have something to hide? What did the orgaisers say when he asked them his questions? What part of their answer was he not happy with? It doesn’t seem to me they have anything to hide.”

    The “organisers” have ignored the questions, as one can see by their failure to respond here and as one would expect. They are arrogant and see no reason why they should have to account for their expenditure of public funds to the philistine public who obviously don’t “understand” their art.

    EB, you say BB has not answered one of your points, but you have ignored a raft of questions addressed to you in my comments above. You fail to do what you ask others to do.

    Your best rebuttal of the criticisms here seems to be to liken the critics to the Daily Mail. You seem to think that doing that makes it unnecessary for you to address the points made or answer the questions asked.

    Perhaps you think we should embrace every charlatan and snake oil salesman who wafts up spouting some green claptrap, showering them with blank cheques (you seem completely unconcerned about how much this piece of art might be costing us).

    Well some of us have been knocking around for long enough to be wise to the ways of the world. There is no end to the stream of shysters out to exploit the latest fads in public expenditure. We all need to wise up and start asking some difficult questions, like what does it cost, for starters.

  37. thebristolblogger says:

    It’s quite apparent nobody knows the cost of the shed.

    There’s some indication of the building techniques in the Design and Method Statements of the planning app:

    http://www.ukplanning.com/ukp/showCaseFile.do;jsessionid=A0FB6DB5DCE186B77BF986A6DC1D1CBB.wam1?action=show&appType=planning%20folder&appNumber=09/01743/F

    Also note the fast-tracked planning app …

  38. chris hutt says:

    Just a background detail to attest to the green credentials of these “artists” – “The Morisons’ art practice involves activities as diverse as ……sky writing….”

    Yes, that’s “sky writing” as in flying around in a polluting aeroplane for no good reason other than to emit some polluting smoke to leave an ephemeral mark in the air.

    Here’s some more bullshit from the artists

    “The structure has been designed in readiness for a future boiling Bristol, baked dry by a relentless burning sun. The Black Cloud is informed by vernacular architecture built to withstand extreme environmental conditions, with the Yakisugi treatment of the timbers creating a scorched, protective shield.”

    But if you check out this “Yakisugu” treatment, here for example – http://pursuingwabi.com/2007/11/05/shou-sugi-ban/ – it is clearly a more complex process than the slap-dash superficial scorching that I witnessed taking place. We’re not even getting the full Yakisugu!

  39. thebristolblogger says:

    The Morison’s also seem to spend their time jetting around the world to make their ‘edgy’ environmental statements.

  40. Rosso Verde says:

    Haven’t visited this thing, so I have no opinion on the quality of the black shed thingy, but Blogger is right that it is a bizare use of public subsidy – especially where elsewhere budgets are being slashed. In Easton, they are cutting funding for english classes, largely used by the poorest, most needy in society and they spend our money on things like this!
    http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/educationplus/home/Don-t-cut-funding-English-lessons/article-1184422-detail/article.html

  41. Maria says:

    chris hutt // July 29, 2009 at 5:42 am

    Is this debate really worth contributing to, let alone at 5.42am? Chris Hutt and BB will never be wrong…those who think otherwise – disengage now!

  42. Jello says:

    Anyone failing to attend morning school prayer will be shot.

    The number one enemy of progress is questions. National security is more important than individual rights.

    Sports broadcasts will proceed as scheduled.

    Shut up, be happy, obey all orders without question.

    At last everything is done for you.”

  43. chris hutt says:

    Maria, you’ve exposed me.

    How can I possibly expect to be taken seriously if I’m awake before 6 am in the morning? Clearly my comments can now be safely ignored. No need to trouble yourself by engaging with the issues being discussed. What a relief that must be for you.

  44. chris hutt says:

    Actually Maria my post was made at 6.42 am. The clock for this site is still on GMT so it registers as 1 hour earlier. So it looks like you might have to take the post seriously after all.

    Seriously, why is it that there doesn’t appear to be a single person capable of putting forward a case for spending an undisclosed sum of public money on this wooden shed? Are all wanna-be artists devoid of intellectual faculties?

  45. Buzby says:

    “Seriously, why is it that there doesn’t appear to be a single person capable of putting forward a case for spending an undisclosed sum of public money on the Hourbike scheme? Are all cyclists devoid of intellectual faculties?”

    See how that works?

  46. chris hutt says:

    Good point Buzby. I should have said “are all supporters of this Black Cloud thing devoid of intellectual faculties?” Apologies to all those wanna-be artists who don’t support it.

  47. Maria says:

    Chris Hutt..I did not say your comments were not more or less valid due to the time of posting. Is your excessive blogging due to lack of work.

  48. chris hutt says:

    Rob “As for the funding argument it’s a tricky one. Nobody likes to have to pay for things they don’t want but I guess that’s why we have elected bodies, so that they can consider proposals and take the right (?) decisions on our behalf. Chris over to you ……….”

    Just noticed that point Rob. My main point is that we are entitled to know what our elected bodies spend our money on so that we can form an opinion about whther they are making prudent decisions on our behalf. But in this case, and many others, they will not disclose how much of our money is being spent. That I suggest is patronising and fundamentally undemocratic.

  49. Rob says:

    Chris – is that actually correct? Can’t you ask to see minutes and accounts from an elected body to see what decisons have been made (I thought you generally could)? Have you actually asked the groups in question (like the council)?

    I suspect that any projects like this have to jump through loads of approvals and all has to be documented and agreed. The people who agree it (at least some of them) will represent you and I and I guess if we don’t like what they approve we don’t elect them.

  50. organical says:

    I work with wood and can confirm that scorching timber to preserve it is a traditional method used in this country. Next time you put some fence posts in try scorching untreated timber instead of using nasty tannallised timber (the green coloured stuff impregnated with chemicals).
    Whether you like the design is a matter of opinion.
    I don’t suppose any artists give a monkeys what the BB’s opinions are.
    For me it’s an unusual shape and design-compare it to the dockside blocks of flats or any old tesco’s shed. Daily Mail people seem to have trouble with change or unusual.

  51. chris hutt says:

    Rob “Chris – is that actually correct? Can’t you ask to see minutes and accounts from an elected body to see what decisons have been made (I thought you generally could)? Have you actually asked the groups in question (like the council)?”

    It should not be necessary to have to take a day off work to carry out research every time the Council approve or propose public expenditure. Costs to the taxpayer should be given and prominently displayed as a matter of course in every case. I do not accept that the onus should be on us to have to research such basic information.

  52. thebristolblogger says:

    Rob, I think you’ll find the group behind this, UWE, aren’t an elected body like a council. So in common with most public bodies, they don’t have to show you minutes and accounts as a matter of course.

    Strangely, local government is probably the most open government we have in the UK – and you know how hard it is to get information out of them

    In terms of UWE they’re technically accountable to the Department of Education, who are accountable to the minister who is accountable to your MP who is accountable to you. This is a fairly circuitous route in terms of getting hard information. Although there are ways around it.

    Organical, I don’t work with wood so may not have such a keen eye for shape.

    But I have written in the past about the development of Bristol’s docks and one criticism I’ve never leveled at it is a lack of unusual shapes.

    There’s plenty of stuff like this:

    And this:

    In terms of Tesco, this kind of thing is quite common:

    I don’t see the use of interesting shape in modern buildings as in any way unusual. It’s vernacular and seems to me to be about conformity.

    If you’re looking for a genuine Bristol style then it’s probably reuse. The city’s most popular buildings are places like Watershed, Arnolfini, Tobacco Factory, the Industrial Museum etc.

    It’s strange our artist friends picked up on a style we tend to dislike in Bristol.

  53. organical says:

    Yes- a curvy roofed supermarket which may be good.. Trouble is I just see identikit square windows and preformed metal roof profiles.
    I’m not saying uproot the Dark Cloud and plonk it by the Watershed but maybe a few more artist designed buildings would be good to inspire thought and debate. The boring old dockside stuff is the product of my arch enemy the ‘auto-cad’ computer aided design and work-to- rule architects. The Dark Cloud like Pero’s bridge is the stuff of imagination and inspiration.

  54. Earlybird says:

    BB and CH still haven’t told me if they have approached the organisers directly. They know who they are, but from the above information don’t seem to be brave enough to ask them a direct question. But how will answers to thie questions help BB and CH form an opinion? What figure would they have in mind as a reasonable cost? Presumably less than £1 of public money as they don’t like the project.

    CH asks me to answer questions put to me. I think these are the questions he means:

    “Earlybird, if you think this was value for money, could you let us know how much it costs? No, you don’t know either, do you. ” You answered that one yourself and you are correct, I don’t know.

    “Doesn’t it occur to you that the unwillingness of the council/UWE to let us know how much of our money they spend on these things is telling? ” No, because they haven’t been unwilling. I haven’t asked them.

    “I’ve no doubt that the spectacle of the erection of shed was engaging for many people, but does that justif any public expense? Or do you think it vulgar to ask how much of our money it’s costing?” No I don’t think that justifies any expense, but it justifies some expense. No, I don’t think it is vulgar to ask the question.

    “EB, don’t you think it odd that the promoters of this project are so reticent? They won’t tell us what it’s costing us, or what the manufacturing process is, or what the environmental impact is. What do you think they have to hide?” Again, I am not sure they are reticent. Have they really refused to tell you. If this is the case this is unfortunate. Like you, I would be interested to know, really.

    I hope that answers the questions you put to me. Sorry my answers are a bit boring, I had hoped to spare you such mandance additions to an otherwise thrilling blog.

    BB. Now, could you answer the question that has been on my mind for some time now: Have you reset your computer clock?

    I’m not even that bothered about The Black Cloud, just CH and BB’s leaping on a project which seems to me to mean well and bring something a bit unusual to a park near me. I hope they find their answers so they can feel proud of what they have achieved. I’m following Maria’s suggestion to to disengage now.

  55. thebristolblogger says:

    Organical – with both architects and structural engineers involved I’d be surprised if CAD wasn’t used. Something else to find out?

    Earlybird – I’m endeavouring to find out more info’. The clock is an acknowledged WordPress fault.

  56. Ben says:

    “Seriously, why is it that there doesn’t appear to be a single person capable of putting forward a case for spending an undisclosed sum of public money on this wooden shed? Are all wanna-be artists devoid of intellectual faculties?”

    I guess a key point is whether or not you believe that the state has a role to play in art, cultural or community events?

    BB and Chris – do you think the state (be it central government, the Council or a university) should fund any kind of cultural activities, art or community events, at all?

    If you don’t then our ways of thinking are so far apart there seems little hope of being able to make a case for the Cloud (or the Woodlouse, as my son and his friends have started calling it.)

    If you do, then don’t you have to accept that sometimes the state will pay for something you just don’t like, or as in this case, seem to find really upsetting and infuriating?

  57. How much was this shed?

    i must have missed this somewhere

  58. Rob says:

    Chris “It should not be necessary to have to take a day off work to carry out research every time the Council approve or propose public expenditure.”

    So you haven’t asked and you can’t be arsed which is strange as it all seems to bother you so much. Maybe you should stand for election on the local council?

    BB – I’m sure they did use CAD, the structure is in a public place and I suspect that H&S would have dictated that it had to be structurally safe.
    I will be surprised if you get the full details of the project costs from the organsiers – as EB says, if it cost more than nothing you are going to slag it off. Suspect your best route will be to check out rules for funding and ask the appropriate groups who approved the funding (whoever they are).

  59. Dormouse says:

    Chris Hutt – It should not be necessary to have to take a day off work to carry out research every time the Council approve or propose public expenditure.

    You seem to take most days off to blog and debate, so surely you can fit a bit of extra research into your day!

  60. The Bristol Blogger says:

    I guess a key point is whether or not you believe that the state has a role to play in art, cultural or community events?

    I think it’s preferable in terms of an independent and healthy civil society and for democracy generally if the state doesn’t play any role.

    I also think it’s inevitable it will. And as it does, it needs to manage that process well; it needs to seek out value for money; it needs to be open and transparent; it needs to accept there’s a clear hierachy of need in terms of public resources (personally I find it hard to square expenditure on the Black Cloud when, as a city, we’re unable to fund properly the care of our vulnerable elderly) and it needs to make sure the money it’s spending is the responsibility of democratically elected figures, not shadowy and unelected arts bureaucrats, quangocrats, local government officers etc.

    At the very least if we don’t like what the state’s doing we should be able to get rid of those responsible.

  61. chris hutt says:

    Maria, I think you have made your position clear. Anyone who dares to question the undisclosed public funding of “art” should be ridiculed on whatever flimsy pretext.

    Rob “So you haven’t asked and you can’t be arsed which is strange as it all seems to bother you so much.”

    If you take the trouble to reread the comments on this blog post you will see that I have asked repeatedly and BB has also raised the issue. The promoters of the Black Cloud are obviously aware of this blog post and so aware of the questions being asked.

    But they choose to remain silent and not reveal the level of public funding because they do not condsider it to be any business of those outside their select circle of artists and arts administrators.

  62. Rob says:

    Chris – you seem to have missed the point. Posting questions on a blog is not asking the council, UWE or whoever else is involved for details of what has been approved and why.

    If you care so much I suggest you approach the approvers direct.

  63. chris hutt says:

    But you’re missing my point Rob, namely that the onus should not be on members of the public to make exhaustive enquiries (I’m still waiting for a reply to an email enquiry sent to the Council in April) but on the promoters to declare up front the amount of public funding or subsidy involved.

    I take it you disagree with that. Perhaps you can tell us why you think that those who receive public funds should not have to publicise the fact? Why should such basic imformation be made difficult for the public to access? What have the promoters got to hide?

  64. Rob says:

    I don’t think I’m missing the point at all Chris.

    Are you really suggesting that it should be the responsibility of any group (the City council, arts council, government body, Local authority etc. etc.) to advise everybody on project spend whether they want to know or not? How would that work in practice then – should they write to us all to make sure we are happy? Surely the process is that any group can request funding for anything from, say, the council who will consider the request and make a decision within their powers on our behalf as the elected body. Is everybody who requests funding supposed to ask you up front in future?

    Have you tried actually asking those who approve the funding rather than those who receive it?

  65. chris hutt says:

    Rob “How would that work in practice then”

    I presume you’re familiar with shopping. You expect to see the price of every product on sale displayed prominently, don’t you? You wouldn’t dream of buying anything substantial without checking the price, would you? You demand this as a matter of course from the private sector, but not it seems from the public sector.

    Why shouldn’t the same apply when we spend money collectively via council or other grants or subsidies? Why shouldn’t the Black Cloud include a display board giving basic details of what it’s supposed to be and how much it’s costing us? Would that be so difficult?

    There’s plenty of promotional material around promoting the Black Cloud, on the Internet and I presume via local leafleting. Why shouldn’t the price be included along with all the self-aggrandising waffle?

    The mechanism for informing the public is simple enough, but the will to do so is lacking. The promoters and their acolytes don’t want the public to know how much of their taxes they’re trousering, because if the public knew they might not be willing to continue with such largesse.

  66. Anon says:

    So get the private sector to run the state..problem solved!

  67. Rob says:

    Shopping? I’m not familiar with the term please do enlighten me.

  68. chris hutt says:

    Anything but address the real issues, eh Rob?

  69. chris hutt says:

    Steph the plumber “How much was this shed?

    i must have missed this somewhere”

    We all missed it, because the promoters won’t reveal the cost to us tax payers. They are perfectly well aware of this debate yet disdain to lower themselves to our level and answer the questions raised. That is the measure of their arrogance.

  70. Anon says:

    The reasoning that a group or public body knows of a debate taking place on the internet means they should engage is an interesting one. Imagine if the UK Government had to do that. There would be a Whitehall department the size of the DH to deal with the blogosphere. Now that would be a waste of money!

  71. Anon says:

    ps Get out and enjoy the sun..it doesnt shine often. I would but my kids are sick so have to stay in. So this is what happens when you get stuck indoors..you get involved in endless debate about trivial issues in comparison to other things in life! Blimey

  72. Rob says:

    Chris – frankly I give up, we can all tell you don’t like anybody spending on things you don’t approve of and it’s clear that this art project is one of them. The fact that you don’t know how much it cost is irrelevant – if the cost was £1m you would be outraged, if it was £20k you would be outraged, if it was £10 you would still be outraged.

    It’s not a lot of good to know how much something cost after it has already been built just so you can be outraged. Surely what someone like you needs to do is to prevent such a terrible waste of money in the future? To do that you need to lobby those who approve such things or get elected yourself. Good luck!

  73. chris hutt says:

    Rob, you are missing the point again. My opinion of the “art work” per se is of no concern or interest to anybody. I haven’t said whether I approve of it and I could hardly give an opinion without knowing the cost.

    This is about the right of those that pay for these things to know how much of their money is being spent on it (a principle which is not “a trivial issue” but fundamental to democracy).

    You seem determined to undermine that right by flagging up all sorts of spurious excuses, but you won’t actually say whether you acknowledge that right or not.

    Your argument that ‘it doesn’t matter now because it’s too late’ is laughable. On that basis no business would bother with accounts since they are retrospective and merely tell us what has already been spent or earned.

    And your parting shot, that if I want to change anything I should get elected, is just facile. Since when did elected representatives change anything? They spend their lives worrying about getting re-elected so can’t risk upsetting any vested interests.

    Finally Anon, it is perfectly reasonable to expect the promoters of the Black Cloud to account for themselves when legitimate questions are raised in a public forum. It’s not as though it’s being debated the length of the land and their resources couldn’t possibly stretch to responding. All it requires is one honest and open comment here. They know how much it’s costing the public but would rather we didn’t.

  74. Anon says:

    As I say go and enjoy the sun..life can be short sometimes!

  75. chris hutt says:

    Only sometimes Anon? You seem very keen to extinguish the debate with your patronising comments. Are you posting on behalf of an interested party perhaps?

  76. Anon says:

    Not patronising, just factual. Just keen for you to get out and enjoy the sun. Not an interested party..don’t even know where it is. There are bigger issues to spend a sunny day debating rather than this one..that is my point. But your world is small or at least it appears that way due to the kind of battles you take on.

  77. chris hutt says:

    Do you not see the underlying principles here? The Black Cloud, which I have to admit is aptly named, is just one small example of a widespread malaise, the presumption by the apparatchik class that they can take the people for granted, that we are so beneath them that we should just be jolly grateful for what pearls are tossed in our direction by our betters.

    And how dare we ask how they are spending our money! How could we possibly understand the value of art? We are all philistines who only look at the price tag, so best not let us see the price in the first place, for our own good of course. How ungrateful we are to those noble souls who take it upon themselves to care for our cultural welfare. No doubt they are worth every penny of our money, and that is what they will take if we let them.

  78. thebristolblogger says:

    At least we’re agreed the Black Cloud is trivial. So why spend tens of thousands on it?

    There’s now an FAQ pdf leaflet that seems to acknowledge some of the issues raised on here by the way:

    http://situations.org.uk/_uploaded_pdfs/BlackCloudFAQs_001.pdf

    You should note it is inaccurate when it says: “The project was also supported by three departments of Bristol City Council – the Sustainability Unit, Bristol Parks and the Urban Design Unit.”

    They are all the same department – City Development under my old friend David “The Bald” Bishop.

    Also, to the best of my knowledge, none of these City Development sections are grant making bodies. Everybody else has to apply for the limited arts project funding available from the council’s Single Project Fund:

    http://www.bristol.gov.uk/ccm/content/Leisure-Culture/Arts-Entertainment/single-project-fund.en

    If there’s any other arts organisations out there that have received money from parks, the SDU or the UDU can you let me know?

    Otherwise it looks like Mr Bishop has been doing special favours for people again.

  79. Martyn says:

    I wonder if the South American tribes had JCBs?

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/40820380@N04/3756035500/

  80. chris hutt says:

    Or generous (but secret) grants form publicly funded bodies to fund their 2 year fact finding missions when they go looking for a new camp site?

  81. Rob says:

    OK Chris so if I understand it correctly your key point is that you want to know how much of your money is being spent on projects like this by the ‘apparatchik class’. For the record I completely acknowledge the right to understand where our taxes are spent – I have no idea what councils etc. are required by law to divulge but you may do.

    My comments on it all being a bit late now, and that maybe you should seek election, were simply to try and point out that if you REALLY care about this sort of thing surely you have to and stop it before it happens? Your comment ‘when did elected representatives change anything?’ clearly misses the point – wasn’t it elected representatives who would have voted on this project and thererfore have changed something i.e. there is now a ‘shed’ in the park? If you were an elected rep yourself you would get to see the proposals, the costs, the benefits etc. and get to have your say. Who knows, you might even have such a good argument that people would listen and not ‘waste’ money. Isn’t that what democracy is? Get elected, represent the people and make informed decisions on their behalf. Remember though you can’t please everybody!

  82. chris hutt says:

    But which Party would have me? Even the Tories might not be able to stomach my free-market stuff.

  83. chris hutt says:

    Rob, it’s nice to know that you and others have finally agreed that the public have the right to know how much of their money is being spent on these things.

    It’s now been confirmed that the promoters are refusing to divulge that information.

  84. Rob says:

    Chris – look at this from the Arnolfini website – it’s outrageous!!!!

    “Many people don’t realise that Arnolfini is a charity that costs around £1.8million each year to run. Funding from Arts Council England and Bristol City Council currently provide around 50% of our costs but we must raise the rest.”

    You had better get straight on to them before they fritter away any more of your money. I wish you luck……….

  85. Ben says:

    Sorry for the delay in responding to your reply – it’s been a hectic week. Lots to catch up with here then!
    BB:
    “(personally I find it hard to square expenditure on the Black Cloud when, as a city, we’re unable to fund properly the care of our vulnerable elderly)”
    But the money spent on the Cloud was never going to be spent on care services – different budgets, as you well know – so conflating the two is a bit fatuous really.
    In the abstract, are there better things to spend money on than art, parks and community cultural events? – yes, of course, BUT in reality are there other things BCC spend money that I would rather see cut BEFORE they cut spending on art, parks and community cultural events – good god yes.
    For instance, as part of my Council Tax payments I have to contribute towards the running costs of the local police force. The price of policing inside the grounds at local football matches cost Bristol taxpayers a massive £135,200 (07/08) – this is only the costs for policing inside the ground. No figures are available for policing outside the ground, which is often where a majority of the police presence is required, and this is a cost which is solely borne by the taxpayer. I think we should stop subsidising football matches, which cause misery and hardship for local residents, and pay for elderly care instead. My mate has never used a library in his life – guess what he thinks we should cut. See how easy this is?
    In the week when BCC have agreed to pay a private firm (you know, one from the private sector that you and CH seem so enamoured by) £800,000 NOT to build us a hospital so that they won’t sue us for not letting them build us a hospital, frankly the Cloud is the least of our worries.
    “it needs to make sure the money it’s spending is the responsibility of democratically elected figures”
    You want all decisions relating to the spending of every few thousand pounds dealt with directly by councillors? How many councillors will we need? Administering the council is going to be very difficult if no spending decisions can be delegated.
    Chris: I think I can guess the answer, but I will ask again – do you think the state has any role to play in art, cultural or community events?
    “But they choose to remain silent and not reveal the level of public funding because they do not condsider it to be any business of those outside their select circle of artists and arts administrators.”
    Or maybe they think there is little to be gained by interacting in this forum with someone who characterised them as con-artists & people with something to hide and who is obviously so entrenched in his position that meaningful discussion is unlikely to result from any attempt to engage. (I think your apparent desire to attribute nefarious motives to artists, administrators and ‘the Council’ rather detracts from some of the points you are trying to make, and makes it too easy to dismiss your comments as the internet equivalent of green ink…)
    “You expect to see the price of every product on sale displayed prominently, don’t you? You wouldn’t dream of buying anything substantial without checking the price, would you? You demand this as a matter of course from the private sector, but not it seems from the public sector. Why shouldn’t the same apply when we spend money collectively via council or other grants or subsidies?”
    How far would you want us to take this though, Chris? Is it only arts/parks/community events spending? Or all council spending? Or only things you don’t like (or I don’t like for that matter)? We DO have access to the overall council budgets (here, http://www.bristol.gov.uk/ccm/cms-service/download/asset/?asset_id=30190015, as I am sure you are aware) and can FoI for more details if we wish. Unfortunately I think your idea is impractical when it comes to accounting for every piece of spending that BCC are involved in.
    “…the presumption by the apparatchik class that they can take the people for granted, that we are so beneath them that we should just be jolly grateful for what pearls are tossed in our direction by our betters. And how dare we ask how they are spending our money! How could we possibly understand the value of art? We are all philistines who only look at the price tag, so best not let us see the price in the first place, for our own good of course. How ungrateful we are to those noble souls who take it upon themselves to care for our cultural welfare. No doubt they are worth every penny of our money, and that is what they will take if we let them.”
    Yes Chris, this is exactly what the artists and administrators were thinking when they put this project together. Good grief, this is so overblown I am beginning to think that you are some kind of Situationist prankster! Maybe, instead, they were thinking ‘this might be interesting and a bit different for one of our local parks.’
    Finally, I cannot believe you have got me defending the Council! BCC are dysfunctional in so many ways that are worse than this, more costly than this and have a more negative impact than this – pick your battles chaps! Don’t let your instinctive hatred of middle-class hippies lead you into thinking they are the cause of all that ails you – it is a mere distraction from the real bastards out there.

  86. Ben says:

    sorry – don’t know what happened to all my careful formatting there…

  87. Ben says:

    Actually – that is totally unreadable, let me try again, apologies for the double-posting:

    Sorry for the delay in responding to your reply – it’s been a hectic week. Lots to catch up with here then!

    BB:

    “(personally I find it hard to square expenditure on the Black Cloud when, as a city, we’re unable to fund properly the care of our vulnerable elderly)”

    But the money spent on the Cloud was never going to be spent on care services – different budgets, as you well know – so conflating the two is a bit fatuous really.

    In the abstract, are there better things to spend money on than art, parks and community cultural events? – yes, of course, BUT in reality are there other things BCC spend money that I would rather see cut BEFORE they cut spending on art, parks and community cultural events – good god yes.

    For instance, as part of my Council Tax payments I have to contribute towards the running costs of the local police force. The price of policing inside the grounds at local football matches cost Bristol taxpayers a massive £135,200 (07/08) – this is only the costs for policing inside the ground. No figures are available for policing outside the ground, which is often where a majority of the police presence is required, and this is a cost which is borne solely by the taxpayer. I think we should stop subsidising football matches, which cause misery and hardship for local residents, and pay for elderly care instead. My mate has never used a library in his life – guess what he thinks we should cut. See how easy this is?

    In the week when BCC have agreed to pay a private firm (you know, one from the private sector that you and CH seem so enamoured by) £800,000 NOT to build us a hospital so that they won’t sue us for not letting them build us a hospital, frankly the Cloud is the least of our worries.

    “it needs to make sure the money it’s spending is the responsibility of democratically elected figures”

    You want all decisions relating to the spending of every few thousand pounds dealt with directly by councillors? How many councillors will we need? Administering the council is going to be very difficult if no spending decisions can be delegated.

    Chris: I think I can guess the answer, but I will ask again – do you think the state has any role to play in art, cultural or community events?

    “But they choose to remain silent and not reveal the level of public funding because they do not condsider it to be any business of those outside their select circle of artists and arts administrators.”

    Or maybe they think there is little to be gained by interacting in this forum with someone who immediately characterised them as con-artists & people with something to hide and who is obviously so entrenched in his position that meaningful discussion is unlikely to result from any attempt to engage. (I think your apparent desire to attribute nefarious motives to artists, administrators and ‘the Council’ rather detracts from some of the good points about transparency you are trying to make, and makes it too easy to dismiss your comments as the internet equivalent of green ink…)

    “You expect to see the price of every product on sale displayed prominently, don’t you? You wouldn’t dream of buying anything substantial without checking the price, would you? You demand this as a matter of course from the private sector, but not it seems from the public sector. Why shouldn’t the same apply when we spend money collectively via council or other grants or subsidies?”

    How far would you want us to take this though, Chris? Is it only arts/parks/community events spending? Or all council spending? Or only things you don’t like (or I don’t like for that matter)? We DO have access to the overall council budgets (here, http://www.bristol.gov.uk/ccm/cms-service/download/asset/?asset_id=30190015, as I am sure you are aware) and can FoI for more details if we wish. Unfortunately I think your idea is impractical when it comes to accounting for every piece of spending that BCC are involved in.

    “…the presumption by the apparatchik class that they can take the people for granted, that we are so beneath them that we should just be jolly grateful for what pearls are tossed in our direction by our betters. And how dare we ask how they are spending our money! How could we possibly understand the value of art? We are all philistines who only look at the price tag, so best not let us see the price in the first place, for our own good of course. How ungrateful we are to those noble souls who take it upon themselves to care for our cultural welfare. No doubt they are worth every penny of our money, and that is what they will take if we let them.”

    Yes Chris, this is exactly what the artists and administrators were thinking when they put this project together. Good grief, this is so overblown I am beginning to think that you must be some kind of Situationist prankster! Maybe, instead, they were thinking ‘this might be interesting and a bit different for one of our local parks.’

    Finally, I cannot believe you two have got me defending the Council!

    BCC are dysfunctional in so many ways that are worse than this, more costly than this and have a more negative impact than this – pick your battles chaps! Don’t let your instinctive hatred of middle-class hippies lead you into thinking they are the cause of all that ails you – it is a mere distraction from the real bastards out there.

  88. chris hutt says:

    Ben, nice post. We have clearly met our match. I’ll try to answer one or two points.

    “do you think the state has any role to play in art, cultural or community events?”

    I’m inclined to go with BB’s reply. Not in principle but hard to avoid in practice. But the state must be open and transparent, otherwise it can quickly become overwheening.

    In this case we are denied knowledge of the cost to ourselves of this work. You appear to defend that on the grounds that it’s not practical to show the price of everything and that we must therefore be content with just global figures that are very hard for most people to relate to.

    That I intensely disagree with. In this it is perfectly practical to inform us of the cost to ourselves, just as they have informed us of far less important details, and there is no excuse for not doing so.

    “maybe they think there is little to be gained by interacting in this forum with someone who characterised them as con-artists & people with something to hide and who is obviously so entrenched in his position that meaningful discussion is unlikely to result from any attempt to engage.”

    Well you have engaged with us and have done so in an impressive way, if I may say so, so why shouldn’t they? Perhaps they aren’t up to it intellectually, or just haven’t got the balls? Perhaps they like their “art” to be neatly packaged in administrator friendly chunks that don’t take them out of their comfort zone.

    But who is to say that this blog and these comments are not “art”? If these people had a real passion for art that challenges then they would be in here like a shot, but they are scared because it isn’t what they think art should be.

    These arts administrators know as well as we do that the emperor has no clothes, so they are terrified of that being revealed to the wider public. So they hide behind a lot of impenetrable mumbo jumbo to repell the inquisitive mind. But BB to his credit inquired and exposed their nakedness.

    There, you can call that “overblown” too, with as much justification.

  89. petehindle says:

    Stop talking about some form of nebulous ‘they’ who control all the art. Are you seriously making the point that there is a conspiracy to stop this blog from being regarded as art? You’re not, are you? Because that would be ridiculous.

    It’s nice to see so many comments defending the Black Cloud… people in the UK seem to think that it’s okay to give any form of contemporary art a drubbing for not being a nice painting. Or a new hospital. I think there’s enough comments here to prove that actually, some people do like this sort of new stuff.

    (Actually, I rather like the idea that there is a shadowy collection of art policy wonks going around stealing the money for hospitals, trains, and other ‘proper’ things in order to make airy-fairy community arts projects. An art quango ninja posse, all with cut-glass accents and impeccably cool glasses.)

  90. chris hutt says:

    Pete, like almost everyone else who has come to the defence of the Black Cloud you ignore the critcisms actually made and invent ones that you can more readily knock down.

    “Are you seriously making the point that there is a conspiracy to stop this blog from being regarded as art?”

    There is nothing in my comment or elsewhere to support that question. All I say is “who is to say that this blog and these comments are not “art”?” which falls on long way short of what you imply is being said.

    You ignore the main point of my argument, that the public have a right to know how much of their money is being spent on this, instead asserting that “some people do like this sort of new stuff ” which I don’t think anyone has questioned on this thread.

    There does seem to be an inverse correlation between the ability to marshall a rational argument based on evidence and emotional support for works like the Black Cloud.

    Those of us who tend to think in a linear, rational way ask basic questions, like how much does it cost, to assemble evidence to support the formation of a view.

    While those who tend to think differently, emotionally perhaps, support it unconditionally, even to the extent of trying to ridicule those who dare to criticise or ask awkward questions.

    For the record I’ve no particular objection to the Black Cloud per se. I don’t have to see it of I don’t want to. But why should the vast majority who take no interest in it and, quite frankly, can’t see the point of it, have to pay for it, especially when the promoters refuse to divulge what the cost is?

  91. Bristol Dave says:

    The comments in this thread have been a fantastic read, and I have to side with Chris on this, even though I care less about the environmental damage he is of course, spot on in questioning the cost and why it should be funded by taxpayers.

    Also loved this from Rob:

    You really think that the artists are wealthy conmen and they have ripped me (and you presumably) off? Very amusing.

    Yes, of course. We paid for it, and it looks (in my opinion) crap.

    Of course artists are wealthy conmen. If I took a shit on a piece of A4 paper I don’t think I’d be able to really sell it for anything. However, if Damien Hirst or Tracey Emin did…

  92. thebristolblogger says:

    But the money spent on the Cloud was never going to be spent on care services – different budgets, as you well know – so conflating the two is a bit fatuous really.

    Not sure what you mean here. The money for the Black Cloud and the arts at BCC is not ring-fenced or restricted. It comes from council tax payers and can be allocated as politicians see fit (as long as they continue to perform their statutory duties).

    In the case of the Black Cloud, the funding did not come from arts budgets anyway. It came from Parks, Urban Design and Sustainable Development. So it seems that money can be transferred across budgets when they want to.

    I see no difference between transferring cash from sustainable development to the arts or from sustainable development to social care. It’s simply a matter of someone deciding priorities isn’t it?

    private firm (you know, one from the private sector that you and CH seem so enamoured by)

    Sorry I’ve not mentioned anything about the private sector or business on here. Taking the view that the state is inefficient, wasteful, unaccountable etc. is not a call for privatisation. The idea that we have a choice between a monolithic and ever-expanding bureaucracy or private business is false.

    I see the problem the other way around. It’s about the state endlessly impinging on the private sector that’s the problem.

    There’s no reason why Bristol City Council can’t focus entirely on its core tasks – education, transport, social care etc – and leave the ‘glamour’ stuff of World Cups and the Arts to the private sector.

    Indeed it’s noticeable that the more the council has got involved in arts, international sport, ‘place marketing’ and the all the other guff – that’s no doubt enjoyable for officers – the standard of core services in this city has more-or-less collapsed.

    You want all decisions relating to the spending of every few thousand pounds dealt with directly by councillors? How many councillors will we need? Administering the council is going to be very difficult if no spending decisions can be delegated.

    Not many more. It’s the nature of this decision that stands out, which is why it requires extra scrutiny.

    There’s a clear policy, process and procedure for arts grants at BCC that everyone should follow. If that’s done it’s under democratic control because the process is the same for everyone: there’s a paper trail, there’s presumably a right of appeal for those who fail etc. In this case it’s proper for officers to take delegated decisions on grants because they’re following a policy laid down to them by politicians.

    In the case of the ‘Black Cloud’ the money appears to have been handed over by officers in a set of private arrangement with UWE’s Situations Group outside the usual these policy arrangements.

    Such an arrangement requires a higher level of scrutiny than usual. Officers are simply not delegated to take random decisions to fund things they feel like with pots of money they appear to have lying around for that purpose.

    This is usually called patronage and went out of political fashion in this country in the mid-nineteenth century.

  93. woodsy says:

    After following the debate about (and lack of any figures) for public funding of this project, I submitted an FoI request to Bristol City Council.

    Let’s see what figures they cough up concerning what Bristol’s citizenry have coughed up 🙂

  94. chris hutt says:

    Woodsy, it might be prudent to also ask about grants made from the same budgets to other arts projects. It looks like strings have been pulled to access funding sources not normally available for arts projects.

    We should also ask the council to divulge what they know about the overall cost of this project. Their funding may only be a small part of the whole but they must surely be aware of the overall costs, especially those covered by public funding. We have a right to know.

  95. woodsy says:

    Good points Chris. I’ll bear them in mind when the council get round to answering, unless you fancy including them in an FoI request of your own (I’ve submitted 2 this week; that’s enough).

    One thing that has irked me for years has been that Bristol seems to be run for the benefit of the great and the good and the benefits paid for by the great unwashed. This has to change.

  96. thebristolblogger says:

    Too right. Every single one of my local parks is struggling for money and reliant on volunteer labour for basic upkeep and cannot get new equipment for love or money and then we find the parks department has money to chuck at “internationally acclaimed artists”.

    It’s not just the amount of money here, it’s the question of what budget it came from, how it was applied for and how it was disbursed.

  97. chris hutt says:

    Interesting that we don’t hear much about openness and transparency from the Lib Dems now they’ve settled into power. Six months ago they’d have been screaming blue murder over the deliberate withholding of information about Black Cloud. Now they are eerily silent.

  98. thebristolblogger says:

    In fairness they probably have no idea where the money came from or how. Most would assume it came from the single project arts fund pot wouldn’t they rather than out of various non-arts budgets?

  99. Paul Smith says:

    Chris unfortunately the call for openness and transparency is often heard from opposition and rarely from an administration.

  100. thebristolblogger says:

    Isn’t that partly because of the convention that councillors don’t criticise officers?

    A difficult position if you don’t know what they’re doing or they have their own agenda.

    Carew Reynell ignoring his own financial standing orders to run up and then hide the Redland Green overspend from councillors is a classic of the genre.

    Yet to see a word of criticism about him from councillors. Instead he retired at a time of his choosing with an enhanced package of benefits.

    As an officer, doing what you feel like pays – in cash on occasions.

  101. Earlybird says:

    I know I said I would disengage from this conversation a while back but it has been just too, er… gripping for me to ignore.

    BB, you mention the rough figure of ‘tens of thousands’ for the public funding cost of the Black Cloud a few entries ago on 30 July. This seems a reasonable estimate given the size of the project (ie somewhere between 10 and 90K). Can I ask if this is just a guess on your part, or based on information you have received? If you have received information then I’d like to see it in full please.

    The organisers have had plenty of time to reply to your requests by now, and even if they don’t already read your blog I am sure someone would have alerted them by now. So could you let us know: what reply have you had from the organisers? I know there is no posting on this site but they do have an email and phone number on all their leaflets and I sure you will have approached them directly, otherwise all the above seems a waste of everyone’s time and energy.

  102. organical says:

    All this waffle about funding and who spent what and why…….its small beer calm down. If you want to moan about a real waste of money on arts pile into the Arnolfini. Posh name =more money (than Viccy Park) . Or better still-ever been to Greenwich to the Dome thingy there? That’s what you call serious patronage-the black cloud doesn’t even fit into the Dome’s back entrance.
    I could have built a good dome/cloud for less than 30k . I wouldn’t have used geodesic stuff- a bit too 1960’s . That said I would have used round poles structure which is more iron age! Like to see more comments on the building and what other surprising things may be in the pipeline for our parks. Maybe just a few more trees would be good but I’m thinking of proposing a nice traditional Japanese temple-have you got the dome-headed bishops mobile number -I need to take him out for a drink or three….

  103. chris hutt says:

    EB, there’s nothing stopping the promoters of Black Cloud posting any information they wish to make available directly here in the same way as you and I have.

    It seems odd that you should should ask BB to post information rather than the promoters themselves. As you say they must be aware of this thread and so we can only conclude that they do not want to divulge anything more than is available elsewhere.

  104. thebristolblogger says:

    All this waffle about funding and who spent what and why…….its small beer calm down.

    I’m not particularly excited tbh.

    How much small beer makes a big pint? How much of this goes on? At what cost to us should we start not being calm?

    David Bishop’s number is 0117 352 5939. Let us know how you get on.

    Earlybird, if you’re so interested, why don’t you find out and let us know? This is blogging. It’s like voluntary and collaborative. We’re like a little community would you believe?

  105. Earlybird says:

    Can you answer my question please: Have you approached the organisers directly and if so, what, if any answer have you received?

  106. atlanticjaxx says:

    Im giving up Nicotine, and well …
    I just cant stand hippies, they all need vibing out.

  107. It’s not just the amount of money here, it’s the question of what budget it came from, how it was applied for and how it was disbursed.

  108. Media Mouse says:

    Don’t start me on self important middle class “Yippies” (Yuppy Hippies) that seem to be at epidemic levels in Bristol at the Harbour festival amoungst other places.

    I am all for art but this seems like a waste of time and money – period.

  109. redzone says:

    the question is mr mouse, can you really call it art? 😕
    to be honest, it’s quite an ugly construction & it looks nothing like a cloud!! 🙁
    i could probably think of quite a few local projects more deserving of the council’s funds!!

  110. Tom says:

    Organical,

    You have truly got your head in the wrong place if you think the black shed fulfils a similar role to the Arnolfini. The £900,00 spent each year on the Arnolfini by the Arts Council and the City Council: worth it for the toilets alone. As a resident of Bedminster, this has saved me the trouble of asking to use the loo in the Shakespeare or the Louisiana if I’m bursting on the way home or into town (and the ones on Prince Street always seem to be closed). In addition, there have been some pretty good bits and pieces in the exhibition spaces, especially the one on Persepolis and the Shah’s little party there just before the Islamists little party. Although it deserves the tag ‘Analphoni’ due to the large swathes of bullshit you can bump into there, it demonstrates how a subsidised art service that is allowed to operate with some degree of autonomy from the ‘what the fuck is it worth to me and my taxes’ brigade can provide a good residual effect for the ‘community’, if only for the best toilets in town. In addition, it draws people in from around the area who end up spending their money in neighbouring businesses.

  111. Ben says:

    Chris:

    Thanks for the reply – sorry for the delay in getting back to you – life is so eventful (little Bristol music reference there, for those who know)…

    “ “do you think the state has any role to play in art, cultural or community events?”

    I’m inclined to go with BB’s reply. Not in principle but hard to avoid in practice. But the state must be open and transparent, otherwise it can quickly become overwheening.”

    I think this is where we are simply going to run into a wall marked ‘agree to disagree’, because I DO think that the state – which can at its best be an expression of our national character and one of many symbols of our communal endeavour – has a role to play in the arts, culture and community events. I think that role should be balanced by wider civic society and by the private sector, but I agree with the state being there as well. Sometimes this produces good work, sometimes indifferent, sometimes bad, but I see nothing wrong with us all – via taxation – making a tiny contribution to the cultural life of the nation (how’s that for overblown then? ; ) )

    “You appear to defend that on the grounds that it’s not practical to show the price of everything and that we must therefore be content with just global figures that are very hard for most people to relate to. That I intensely disagree with. In this it is perfectly practical to inform us of the cost to ourselves, just as they have informed us of far less important details, and there is no excuse for not doing so.”

    You miss the point of my question about where we stop – *I* am not proposing we do this for everything, I thought *you* were advocating the prominent display of cost to the public purse wherever public money is spent? Or, as I asked before, is it just art/culture/community spending that should operate to this standard? You are castigating this event/piece of work for not operating to a notional standard that was not asked of it before they started – can you see how that might come across as a little unreasonable? (Though thinking about it, it would have been good if the Harbour Festival fireworks had finished with a big one that spelt out the total of the Councils contribution – BOOM?£400,000?BOOM!)

    “Well you have engaged with us”

    Yes, but only against my better judgement, and with the advantage that you hadn’t been spectacularly rude about me before I said anything!

    “But who is to say that this blog and these comments are not “art”?”

    Unfortunately the author of the blog! And, isn’t one of the things about art since the middle of the last century is that ‘what is art’ is defined by the artist and by artistic intent – while this blog has a certain charm and beauty all of its own, I’m not sure its what I would consider art – though I accept that is subjective.

    “These arts administrators know as well as we do that the emperor has no clothes, so they are terrified of that being revealed to the wider public. “

    The problem with the emperors new clothes argument is that in most cases it is only posterity that tells us who was wearing them – many artists that are now part of the classic canon of great art died in penury without recognition or success in their own lifetime. I have no reason to doubt the sincerity and belief in the piece of the individual people who arranged and worked on this thing – do you?

    On the wider point – do I think this is the best bit of modern art I have ever seen? – no (that would be either Matisse’s series of reliefs called Back I – VI or Anish Kapoor’s Marsyas); BUT do I think it is a worthwhile project – yes! We seem to be drifting back towards a subjective point here – “I don’t like this, therefore whatever it cost was too much”, so I’ll come back to costs in a minute.

    Cheers,

    Ben

  112. Ben says:

    BB:

    “the funding did not come from arts budgets anyway. It came from Parks, Urban Design and Sustainable Development.”

    “Parks” – well, it’s in a park. “Urban design” – it looks like some thought has been put into the design to me. You say upthread that strange shapes are vernacular and mundane, but this isn’t a shape or method of construction that I have seen before. “Sustainable development” seems to include some kind of ‘community engagement’ stuff (based on a quick scan of the BCC website) – so supporting a community event is fairly unsurprising, I think.

    “I see no difference between transferring cash from sustainable development to the arts or from sustainable development to social care. It’s simply a matter of someone deciding priorities isn’t it?”

    Yes, and how does this address the point I made above about the differences between peoples priorities? This is why councillors are elected – to set budgets within departments, to oversee how those budgets are spent and then to be accountable for how well they perform those tasks. To, in theory, try to reflect priorities – which it does very imperfectly, obviously.

    Your emotive argument about these damned rich hippies taking money from the grannies of Bristol is weak sauce – the decision *not* to spend money on social care was made long before the decisions *to* spend money on this were made. I look forward to the post after City’s first home game of the season about how the policing costs are robbing social care of funds.

    “Sorry I’ve not mentioned anything about the private sector or business on here.”

    Apologies – I was skim reading before writing a comment, and got mixed up.

    “Taking the view that the state is inefficient, wasteful, unaccountable etc. is not a call for privatisation. The idea that we have a choice between a monolithic and ever-expanding bureaucracy or private business is false.”

    Straw man. I don’t think I’ve advocated for a “monolithic and ever-expanding bureaucracy”.

    Like you (I think? I have a much clearer idea of what you are against rather than what you are for) I assume a balance between the state, private business AND civic & charitable society is probably the best model for us to aim towards, as all can do things well that the others cannot or will not. (I am aware of my cognitive bias here – I cannot imagine what alternative arrangements other people could even contemplate as satisfactory.) I think our differences probably come where we draw the lines between the three. And I agree that the state is inefficient, but believe that so is the private sector, its just that many of its inefficiencies are not as visible to us at the consumer-side.

    “I see the problem the other way around. It’s about the state endlessly impinging on the private sector that’s the problem.”

    Strongly disgree – and see far more evidence of private sector encroachment on tasks that should be the states responsibility – to take two issues that I am sure I have read about here – the use of management consultants by senior management in order to distance themselves from difficult decisions has been lifted wholesale from the private sector, and more mundanely but pressingly the disaster that is privatized public transport around this city. You say it is core business, but turbo-capitalism has largely taken transport away from our elected reps.

    Oh, and as an aside – where are the private firms providing art, cultural and community events in Bristol that are being undercut by the kind of state supported events being discussed here? Genuine question, as I have racked my brain and cannot think of any.

    “There’s no reason why Bristol City Council can’t focus entirely on its core tasks – education, transport, social care etc – and leave the ‘glamour’ stuff of World Cups and the Arts to the private sector.”

    As I said to Chris, I think this is where we just fundamentally disagree – I think arts and culture *should* be part of core business of state – a small part, but a valuable part. I am aware that there’s little each of us can do the change the others mind on this point.

    “Indeed it’s noticeable that the more the council has got involved in arts, international sport, ‘place marketing’ and the all the other guff – that’s no doubt enjoyable for officers – the standard of core services in this city has more-or-less collapsed.”

    Is this based on figures, or feelings? When did the collapse begin? When did the Council get involved with the arts – in 1894 when it took over the running of the city museum? ; )

    But to say where I agree – I think place marketing is different to the two others things that you list. The other two endeavour – at their best, and often not successfully – to contribute to a sense of community. “Place marketing” is just consultant twaddle – cut that first before arts and culture please, because all it produces is mind-numbing leaflets like the one you highlight in the post above this one.

    “Not many more. It’s the nature of this decision that stands out, which is why it requires extra scrutiny.”

    That’s not what you said before. You said you wanted elected scrutiny of individual spending decisions. If that is impractical, as I agree it is, is it just arts/culture/community spending that gets the extra scrutiny? Or other areas as well? How do we pick those other areas? (Sorry for all the questions, but by nature I am interested in practicalities.)

    “There’s a clear policy, process and procedure for arts grants at BCC that everyone should follow……Officers are simply not delegated to take random decisions to fund things they feel like with pots of money they appear to have lying around for that purpose.”

    And I would imagine that the units that did provide funding have their own rules – and I would be amazed if they hadn’t been followed. You think council officers in three different units are all simultaneously going to decide to break the rules and fund an art & community project? Why? Where is the gain for them? Again, your anger – and presumption at attempts at deception (“private arrangements”, really makes it sound like brown envelopes changing hands) – at individuals within the systems seems misplaced when it is the systems that are responsible for the issues you have raised – not this individual work. I really am curious to see what you discover about the arrangement that led to the council supporting this event and work, or whether you will just be happy to leave accusations of impropriety hanging in the air.

    “This is usually called patronage and went out of political fashion in this country in the mid-nineteenth century.”

    Are you really saying that patronage in the arts ended in the 19th century? Ummm – Charles Saatchi?

    And aaaannnnnyway, as we keep talking about how much this has cost us each let’s do some guesstimating shall we?

    Shall we say it cost the public purse £20,000? Would that seem fair? There are a few other funders listed on the leaflets and lets assume it cost £30 or 40,000 and the Council covered half?

    So how do we work out how to allocate this money individually, because, as Chris says above big global figures are no good to anyone?

    Do we divide £20,000 by the number of people who directly interact with the work? People who attended the events? People who talk about it? (Does this include here? Press coverage?) Do we only count people who like it when they see or hear about it? Do we count people who would have gone to the park anyway, but have a better time because their kids have fun pretending its some kind of alien spacecruiser? Do kids count as half? Or not at all because they don’t pay tax? – help me out; I’m genuinely struggling to get my head around this way of dividing it into individual costs based on the benefits to people who participate in it.

    But, then thinking about it, it’s not often that every single taxpayer gets the benefit of, or is able to participate in, exactly the same event or service– in fact many things the council does only have direct benefit for small numbers – for instance I gain no benefit from the maintenance of Horfield Common, or most of the other greens or public spaces around Bristol, but I do not begrudge the money that is spent on it that comes from the Council Tax I pay. So maybe it’s better to just divide it by the number of people who live in Bristol, as I am sure my hard-earned tax dollars are providing services and events for all of them, and that I never get any benefit from them having those services or going to those events… So £20,000/416,000 = 4.6 pence each.

    But again, I guess that’s unfair, as it include kids, the economically inactive and the elderly. So, lets do just each individual bill – 182,000 billable households (07/08) – which gives us (assuming our original £20,000 is a good bet) = 10 pence per bill.

    So, thank you Chris and BB, thank you for ten pence each (that’s a whole 0.019p per week) towards this project. Surely it was worth it, if just for the indignation. ; )

    Once again – I hate defending BCC, but in my day-to-day life see many, many, much worse examples of how shit they can be – my kid is attending school in Bristol after all, and you don’t get much shitter than that when it comes to council services. I think that the vitriol in the thread was misplaced, and actually spoke volumes about your own easy prejudices and assumptions. The problem with cynicism is that it can suck the joy out of life – as Oscar Wilde said ‘A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing’…

    (I’m afraid I’m off to live in a field for a week, so won’t be able to reply until I get back, and even then life has a habit of getting in the way and making it difficult to catch up; so apologies in advance if it takes a while for me to be able to respond to any of the points I am sure you will raise.)

    Cheers,
    Ben

  113. Ben says:

    Goo grief – if those two replies aren’t the living embodiment of tl;dr (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=tl%3Bdr) I don’t know what is…

  114. thebristolblogger says:

    “Parks” – well, it’s in a park. “Urban design” – it looks like some thought has been put into the design to me. You say upthread that strange shapes are vernacular and mundane, but this isn’t a shape or method of construction that I have seen before. “Sustainable development” seems to include some kind of ‘community engagement’ stuff (based on a quick scan of the BCC website) – so supporting a community event is fairly unsurprising, I think.

    What’s surprising is that none of these sections of the council are grant making bodies.

    Yes, and how does this address the point I made above about the differences between peoples priorities? This is why councillors are elected – to set budgets within departments, to oversee how those budgets are spent and then to be accountable for how well they perform those tasks. To, in theory, try to reflect priorities – which it does very imperfectly, obviously.

    This is what makes this case so interesting. Councillors have set clear budgets for arts through either the Key Arts Provider Fund or through the Single Project Fund. They also have the Community Development Investment Budget for community work.

    All these grant-making bodies are open to all, accountable and have clear criteria. the Parks, Urban Design and sustainable development have none of this. Any money they disburse in grants can therefore be viewed as not democratically control but officer controlled and based on privileged access to them.

    Oh, and as an aside – where are the private firms providing art, cultural and community events in Bristol that are being undercut by the kind of state supported events being discussed here? Genuine question, as I have racked my brain and cannot think of any.

    Virtually every festival and event in this city that’s struggling to survive while the council casually doubles its investment in the Harbour Festival while giving them nothing.

    I’m thinking here of Ashton Court (RIP); Balloon Fiesta; Kite Festival; Wine and Food Fair; Organic Food Fair; Bristol Festival; St Paul’s Carnival; Vegan Fayre etc.

    Some on that list won’t be back.

    That’s not what you said before. You said you wanted elected scrutiny of individual spending decisions.

    Not sure I’ve said that. What I definitely don’t want is unelected officers dishing out money in an ad hoc, back-scratchy kind of way.

    And I would imagine that the units that did provide funding have their own rules – and I would be amazed if they hadn’t been followed.

    So where are the rules, criteria, application forms etc?

    You think council officers in three different units are all simultaneously going to decide to break the rules and fund an art & community project?

    Absolutely. It happens all the time.

    “private arrangements”, really makes it sound like brown envelopes changing hands

    It simply means it’s not an accountable public arrangement as per the normal grant arrangements. What else can it be called?

    Are you really saying that patronage in the arts ended in the 19th century? Ummm – Charles Saatchi?

    I was referring to political patronage.

    So, thank you Chris and BB, thank you for ten pence each (that’s a whole 0.019p per week) towards this project. Surely it was worth it, if just for the indignation. ; )

    I know everything costs me next to nothing. This, the Harbour Festival, Ormondroyd’s wages, councillors’ expenses, the new museum. All peanuts. Until you start adding it all together …

  115. chris hutt says:

    Hi Ben, that was quite a comment.

    I did manage to read through both but I’m not going to attempt a comprehensive response, just a few points at random until I think I’m pushing at the tl;dr limit myself.

    First I make no claims for my own judgement of artistic merit. I’m of the Tom school (see above) – I value the Arnolfini for its toilets more than anything. So my opinion of the Black Clouds artistic merit is not the issue.

    Public art, like other public works, has costs and benefits. Ideally we would carry out a cost benefit analysis to determine whether each proposed piece of public art was justified.

    But how do we measure the benefit? Therein lies the problem. If we are not to rely on the judgement of arts administrators or councillors then we need to identify some other mechanism (I’ll touch on why we shouldn’t rely on administrators and councilors later).

    A rough indication of value for money can be gained from the number of people who might ‘interact’ with the work. If we take the Harbour festival as an example, it’s claimed that there were 250,000 visits, so we can divide the public cost (£400k?) by 250k visits and get a cost of £1.60 per visit which sounds reasonable.

    Then we look at Black Cloud, but we don’t know what it costs or how many people might visit it. So we’re stumped, hence why this information must be made available. Anyway lets guess a few figures, say £50k for public cost and say 2,o00 visits, giving a cost per visit of £25, which I think we can agree would be excessive.

    In other words we need to know about costs and benefits to determine whether the expenditure might be justified. If we are denied that information, as with the Black Cloud, then all we can do is trust the judgement of administrators and councilors.

    Why shouldn’t we trust administrators and councillors? Because experience shows that if they cease to be accountable to the public (though not having to publicise details of their expenditure) then waste, abuses and extravagances will follow. After all it’s not their money so why should they care?

    I think that’s enough for now.

  116. chris hutt says:

    Ben “I* am not proposing we do this for everything, I thought *you* were advocating the prominent display of cost to the public purse wherever public money is spent? Or, as I asked before, is it just art/culture/community spending that should operate to this standard?”

    I think the public have a right to know how their our money is being spent to a reaonable level of detail. That doesn’t mean a huge price tag prominently displayed on everything but that the information should be readily accessible for anyone who is curious, normally alongside whatever other promotional material is also made available.

    The people of Bristol are expected to make decisions, mainly via the ballot box, on how Bristol should be governed. To do this with any degree of competence we need to have some understanding of public expenditure, what different things cost and what choices need to made about the levels of spending and the consequences for the tax payer and the economy.

    The Black Cloud is just one prominent and now notorious example of how the funding authorities prefer than we remain ignorant. This seems to be particularly true when the costs involved are of an order that most people can relate to, the tens and hundreds of thousands.

  117. China Doll says:

    Are there really people who think that you can get an answer from the council about expenditure on anything???
    You could walk to the North Pole in your slippers and back and still be waiting for a reply!!
    Thats if you can find the actual quango/group who are dealing with the umpteen outgoing expenditures at any given time.
    Why they want to give funding to this black cloud which is essentially for people of an aquired taste is beyond me, but having said that
    anything this council does to so call ‘improve’ Bristol usually ends up an expensive shambles only appreciated by the minority.

  118. Charlie Bolton says:

    Anyone is entitled to submit questions to full council meetings and cabinet meetings of the council, which will elicit a response, if not the one you are looking for.

    You could try that.

  119. Gary Hopkins says:

    I understand that the total council commitment to this is £15,000 from 3 separate budgets. Decisions were made some while ago and I will find out by who and what the rational was in each case.
    There is an obligation upon the operator to remove at their cost in December if we do not want it left.
    I will be speaking to the local Cllrs . to hear local views nearer the time.

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