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Birmingham gets new culture chief as council announces arts funding probe

Birmingham gets new culture chief as council announces arts funding probe

🕔04.Apr 2016

Culture Central, the new cultural development agency for Birmingham, has confirmed the appointment of its first director, Gary Topp, an experienced CEO in the cultural and not-for-profit sectors. 

With a founding membership of 14 of the city’s cultural and heritage organisations, Culture Central is working on behalf of all of Birmingham’s arts organisations, practitioners, agencies and organisations engaged in the cultural sector.

Members of the organisation include some of the city’s best known cultural gems including Birmingham Royal Ballet, the CBSO, Birmingham Museums and the mac birmingham arts centre.

Culture Central, formed by the Birmingham arts Partnership, says its ambition is to “raise the profile of the city’s world class culture and to build upon the considerable successes already achieved through cultural bodies working collaboratively”.

One of Mr Topp’s key tasks will be to explore new avenues for arts funding against a backdrop of reducing subsidies from Birmingham city council.

His appointment came as the council announced details of a cultural investment inquiry to examine new ways of securing cash for the arts.

Partners including Aston Business School, Birmingham City Council, Culture Central, Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce and Arts Council England will draw on the commercial and analytical skills of the city’s business community, as well as national and international exemplars, to explore the potential for new models of investment to support the city’s arts and culture offer and deliver on future ambitions.

The inquiry will take place over three months and will inform future business models in the sector.  It will consider and review potential for investment linked to city.

The arrival of Mr Topp comes soon after the Government published the first Culture White Paper on the arts in 50 years. The document focuses on four key areas:

  • Everyone should enjoy the opportunities culture offers, no matter where they start in life
  • The riches of our culture should benefit communities across the country
  • The power of culture can increase our international standing
  • Cultural investment, resilience and reform.

Mr Topp’s recent projects have included Development Director for the Bristol Green Capital Partnership and Launch Director for the University of Bristol Innovation Programmes. He has been a CEO and manager in several organisations in the UK and Australia, including Yorkshire Culture, Greening Australia and the Curzon Community Cinema.

He was a visual arts curator and museums professional in his early career and maintains a deep interest in contemporary ceramics and painting as both a collector and writer. He is Chair of Trustees at Circomedia and an RSA Fellow.

Talking about his appointment, Mr Topp said:

This is a very important time for cities globally, and for the role that culture plays in defining, creating and celebrating them in ways that encompass economy, community, place and purpose.

Culture Central represents an important new way of working collaboratively and ambitiously at city scale and the cultural sector in Birmingham is ideally placed to lead this approach. I am very much looking forward to working with colleagues across the city, and across the sector, to develop Culture Central and build new ways of working together that amplify further the amazing work that is already happening.”

On behalf of Culture Central, Dorothy Wilson, artistic director and chief executive of mac birmingham said:

We are delighted to welcome Gary to Birmingham. His track record of building successful partnerships in civic arenas in this country and beyond give us every confidence that he is going to make a great contribution to the burgeoning creative and cultural sector and bring together everyone who shares the unstoppable ambition of Birmingham to innovate and build further the shared creative capital of this great city.

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