When I wrote my book on The Beatles Phenomenon in 1979, John Lennon had one more year to live. How was I to know? I did remark in my text that I was somewhat surprised that John, like many of his contemporaries had survived that long given their years of experimenting with a range of substances. Many of course did not survive which had partly informed my view.

My essay was only partly about the four performers themselves, plenty of glossy tributes, and hagiographies/biographies already existed. I was interested to attempt to explain to myself, and anyone else who was interested, why, where and how a cultural phenomenon like The Beatles could happen. In deed in my thankfully relatively short book of 227 pages I did not get to my chapter The Beatles until page 119, chapter five of eight. The first four chapters focused on those cultural and social contexts, including chapters on Society and Culture, Liverpool in post-war Britain, and on Youth. Whether I did manage to satisfactorily explain that cultural phenomenon is left to the reader.

I should add a brief anecdote here; in the early 1980s a friend returned from a trip to Tokyo, and told me that on a visit to a bookshop found my ‘Beatles’ book on the Entomology shelves. Lost in translation again!

The reason I mention this now is in relation to the East Devon Arts & Culture Strategy that I have been discussing in these pages in recent weeks.

I have already emphasised that a key aim of this EDDC driven Strategy is as a democratic forum of, and for the Arts, as far as is possible and/or do-able. One very important aspect of this desire is to acknowledge that the arts in our area do not exist in a social, economic and political vacuum. Nor should they. Arts practitioners may be inspired, even driven, to do their work for many possible reasons, but they have to eat. Food comes before philosophy, or even music!

The Arts, individually and collectively, are cultural change, and affect cultural change, self-consciously or not. For example, we cannot assume that the market place for arts products, in the widest sense, in East Devon is on a ‘level playing field’. Do all the arts practitioners in our community, from sole traders to organisations of various sizes, have the same ‘footfall’? How informed, and/or discriminating are consumers, visitors of otherwise? Do they, can they, attract equal amounts of funding and sponsorship? I would suggest that this is one of the issues at the heart of the Arts & Culture Strategy.

At the national level of the Arts we have seen the recent decisions of The Arts Council, a major funder, to reduce or remove funding, or change funding criteria, from some very ‘high-end’ arts organisations. The has happened recently to some providers of Opera. These changes have been linked to the governments ‘levelling up’ agenda, and has met with a mixed reception.

So, we can see ourselves, even ‘find’ ourselves, our true identity, in these cultural changes (remember being a teenager?). But we can also see our changing culture through ourselves, as a consequence of our actions and choices; come to understand how much our everyday lives have changed. The impact of the role of new technologies, design, image based advertising. and consuming come to mind.

In developing ‘our’ new Arts & Culture Strategy we should consider these inside out, and outside in aspects of change. This might help us all to make the best of the journey we are taking in East Devon.

Keep in touch;   astley.john@gmail.com