Just back from a few days in Lithuania, a country I’ll admit that I never anticipated visiting. In fact, one might argue that the only way to develop an appreciation for a country so far off the Western cultural radar is to be thrown into it headlong, which was my experience: Nimble Fish was asked to deliver a pilot programme seeking to link cultural entrepreneurs with schools, in a Creative Partnerships style arrangement. This sort of thing is new in Lithuania, so much so that the language doesn’t even have a word for ‘entrepreneur’.
The intention, of course, was to convey British knowledge about creativity-in-education for the benefit of Lithuania’s next generation of artists, teachers and young people. I’d like to think that some of that happened, but what struck me most was how much creativity, drive and energy are already in play there. There are artists collectives linked with government ministries, university students launching visionary cultural NGOs, and all manner of activity aimed at transformation, improvement, and enlightenment. In short, Lithuania is a country very much buzzing with creative energy and action (perhaps less surprising knowing that the capital, Vilnius, was the 2009 European Capital of Culture.) And all of it, happening on a comparative shoestring.
The Arts Council cuts announced yesterday were painful to many, and I’d be the first to say that Government is foolhardy to do so much damage for so little return: drop a Eurofighter or two, and that’s the arts sorted. And yet, despite the cuts we remain rich in ideas, experience and talent…and relatively speaking, rich also in money and infrastructure. Artists and cultural entrepreneurs are making amazing things happen in Lithuania, with far fewer resources. We can and must continue to make amazing things happen here, whatever idiocy is handed down by Government.
By the way, if you’re in the market for a great rural getaway I can highly recommend this little place outside of Trakai…