Martin Mullaney has taken over the position of City Council Cabinet member for leisure, sport and culture. That puts him in charge of swimming baths, football pitches, and even (in theory) Central Library. Whatever you may think of Cllr Mullaney, I personally like him but political people attract opinion, he’s an opportunity to have a fresh approach to all sorts of things.
So here I present an open letter to our new cabinet member, to which you’re invited to add to (or argue with) in the comments — what should he be thinking of, who should he be talking to or listening to, what should he be doing?
I’m quite pleased to hear of your new appointment, a new broom has the opportunity to sweep that little bit harder and in different ways. As my local councillor I’ve always been impressed by your attitude to “getting on with” campaigning, your forthright manner, and even your honesty in admitting you’ve changed your views (on graffiti especially). These are qualities I think can make a contribution to leisure, sport and culture in Birmingham. Here’s a little bit of friendly advice from some people off of the internet.
Please keep your head and continue to work towards saving historic facilities such as Moseley Road Baths, they’re not only important community facilities but part of our culture. Don’t be distracted by budgetary claims that run down PFI and new build routes, continued maintainance of loved facilities is an option.
Have a good look at ArtsFest, bigger isn’t always better — the “art” community in Birmingham has lots of good people in it that have being expressing disquiet for some years. It’s big and attracts a lot of people, how could it continue to do that and be more artistically valid? There are people you should talk to.
You’ve had some good idea around using the Central Library building in the past, please keep on with them — there are a lot of people that care deeply and, again have ideas of how it could be used in future.
Get out there and visit local sports clubs, people struggling to continue with amateur sport due to declining and selling-off of facilities. Give people decent changing rooms, secure areas, make it easy and cheep (online!) to find out what facilities are where and to book them.
Here are some people I think it would be worth you talking to, there are no doubt more: the people behind Birmingham Photospace, they’re working hard to give Brum something it lacks you may be able to help, Lisa and Jenny from Capsule, they’ve said they’ve found it hard to get support for their wonderful work from the Council — they shouldn’t, Ian McPherson (I have his contact details) who could tell you a long tale about how he worked to save a sports facility in Perry Barr — it’s no longer there.
You could also talk to me or any of the people who are working to make online tools more useful for communities — Social Media Surgeons in Libraries (by training existing staff and improving facilities) wouldn’t that help build culture and leisure?
You’ve got an opportunity here, and a community that can help you.
Jon Bounds (and others)