That's all very well in practice, but what about the theory? The case of Glasgow Life, Scotland

O'Neill, Mark and Rogerson, Robert; Stevenson, David, ed. (2018) That's all very well in practice, but what about the theory? The case of Glasgow Life, Scotland. In: Managing Organisational Success in the Arts. Research in Creative and Cultural Industries Management . Routledge, Oxon, pp. 36-58. ISBN 978-1-138-73676-4

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Pressure on UK local authority managed or funded cultural services has become a given at least since the Thatcherite rejection in the 1980s of the post-war consensus. While there was significant investment under New Labour, this was tied to economic and social policy in ways that reflected a continuation of underlying neoliberal principles (Hesmondhalgh et al, 2015a, b). Heightened by the global financial crisis of 2008, the current regime of austerity has created a continuous battle to retain and manage diminishing cultural services and grants to independent cultural organisations. In response, the cultural sector has over the past few decades become more aligned with wider economic and social development agendas (Gray, 2007; 2017, Throsby, 2010) and consequently has had to adapt organisational structures and approaches in order to reposition arts and culture. Kent Council’s recent transfer of culture into the economic development department, and the construction of narratives of its operations as “delivering economic growth, skills development and community wellbeing” (Witton, 2015) is a familiar move, replicated across the UK and internationally (Knell and Taylor, 2011; Grodach and Seman, 2013; Overmans and Noordegraf, 2014). In this context the experience of Glasgow City Council’s organisational change in how it supported arts, culture and sport is viewed as one of success, particularly in helping the city redefine its image enhancing its economic wellbeing and developing its cultural infrastructure. This case study focuses on Culture and Sport Glasgow (CSG) – branded now as Glasgow Life – which is the result of a series of major organisational shifts over the past 30 years and is widely seen as effective in supporting the wider strategy of urban redevelopment undertaken since the 1980s. Glasgow Life has avoided the need for large-scale closures of services such as libraries and museums and has been able to maintain or increase capital investment in new and refurbished facilities, despite the City being under financial pressures similar to those experienced by most UK local authorities. This case study explores how such success has been achieved and asks whether in adapting to the fiscal and political environment council services have faced, the Glasgow Life experience offers wider learning and insights – both to large scale civic services and to the cultural sector in general.