I’ve asked myself that question many times since inventing the Coventry Conversations five years ago. Three hundred Conversationalists later,the format is fluid; sometimes near pure lecture,sometimes question and answer from the get go.Whatever works for the person concerned.I think I am on the way to working out magic formulae.

But what is not a Conversation? What transpired on Tuesday November 23rd at the Herbert.It was billed as a ‘Conversation’ between David Holdsworth,Head of BBC Regions in England and a thoroughly good egg and Dave Rushton,late of the Coventry Art School Parish,artistic agitator and founder of the Institute for Local Television. Conversation it was not,more like a series of dull monologues. The audience of six (you read it right-The real Cov Cons put that to shame week in,week out)was hardly rapt. There is a good discussion and an argument to be had about the demand and supply of Local TV. Indeed Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt names Birmingham (and presumably Coventry) as exactly the bed for his Local TV experiment. This was neither a discussion nor an argument. Writes John Mair…

Holdsworth seemingly decide at an early stage that this evening was not going to be productive and retreated into his shell only to be drawn out by questioning.His one significant contribution the news that the new licence fee settlement included £25m annually to buy in local content. Rushton was less shy and insisted on relating all the experiments in localism with which he had been involved.Hard to unpack but it seems all have failed bar one in Belfast.The audience pointed out the failure of ITV regionally,Channel M in Manchester and Oxford 6 in Oxford as signs of lack of demand.Witney TV-in Prime Minister David Cameron’s constituency –seems to be surviving on the internet. But,overall,nobody,especially on that cold night in the Herbert established a case that the people were crying out for local TV.
There is always a problem for those who represent or claim to represent ‘the community’. Are they leaders or followers? The vanguard or the tail? Or just voices in the wilderness? Dreamers?
This ‘Conversation’ got no closer to answering some of those big questions.Come to the real Coventry Conversations(Thursday and Friday lunchtimes next term.Thursday in Ellen terry,Friday in the Herbert) to see if we can get any closer to answers and to dialogue(more info at http://www.coventry.ac.uk/CoventryConversations)


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