Coca Cola Truck - Whose Culture?

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Following my trip to Newcastle/Gateshead yesterday for Arts Council England’s (ACE) consultation session on their 10 year strategy I came away with a feeling that ‘culture’ in the eyes of ACE had broadened, blurred around the edges – in a good way. I had a glass of wine, chewed the fat with Adrian (Director, Eden Arts) about what culture is and we returned to a conversation that has come up several times in the last few years.

The Coca Cola truck.

It came to Penrith a few years ago, it parks up in a town centre, you queue up, get a free coke and get your picture taken in front of the brightly lit red truck from the telly advert… the holidays are coming, the holidays are coming… We said things in the office like... ‘That’s awful, how tacky, that’s just cold hard marketing of sugary drinks to people, who would want their photo taken in front of that, that’s not what Christmas is about?”

Forward to this year and Cumbrian health chiefs came out and said they had told the Coca Cola truck not to come to Cumbria on the grounds that it was marketing sugary drinks to children. Again, we discussed this around the office and said well done health bods, good job.

Following some thinking and discussion around ACE’s Creative People and Places programme, what that could look like in Allerdale and Copeland, a read of Jocelyn Cunningham’s Knitting Together Arts and Social Change, and ACE’s 10 year strategy consultation (which you can contribute to btw here) plus comments from members of the public in the local paper saying

“Coca Cola truck coming to Cumbria would have been a treat, it’s just a bit of seasonal fun


“Let it come back. It’s part of Christmas. Put things into perspective, it’s once a year and people will drink and eat what they like. Stop being killjoys.”

we talked again, were we rash to dismiss this event? It brings a lot of people into the town, the high street probably benefits, people enjoy themselves, yes it’s a commercial marketing ploy, but Coca Cola is a brand entrenched in our culture now…. Some people like it, people want it to come to their town, (some people don’t) should we stop it, on health grounds or any other, hey Christmas in general is hardly a time where people count the calories? Then we thought should Eden Arts be there too? Disrupting, questioning, talking to people, doing some art? Should the health bods join us? Discuss…


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