On Wednesday I was in London to take part in a meeting of the AHRC Cultural Value Project Advisory Group. The Cultural Value Project, led by Professor Geoffrey Crossick, aims to make a major contribution to how we think about the value of arts and culture to individuals and to society. The objective of the Project is to develop a framework within which the different components of cultural value will be identified, and to establish for each of the components methodologies and appropriate types of evidence for evaluating their contribution. The second funding call for academic research projects to explore various aspects of cultural value has just closed and the Cultural Value Project Team are in the process of assessing applications. As this was my first meeting as a new member of the Advisory Group I was given the opportunity to talk to the group about the voluntary arts sector and the importance of considering cultural value in relation to the experiences of amateur arts participants. The other new member of the group, Martin Smith from Ingenious Media, also gave a presentation about cultural value in the context of the commercial entertainment industry. This broad approach to the cultural ecology – including the voluntary and amateur arts and commercial entertainment as well as the subsidised professional arts sector – is central to the Cultural Value Project’s approach. Also in Wednesday’s meeting Hasan Bakhshi, Director of Creative Economy in Policy & Research at NESTA, discussed his recent blog post on ‘Five principles for measuring the value of culture’, which you can read at: http://www.nesta.org.uk/blog/five-principles-measuring-value-culture-0.
Filed under: meetings | Tags: ageing, arts, education, Europe, research, volarts
I was in Cardiff on Monday and Tuesday for the latest meeting of partners in our Art-Age European project. Art-Age aims to provide and put into practice new methods and approaches to document, validate and profile the qualities and outcome of amateur and voluntary culture for active ageing. It is funded by the EU Lifelong Learning Programme’s Grundtvig Learning Partnership – a framework for practical co-operation activities between organisations working in the field of adult learning in the broadest sense – formal, non-formal or informal. The Grundtvig Learning Partnership aims to broaden the participation of smaller organisations wishing to include European cooperation in their education activities. Art-Age involves six partner organisations from five European countries (Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Slovenia and the UK). Since the last partners’ meeting each organisation has been consulting groups of older people about their experiences of learning through arts participation. In the UK Voluntary Arts enlisted the help of Maxine Webster of First Framework in order to work with the Third Thought drama and arts collective. Daniel did a wonderful job of organising the Cardiff meeting which took place at Craft in the Bay, opposite the Wales Millennium Centre. On Monday we had a presentation from Emma Robinson from Age Cmyru about the Gwanwyn Festival – a month long national festival held across Wales in May celebrating creativity in older age. Gwanwyn involves about 9,000 participants a year, see: http://www.gwanwyn.org.uk. On Monday evening we gave our European colleagues the experience of a traditional Welsh Christmas dinner. For most people the highlight of our two day meeting was us happening upon a carol service in Llandaff Cathedral – a spectacular setting in which the Cathedral Choir sounded splendid. The Art-Age project will conclude with a conference in Utrecht in April 2014. For more details of the Art-Age project, see: http://www.theloveofit.org/art-age/
Filed under: meetings | Tags: ace, arts, diversity, England, funding, volarts
On Thursday afternoon I was at Arts Council England in Birmingham, with colleagues from our partner organisations Voice 4 Change and Black and Ethnic Minority Arts, to meet the new ACE Director of Diversity, Amanda Roberts. Amanda joined ACE three months ago and has a dual role as Director of ACE’s Birmingham office and national lead on diversity. Amanda updated us on her work to ensure diversity remains a priority within all of ACE’s funding streams. We talked about the Creative People and Places programme and the opportunities for black and minority ethnic groups to get involved. We discussed how to encourage more diverse work in ACE’s strategic touring programme. Amanda described the recent changes to the Grants for the Arts Lottery funding and how ACE is looking at better ways to track diversity within its funding. We also discussed the Cultural Commissioning Programme and the Creative Employment Programme. It was a very positive and wide-ranging meeting and we agreed to meet Amanda and members of her team again in a few months’ time.
Filed under: meetings | Tags: ageing, England, research, vcs, volunteering, youth
I was in London again on Wednesday to take part in a meeting of the Volunteering Network – the forum which brings together the England Volunteering Development Council and the National Network of Volunteer-Involving Agencies. At Wednesday’s meeting we heard from John Mohan of the Third Sector Research Centre about the The Economic and Social Research Council’s plans to explore ‘Big Data’. This will bring substantial national resources to facilitate access to large scale datasets held by organisations, local and national government. It will enable extensive cross-referencing of community level data (whilst putting in place safeguards to avoid any disclosure of individual data). ESRC will create centres of expertise to facilitate access and generate high quality research. John said this could prove to be an incredibly valuable tool for the voluntary and community sector. It will improve our ability to describe the characteristics of communities and will tell us more about who our supporters and volunteers are.
We then had a presentation from Dame Julia Cleverdon (the former Chief Executive of Business In The Community) about the recently launched campaign for youth social action. Step Up To Serve is a national campaign to inspire a generation of young people through increasing the quality, quantity and frequency of social action for all young people aged between 10 and 20. In this context social action means practical action in the service of others – of double benefit to young people themselves and the community. The goal is to double the number of young people participating in social action to over 50% by 2020. That is an additional 1.7 million young people engaging in social action for the first time. The campaign brings together leaders from across UK civic society, led by HRH The Prince of Wales and with support from all of the main political parties. Dame Julia explained that Step Up To Serve was an attempt to get away from a short-term approach to youth volunteering that has seen successive governments launch new initiatives rather than building on schemes developed by their predecessors. She was adamant that we need a long-term, cross party, approach, stressing “this is not merely a lunch, a launch and a logo”. See: http://www.stepuptoserve.org.uk.
Finally we heard from Clare Delap of the Care Quality Commission about CQC’s new project with Community Service Volunteers and from Tracy Whittle of NCVO about a project to develop volunteering in care homes. NCVO has secured funding from the Department of Health until end of March 2016 to pilot volunteering in care homes with the aims of improving residents’ quality of life outcomes and strengthening local communities. Through the project’s learning, a national standard of good practice in volunteering for this sector will be developed. Working in five pilot sites and with volunteer centres and care homes, the project will aim to engage 350 residents in activities/ relationships with volunteers over 3 years. See: http://www.volunteering.org.uk/policy-and-campaigns/volunteering-in-care-homes.
I was back in London on Tuesday to chair the second of our roundtable discussions on arts participation for older people in residential and day-care settings, supported by The Baring Foundation. This was another fascinating discussion about the potential for voluntary arts groups to support arts activities in care homes, the development of opportunities for care home residents to act as creative citizens and the role of care home staff who might themselves be members of voluntary arts groups. Those taking part in the discussion on Tuesday included people who had organised arts activities in care homes, representatives of amateur arts umbrella bodies, community arts organisations, experts in adult learning and people working in different aspects of social care. We looked at the potential benefits and opportunities from involving voluntary arts groups in this activity but also at the challenges in doing so. Our consultant, Helen Fraser, is now going to pull together the conclusions of our roundtable meetings and her interviews with a wide range of experts to inform the paper she is writing for us.
Filed under: meetings | Tags: ace, arts, DCMS, DEFRA, England, funding, rural, volarts
I was in London on Monday to take part in the Arts Council England Rural Stakeholders meeting. This was the first of what will be a regular series of gatherings of cultural organisations with a particular interest in rural matters. Those around the table on Monday included representatives of the National Rural Touring Forum, the Rural Cultural Forum, Action with Communities in Rural England and the Rural Services Network, as well as civil servants from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The general feeling was that, while arts activity in rural areas is strong, rural local authorities are particularly challenged at the moment and support from local authorities is incredibly variable. Public transport is a key issue in rural communities and hidden deprivation is a massive problem. We talked about the opportunities provided by local action groups (LAGs) and local enterprise partnerships (LEPs) and the growing importance of European funding. We discussed the rollout of rural broadband and the importance of volunteers in the rural cultural sector. We also talked about how Arts Council England should be working with the wider sector, not just its National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs).