Cultural Playing Field

Community Sector Coalition meeting by Robin Simpson
September 24, 2008, 2:27 pm
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On Tuesday I was in Birmingham for a meeting of the Community Sector Coalition, chaired for the first time by the Coalition’s new Chair, Amanda Greenwood from Community Development Exchange. It was the first Coalition meeting I have attended for a while and it was really interesting to see how things have progressed. There is a much higher level of activity being generated by Director Matthew Scott and his new staff team. We looked at a number of issues related to the Empowerment White Paper, Coalition communications, governance and funding and the Coalition’s involvement in the Leadership & Governance National Support Service. 

Robin Simpson.


NCVO Services and Development Department meeting by Robin Simpson
September 19, 2008, 8:29 am
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On Thursday I was back at NCVO to take part in an internal meeting of NCVO’s Services and Development department. This was a great opportunity to explain the nature of the voluntary arts and suggest ways in which NCVO might better connect with us and other less ‘mainstream’ parts of the voluntary and community sector. I talked about the importance of working through the multitude of focused, self-grown membership organisations and umbrella bodies which are recognised and trusted by small local groups. We identified a number of ways in which NCVO might work more closely with VAN and the organisations we represent.


Robin Simpson.

NCVO Board meeting by Robin Simpson
September 19, 2008, 8:27 am
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On Wednesday afternoon I was at the NCVO Board meeting where we discussed in detail the plans for a new ‘Members’ Assembly’ and looked at NCVO’s strategy for preparing for the next general election (whenever that might be!). We also heard an update on the transition to the new governance structure in which NCVO’s old-fashioned large Board of Trustees will be considerably reduced in size. 


Robin Simpson.

A partnership with the Media Trust by Robin Simpson
September 19, 2008, 7:59 am
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On Tuesday I was in London to meet Caroline Diehl, Chief Executive of the Media Trust. We looked back at the amazing success of ‘Up for Arts’ – the pilot participation campaign run by Voluntary Arts England and the Media Trust in 2007 and identified key learning points. We discussed the possible development of a voluntary arts ‘zone’ on the Community Channel which would showcase voluntary arts activity and best practice. Plans were presented for a joint participation project in Liverpool to be undertaken by Voluntary Arts England and the Media Trust in partnership with BBC Radio Merseyside. We also talked about opportunities to run further ‘Up for Arts’ campaigns together. With so many exciting potential joint initiatives in prospect we agreed to draw up a formal partnership agreement between VAN and the Media Trust. 


Robin Simpson.

Sound Alliance – Making Music Convention 2008 by Robin Simpson
September 19, 2008, 7:49 am
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On Sunday I was at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London to address the Making Music Convention. I spoke about Making Music’s role in the wider voluntary arts sector as part of a session on partnerships which also featured Edward Blakeman, Editor of Live Music at BBC Radio 3, and Tim Lihoreau, creative director for Classic FM, who both announced new agreements to air recordings of Making Music member groups. Radio 3 will include recordings of amateur orchestras in ‘Performance on 3’ from October (weekdays from 7 pm) and Classic FM will showcase amateur choirs in ‘The Full Works’ (weekdays from 9 pm). We then heard from Baroness Neuberger, the Government’s Volunteering Champion, who spoke about the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Volunteering and the role of volunteering in the arts. She said the arts depended on millions of volunteers, most of whom didn’t think of themselves as volunteers. Baroness Neuberger quoted the ‘Our Creative Talent’ research launched at the Voluntary Arts England/DCMS/Arts Council England conference in July which identified 3.5 million volunteers supporting amateur arts groups in England. She said voluntary arts groups clearly bring vibrancy and creativity to communities: the Government’s role is not to be instructive but to encourage by not putting barriers in the way, providing financial support, creating an atmosphere of goodwill and saying thank you.


Robin Simpson.

NCVO Executive Committee meeting by Robin Simpson
September 11, 2008, 3:13 pm
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Also on Wednesday I attended a meeting of the NCVO Executive Committee. We spent some time discussing the new format for quarterly reporting to NCVO Trustees which relates all activity to the high level outcomes in NCVO’s strategic plan. This brought up the perennial problem of how to ensure Trustees are sufficiently informed about the work of the organisation to exercise their governance duties without swamping them with information. We looked at the idea of just reporting potential problems or areas for concern, the difficulties created by Trustees relying on staff to identify these and the converse danger of Trustees becoming too closely involved in operational matters. This seems to be an almost impossible balance to strike for most voluntary organisations – and certainly one we regularly debate with the VAN Board.

Robin Simpson.

Liaising with the National Campaign for the Arts by Robin Simpson
September 11, 2008, 3:11 pm
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I was back in London on Wednesday for my regular meeting with Louise de Winter at the National Campaign for the Arts. Louise updated me on NCA’s local government project: their six-month Cultural Leadership Programme placement has now started and will undertake research to clarify changes to local government funding and cultural provision. The aim is to identify how NCA can best campaign to improve support for the arts through local authorities. We also discussed a range of other topics including the Participation Manifesto and the demise of the Regional Cultural Consortia.

Robin Simpson

Catching up with the Office of the Third Sector by Robin Simpson
September 11, 2008, 3:01 pm
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On Tuesday afternoon I was at the Cabinet Office for my regular update meeting with John Knights and Sophie Chapman at the Office of the Third Sector. We talked about the London 2012 Volunteering Legacy plans to encourage participation (in the arts and sports as well as ‘formal volunteering’) and I encouraged OTS to try to co-ordinate this work with Arts Council England’s planned national participation campaign and similar initiatives being developed by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills in response to the informal adult learning consultation.

Robin Simpson. 

Spanning the voluntary cultural sector by Robin Simpson
September 11, 2008, 2:18 pm
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On Tuesday I was in London for my regular meeting with our informal voluntary cultural sector alliance partners Heritage Link and the Central Council for Physical Recreation. This time we were joined by Oliver Henman from NCVO. As usual we discussed a wide range of topics, including the London 2012 Legacy Action Plan, the Cultural Olympiad, changes to Gift Aid, the Audit Commission consultation on Comprehensive Area Assessments, the Empowerment White Paper, changes to regional Government agencies, the new voluntary and community sector National Support Services, the UKIPO consultation on music licensing and changes to drainage costs (really!). It’s always fascinating to discover which areas represent common interest and which issues turn out to be only relevant to one of us. Our meetings are a very effective information exchange, help us to identify areas in which we might be able to work together and serve as valuable peer support sessions.

Robin Simpson.