Cultural Playing Field


Vocation or Inspiration by Robin Simpson
January 30, 2009, 2:57 pm
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On Thursday I was at Local Government House in London to attend the Westminster Media Forum seminar ‘Vocation or Inspiration? Young People, Cultural Provision and the Creative Industries’. I had been looking forward to hearing the Secretary of State so I was disappointed to discover that both the keynote speakers (Andy Burnham and Feargal Sharkey) had pulled out of the event. Nevertheless it was an interesting morning with a wide range of speakers looking at Creative Partnerships, Find Your Talent and similar initiatives. Andy Burnham’s place was taken by Mick Elliott, Director of Culture at DCMS. Talking about how Find Your Talent would increase young people’s interaction with arts organisations, Mick stressed that “change is not achieved by overnight visits from cultural institutions but by living together for the long term”. I followed up this comment by asking Mick what role he thought the 50,000 local amateur arts groups identified in the Government’s ‘Our Creative Talent’ study might have in such partnerships. Mick Elliott replied: “Our department’s agenda is very much to embrace the voluntary arts sector.” He said: “I would hope that the [Find Your Talent] pathfinders are engaged with the voluntary arts sector and including them in delivery at a local level … If not, they need to look again at those journeys young people go on to involvement in the arts in adult life.” I was encouraged by this public reassurance from DCMS that voluntary arts groups will be an integral part of the Find Your Talent cultural offer to young people.

Robin Simpson.



An integrated approach to informal adult learning by Robin Simpson
January 23, 2009, 12:32 pm
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On Tuesday afternoon I was back at DCMS for a joint meeting with the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills about the forthcoming informal adult learning proposals. Liz Lawson from DIUS said that the white paper was now likely to be published in February. She was very excited about the possibilities for joining up support for ‘informal learning’ across Government departments. Liz emphasised that DIUS would continue to support the learning it already funds but wanted to encourage a more consistent approach to informal adult learning wherever it occurs. She confirmed, again, that ‘informal learning’ is being taken to include activities such as participation in an amateur orchestra. Officers from Arts Council England and DCMS updated Liz on the development of an Amateur Arts Development Programme – responding to the conclusions and recommendations of the ‘Our Creative Talent’ research. We identified a number of areas within the Amateur Arts Development Programme that might link directly to the proposals in the DIUS white paper. We also looked at links with the current review of public library services. Liz asked us to see whether we could convene a meeting of the Voluntary Arts England Arts in Adult Education Think Tank to look at the draft white paper. The DIUS work on informal adult learning looks like it will produce some very exciting opportunities for the voluntary arts sector and it is a mark of how far we have come in the past twelve months that we are now being routinely invited to this kind of cross-government department meeting.

Robin Simpson.



Using the Olympics to increase volunteering by Robin Simpson
January 23, 2009, 12:19 pm
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On Tuesday I was in London to meet Adam Terry at the Government Olympic Executive (GOE). Based within DCMS, GOE is responsible for delivering the legacy of the 2012 Games across government departments. Our discussion focussed on the Olympic volunteering legacy plans which look at how the Games can be used to inspire people to volunteer in their local communities. Adam was very keen to ensure that that the planned programme develops sustainable volunteering opportunities by linking to existing local groups and that voluntary arts groups take advantage of this opportunity to involve new volunteers. GOE is looking for experts within a variety of sectors (arts, sports etc) to help to design the programme. The Olympics Minister, Tessa Jowell, is keen to hold a Volunteering Summit and Adam assured me that we will be invited to represent the voluntary arts at the summit.

Robin Simpson.



A new manifesto for the arts by Robin Simpson
January 16, 2009, 8:59 am
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On Tuesday I was a guest of Lord Salisbury at his ancestral home, Hatfield House in Hertfordshire. As the National Campaign for the Arts launches a series of consultative events around the country to draw up an arts manifesto ahead of the next general election, Lord Salisbury hosted an initial meeting of national arts sector infrastructure organisations. I joined representatives of the Independent Theatre Council, Theatrical Management Association, Equity, Association of British Orchestras, Museums Association, National Association of Local Government Arts Officers, Creative Partnerships, Visual Arts and Galleries Association, Arts & Business and the NCA to look back at the NCA’s 2004/05 Manifesto and start to think about the shape and content of its successor. While I was delighted to see a section on the voluntary arts in the 2004/05 Manifesto, I was keen to suggest that the new Manifesto should take a more holistic view of the arts – looking at broad topics such as participation, excellence, audiences etc rather than dividing the territory into subsectors. I also urged the NCA to ensure the Manifesto covers the arts as a whole – not just those arts organisations funded by Arts Council England.

Robin Simpson.