Cultural Playing Field

Arts Council England Amateur Arts Forum meeting by Robin Simpson
June 24, 2009, 4:11 pm
Filed under: meetings | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Today I have been back in London to attend the Arts Council England Amateur Arts Forum meeting – the inaugural annual meeting chaired by the ACE Chief Executive Alan Davey. Representatives of 14 national amateur arts umbrella bodies and ACE senior staff gathered around the board table at the ACE national office to discuss a range of issues. We were delighted to be joined before the meeting by a surprise guest – new Arts Council England Chair, Dame Liz Forgan – whose presence emphasised how seriously ACE is now taking its relationship with the amateur arts. Following up our discussions at the ‘Excellence and the Voluntary Arts Seminar’ in June 2008 we identified some different ways in which the amateur sector creates ‘great art’ and discussed how ACE and the amateur arts could work better together to encourage this. The three annual Amateur Arts Forum meetings will provide a platform for ACE to involve the voluntary arts in policy development. Today we started to discuss how this might work in practice. We also discussed how the amateur sector might feed into the development of an evidence base to advocate more collaboratively for the value of the amateur arts. We know that there are many potential sources of funding for amateur arts groups (eg from the Office of the Third Sector, the Department for Communities and Local Government, the Big Lottery Fund) which are not currently providing much funding to the voluntary arts sector. We agreed that ACE might be able to help with this – both in terms of talking to these funders to ensure that they are open to applications from amateur arts groups, and in publicising the availability (and relevance) of such funds to the voluntary arts sector. Finally we discussed the effect of ACE’s new free theatre tickets scheme for young people (‘A Night Less Ordinary’) on the amateur theatre sector. It was a fascinating, productive and very positive meeting, reinforcing how much the arts landscape in England has changed as a result of ‘Our Creative Talent’. Notes from the meeting will be distributed to all national voluntary arts umbrella bodies shortly.

Robin Simpson.

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