Cultural Playing Field


Catching up with the Office of the Third Sector by Robin Simpson
September 24, 2009, 9:14 am
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Also on Tuesday I was at the Cabinet Office for my regular update meeting with John Knights at the Office of the Third Sector. Among many topics we discussed plans for the European Year of Volunteering 2011, the Government’s intergenerational volunteering programme, the Access to Volunteering programme and the London 2012 social legacy which seems to be taking shape and should present some exciting opportunities for the voluntary arts sector.

Robin Simpson.



Learning Revolution Third Sector Forum by Robin Simpson
September 24, 2009, 9:13 am
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On Tuesday I was in London to attend the first meeting of the Learning Revolution Third Sector Forum. This group of third sector representatives will feed into the National Advisory Forum, chaired by the Minister Kevin Brennan, which is overseeing the Government’s informal adult learning programme stemming from the white paper ‘The Learning Revolution’. At Tuesday’s meeting we heard updates on all aspects of the Learning Revolution programme, including the £20M Transformation Fund, the development of an online portal for learning opportunities and the forthcoming Festival of Learning which is to take place throughout October. It was a good opportunity to get an overview of the progress of this extensive programme directly from the civil servants from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills who are leading it.

Robin Simpson.



World Culture Clubs Forum, Seongnam, South Korea by Robin Simpson
September 24, 2009, 9:01 am
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Last week I was in South Korea to speak at the World Culture Clubs Forum conference. Seongnam City is a new city with a population of 1 million people on the outskirts of Seoul. The Seongnam Cultural Foundation has been working to make Seongnam a ‘cultural city’ by developing a voluntary arts network organised by amateur or citizen-led art groups (culture clubs). These groups are involved in both making policy and delivering policy, and are helping to establish the new identity of the city. The Department of Arts & Cultural Management at Kyunghee Cyber University in Seoul has been studying the development of this voluntary arts network and the World Culture Clubs Forum conference was a platform to discuss the results of their research and to compare this with other models of amateur arts practice from around the world. I was one of five guest speakers, along with representatives of the European Network of Cultural Centres, the International Council for Cultural Centres, the National Cultural Festival in Shizuoka, Japan, and the Mid-America Arts Alliance. The conference delegates came from across South Korea and included politicians, local government officers and civil servants from the Ministry of Culture. I was amazed and delighted to discover that almost everyone at the conference was familiar with ‘Our Creative Talent’ – the study of the voluntary and amateur arts in England commissioned by DCMS and Arts Council England in 2008. I was even more surprised when someone approached me after my presentation to say he had recognised my voice from the podcast of a speech I had given to a NALGAO seminar in Bristol in 2007!

World Culture Clubs Forum conference

World Culture Clubs Forum conference

It was a fascinating conference and we identified lots of ways in which our organisations might be able to work together. There was some discussion about the idea of developing a Global Network for the Voluntary Arts, though we agreed not to rush into anything.

World Culture Clubs Forum speakers

World Culture Clubs Forum speakers

Korea is a fascinating place: everything seems very modern – on our way to the conference we drove through the ‘old town’ which dates from 1990! But there is more greenery than I expected – lots of trees and lush green grass. The Han river which runs through Seoul is huge – much wider than the Thames. But in terms of buildings it’s just masses of skyscrapers and neon signs. Everyone is exceptionally polite and helpful: I’m very glad I read the bit in my guide book about the reverence which is attached to the exchanging of business cards and brought a big supply with me. Everyone you meet in any vaguely business-related context hands you a business card and expects you to hold it in both hands and study it carefully for at least a minute before carefully filing it away. And still, a week later, I am finding myself naturally bowing to everyone!

Korean meal

Korean meal

We had several enormous meals in traditional Korean restaurants – very hot and spicy food, sitting cross-legged on cushions at low tables. We attended the opening of an exhibition of amateur art works – including a performance by a local amateur guitar group – and an opera gala concert featuring two Korean singers who are now regular performers at La Scala, Milan.

It was wonderful to have the chance to meet up with Debbie Brooks who left VAN at the beginning of this year to take up a job in Seoul teaching English as a foreign language. She is really enjoying teaching and is considering whether to sign up for another year in South Korea.

Robin Simpson.



Voluntary cultural sector meeting by Robin Simpson
September 4, 2009, 3:05 pm
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Today I have been in London for my regular meeting with our voluntary cultural sector partners, the Central Council for Physical Recreation and Heritage Link. It was interesting to hear the latest about the Physical Activity Alliance, plans for the Olympic Torch Relay, the Equality Bill and the Mayor of London’s Cultural Strategy Group. We also talked in detail about the relationship between our sectors and the Department for Communities and Local Government and how this might be developed.

Robin Simpson.



Tri-partite meeting with the Scottish Government, Scottish Arts Council and Voluntary Arts Scotland by Robin Simpson
September 4, 2009, 3:04 pm
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On Thursday Fiona, David and I were at the Scottish Government offices at Victoria Quay in Edinburgh for our six-monthly tri-partite meeting which brings together officers from the Culture Division of the Scottish Government, the Scottish Arts Council and Voluntary Arts Scotland. It was great to hear in detail about progress towards the establishment of Creative Scotland directly from the civil servant charged with steering the relevant legislation through the Scottish Parliament. Scottish Arts Council is looking at a range of policy issues for Creative Scotland and will launch a major online consultation during October which will be a key opportunity for the voluntary arts sector to try to influence the policy of the new agency. We looked at some initial statistics from the ‘Taking Part’ questions in the Scottish Household Survey which provide information about levels and patterns of arts participation in Scotland. A detailed analysis of this research should be available within the next month. We also met the civil servants responsible for developing the cultural programmes in Scotland relating to both the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and the 2014 Commonwealth Games. And we updated the Scottish Government and the Scottish Arts Council on our two new major projects: ‘Crafting the Arts’ (funded by the Big Lottery Fund) and ‘Make a Splash!’ (funded by the Legacy Trust).

Robin Simpson.