Cultural Playing Field


Community Media Association Arts Project Steering Group by Robin Simpson
October 28, 2009, 2:46 pm
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On Tuesday afternoon I was at the Community Media Association in Sheffield for the first meeting of the CMA Arts Project Steering Group. CMA Arts Co-ordinator, Tamar Millen, updated us on her progress to date and we discussed her first draft of the new CMA Arts Strategy. I agreed to set up a meeting for Tamar with a range of voluntary arts umbrella bodies to start to discuss how voluntary arts groups and community media organisations might collaborate.

Robin Simpson.



Visiting NAVCA by Robin Simpson
October 28, 2009, 2:20 pm
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On Tuesday I was in Sheffield to visit the National Association for Voluntary and Community Action. NAVCA is the national umbrella body for local third sector infrastructure in England and represents 344 local councils for voluntary service and similar organisations. In a series of quick one-to-one meetings (that felt a bit like speed dating!) I talked to a range of NAVCA staff, got a good overview of the work of the organisation and identified a number of areas in which we might be able to work together. I discussed with NAVCA Chief Executive, Kevin Curley, the role NAVCA members could play in the model for local delivery of capacity-building for voluntary arts groups that we are currently working on with the Arts Council England Amateur Arts Partnership Development Programme steering group. Carrie McKenzie, NAVCA’s Sport Partnership Adviser, told me about the work she has been doing (funded by Sport England) to embed a culture of collaboration between sport and the wider third sector and we discussed how we might develop a similar approach in relation to the voluntary arts. Every Child Matters Adviser, Angela Barnes, explained the work NAVCA is doing (funded by the Department for Children, Schools and Families) to support young people, disabled children and the extended schools programme. I talked to Barney Mynott, Policy & Communications Manager, about how we might work together on advocacy and information services. Helen Oparinde told me about NAVCA’s SKILD project (Skills and Knowledge for Local Development) which provides training for development workers supporting front line third sector organisations. Finally I met Terry Perkins, Public Law Training Officer, who explained how the Public Law Project is allowing third sector organisations to influence decisions made by public bodies. It was a very interesting day and I came away determined to encourage voluntary arts groups to make more use of the wide range of (often free) services available through local Councils for Voluntary Service: to find your nearest CVS go to: http://webdb.navca.org.uk. Many thanks to Kevin, Carrie and everyone at NAVCA.

Robin Simpson.



NCVO Members’ Assembly meeting by Robin Simpson
October 23, 2009, 1:51 pm
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On Wednesday I was at the Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisations in Manchester for the second meeting of the NCVO Members’ Assembly. It was good to see NCVO continuing to use a creative approach to the assembly meetings: the format again gave us good opportunities to interact with most of the other people in the room and incubated some innovative ideas on ‘the good society’. As part of the development of NCVO’s civil society agenda, and the NCVO Manifesto for the general election, we considered the questions: “what is the good society?”; “how do voluntary and community organisations help to create the good society”; and “what will we need from the next government to achieve it?”. I worried, at first, that this might lead to an unrealistic utopian discussion but as we worked through the exercises some very clear ideas emerged. It was a really interesting and thought-provoking day.

Robin Simpson.



Discussing the 2012 World Shakespeare Festival by Robin Simpson
October 16, 2009, 10:08 am
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I was in Peterborough on Wednesday for a meeting of representatives of amateur theatre umbrella bodies to discuss the 2012 World Shakespeare Festival. At the end of October we are taking 100 representatives of voluntary arts umbrella bodies to Stratford-upon-Avon for a creative planning weekend where we will work with staff and actors from the Royal Shakespeare Company to plan the 2012 Festival. This is a fantastic opportunity for the voluntary arts sector to develop a model for working in collaboration with a major professional arts institution. Our meeting this Wednesday helped us to clarify our aims and ambitions for this project and enabled us to start developing some specific ideas about amateur involvement in this aspect of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

Robin Simpson.



Arts Council England Amateur Arts Partnership Development Programme steering group by Robin Simpson
October 16, 2009, 10:07 am
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On Tuesday afternoon I took part in a meeting of the Arts Council England Amateur Arts Partnership Development Programme steering group. With new representatives from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Local Government Association attending for the first time this felt like a fresh start for the steering group. We took the opportunity to look at each of the actions that emerged from the ‘Our Creative Talent’ research in detail and to clarify and confirm in each case exactly what we are trying to achieve, what has been done so far and what the next steps should be. This was an extremely helpful process and reinvigorated the programme.

Robin Simpson.



Catching up with the National Campaign for the Arts by Robin Simpson
October 16, 2009, 10:04 am
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On Tuesday I was in London for my regular meeting with Louise de Winter at the National Campaign for the Arts. I reported back to Louise about the launch of the Participation Manifesto at last week’s NALGAO conference in Swindon and Louise formally pledged NCA’s support for the manifesto on the Participation in the Arts website. (If you haven’t already done so, please do register and pledge your support for the Participation Manifesto at http://www.participationinthearts.net ) We also discussed the NCA’s forthcoming workforce survey and agreed the inclusion of a question about volunteers. Finally, Louise gave me advance notice of an NCA debate at Kings Place in London (as part of the ‘Words on Monday’ series) on 1 March 2010 which will address the motion “this country can no longer afford to subsidise the arts”.

Robin Simpson.



NALGAO Conference 2009 by Robin Simpson
October 8, 2009, 2:32 pm
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On Wednesday and Thursday I have been at the National Association of Local Government Arts Officers conference in Swindon where I formally launched the Participation Manifesto with NALGAO Chair Lorna Brown completing NALGAO’s pledge of support for the manifesto live on the website at the end of my presentation. I urge you all to visit http://www.participationinthearts.net, register and pledge your support for the manifesto and use the website as a forum to continue the discussions about how we best encourage, increase and diversify participation in the arts. I also ran two breakout sessions about volunteering and the voluntary arts which generated some really interesting discussion. The NALGAO conference is always a great event – a credit to Pete Bryan, Helen Miah and all those involved. There were some brilliant performances by local young people and lots of enthusiastic and constructive debate. And it was wonderful to see so many familiar faces. Many thanks to Ginny and Rosemary for running our information stand – it was great to have a substantial presence at the conference.

Robin Simpson.



Learning Revolution Expo by Robin Simpson
October 8, 2009, 2:28 pm
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On Tuesday I was at the Learning Revolution Expo event at Old Spitalfields Market in London. Paul and I were running ‘Zone 2 – taking action’ which focused on issues relating to self-organising groups of learners. It was a fascinating day and a very innovative format which encouraged some high quality networking. We made lots of useful contacts and came away quite inspired. It was encouraging to see the Further Education Minister Kevin Brennan there to formally launch the Learning Revolution Festival and to have a video message from Lord Mandelson emphasising the importance the Government attaches to informal adult learning. And it was great to see two of our new freelance facilitators, Matthew Burge and Wendy Smithers.

Robin Simpson.



DCMS Opportunity & Excellence Programme Board by Robin Simpson
October 8, 2009, 2:24 pm
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On Monday I was in London to attend a meeting of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport Opportunity & Excellence Programme Board. This Board brings together Arts Council England, Sport England, English Heritage, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, the National Museum Directors’ Council, the Voluntary Arts Network and the Local Government Association with DCMS Directors to oversee progress against two of the Department’s four Departmental Strategic Objectives (DSOs). DSO1 relates to the levels of public engagement in the DCMS sectors – including arts attendance, arts participation, sports participation, visitors to museums etc. We had an interesting discussion on Monday about the effects of the recession on engagement. The DSO1 target focuses on raising the proportion of the population that engages with the various sectors rather than the total number of people participating (which would include foreign tourists and repeat visitors). We also did some further work on an initial basket of indicators to track progress against DSO2 which seeks to increase ‘excellence’ across the DCMS sectors.

Robin Simpson.



‘Volunteering and London 2012’ symposium by Robin Simpson
October 2, 2009, 8:15 am
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I was in London on Wednesday to take part in the ‘Volunteering and London 2012’ symposium, organised by Volunteering England. This event brought together volunteering agencies and voluntary sector infrastructure organisations from across the UK. We heard from David Huse, Head of Volunteering at LOCOG, about the latest plans for recruiting, training and managing the 70,000 games-time volunteers needed to help run the Olympic and Paralympic Games: the application process for these volunteers (including volunteer performers for the ceremonies) will be launched in summer 2010. We then had a presentation from the Government Olympic Executive about plans for a social legacy marketing plan: the ‘big idea’ is to use London 2012 to inspire participation in volunteering, culture, sport, education and more, across the UK. There will be a campaign to inspire the whole of the country to give time to their local communities. A creative agency has just been appointed and the campaign will be launched in early 2010. We also heard from the Volunteer Development Agency in Northern Ireland, Volunteer Development Scotland and Greater London Volunteering about the progress of their 2012 volunteering initiatives – including the ‘People Making Waves’ programme in Scotland which includes Voluntary Arts Scotland’s ‘Make a Splash’ project. The symposium was followed by a second meeting of the London 2012 Volunteering Legacy Stakeholder Advisory Group where we specifically focussed on the Volunteering England/YouthNet project which is expanding the national volunteering database (do-it.org.uk) to include a wide range of opportunities catalysed by London 2012.

Robin Simpson.