Cultural Playing Field


NCVO Members’ Assembly meeting by Robin Simpson
May 21, 2010, 1:35 pm
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On Thursday I was in London to take part in a meeting of the NCVO Members’ Assembly. The meeting explored the implications of the result of the general election for NCVO, its member organisations and civil society. Three guest speakers provided a fascinating overview of the new political and financial environment. Nick Seddon, Deputy Director of Reform, described the national deficit as a “herd of elephants in the room”. Politically he told us to expect to see continuity rather than change in the Government’s approach to the Third Sector/Civil Society. Dame Clare Tickell, Chief Executive of Action for Children, said there is “a lot of white noise around at the moment” and that we need to “wait until the white noise crystallises”. She thought that anything that involved consensus-building was genuinely progressive. Neil Jameson, Executive Director of Citizens UK, said this is “a great time for civil society” but was not sure it would be so good for the voluntary sector – and didn’t think these were the same thing. He felt that “politics has never been more exciting” but reminded everyone that Government is a servant of the people. We then broke into groups to discuss the current opportunities and threats both to our own organisations and to NCVO. It was a really interesting day and we covered a lot of ground. One of the key points that stood out for me was the need for NCVO to consider its potential conflict of interest in trying to represent its member organisations at the same time as trying to support civil society as a whole – which is as much about “people just doing stuff” (as Nick Seddon described it) as organisations. Interesting and challenging times ahead …

Robin Simpson.



Arts Council England national arts engagement campaign by Robin Simpson
May 21, 2010, 11:24 am
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On Wednesday Mary and I met Phil Cave and Clara Goldsmith at Arts Council England Head Office in London for an update on ACE’s national arts engagement campaign. The launch of the campaign has been moved back to Spring 2011 but a number of pilot projects are now planned from September this year. Clara confirmed that, as a result of my earlier advice, the website for the ACE campaign will share feeds from ‘School of Everything’ (funded by the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills via BECTA to develop the national informal adult learning online portal). The ACE campaign will involve a major marketing and PR exercise to encourage engagement and participation in the arts. ACE is working on a range of commercial and media partnerships including a shopping centre group (for a series of events modelled on the Voluntary Arts England/Media Trust ‘Up for Arts’ events in the Metro Centre, Gateshead). Clara and Phil wanted to talk to us about the role that Voluntary Arts might play in running some events in the ‘Up for Arts’ model as part of the campaign. We agreed to develop ideas for several activities and initiatives we might be able to work together on.

Robin Simpson.



Meeting Audiences UK by Robin Simpson
May 21, 2010, 8:39 am
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On Tuesday afternoon I met David Brownlee, the new Chief Executive of Audiences UK – the network of regional and national audience development agencies. David, who worked closely with us when he was at Arts Council England, was keen to stress that the work of the audience development agencies includes promoting active participation in the arts. We discussed the contact that Voluntary Arts has had with some of the audience development agencies, particularly the joint training initiatives created by Voluntary Arts Ireland with Audiences Northern Ireland and Voluntary Arts Wales with Audiences Wales. We agreed that there was much that Voluntary Arts and Audiences UK might achieve by working together. In the short term we plan to collaborate on collating and publishing statistics about current levels of arts participation.

Robin Simpson.



Visiting LOCOG by Robin Simpson
May 21, 2010, 8:36 am
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On Tuesday Helen Thomas and I were at The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) at Canary Wharf in London to meet Francesca Canty, LOCOG UK Cultural Programmes Adviser. Francesca gave us an update on the process by which voluntary arts groups can apply for the Inspire Mark to be part of the Cultural Olympiad and told us about several voluntary arts projects which have been awarded the Inspire Mark. We discussed the work Helen will be doing, as the new Voluntary Arts ‘Once in a Lifetime’ Project Officer, to encourage national voluntary arts umbrella bodies and their members to take advantage of the opportunities available within the Cultural Olympiad. Francesca is going to introduce Helen to the team of LOCOG Creative Programmers and we started to develop ideas for a number of ways in which we could work together to encourage more successful Inspire Mark applications.

Robin Simpson.



Visiting the Crafts Council by Robin Simpson
May 7, 2010, 5:24 pm
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On Tuesday I was at the Crafts Council in London to meet its Executive Director, Rosy Greenlees. The Crafts Council was established in 1961 as a parallel body to the Arts Council but is now a regularly funded client of Arts Council England and has gone through a major review of its role in recent years. Rosy described the Crafts Council as the national agency working to raise the profile of contemporary craft, to create opportunities for professional makers and to advocate for the sector. That sector comprises around 95,000 people across the country who would describe themselves as professional makers: though the main focus for the Crafts Council is on those working in contemporary craft – approximately 35,000 people. We had an extremely interesting and wide-ranging conversation about the various Craft Council programmes and projects, particularly those encouraging participation in crafts, and discussed a number of ways in which we might be able to work together.

Robin Simpson.