Cultural Playing Field


Informal Adult Learning Partner Communications Group meeting by Robin Simpson
July 30, 2010, 3:27 pm
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On Friday afternoon I was at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills to take part in the Informal Adult Learning Partner Communications Group meeting. We focussed in particular on the two formal consultations recently launched by BIS, ‘Skills for Sustainable Growth’ and ‘A Simplified Further Education and Skills Funding System and Methodology’, identifying those sections of both consultations that are of particular relevance to informal adult and community learning and agreeing to encourage as wide a response as possible from our various networks. The skills consultation is available to read at: http://www.bis.gov.uk/skills-consultation and the Further Education and Skills Funding is available at  http://www.bis.gov.uk/FE-funding-consultation. The deadline for responses to both consultations is 14 October and it is worth noting that you can comment online on particular sections of the consultations if you don’t want to submit a full formal response.

Robin Simpson.



Developing the ACE corporate website by Robin Simpson
July 30, 2010, 3:26 pm
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I was in London on Friday morning for focus group meeting at Arts Council England to look at developing the ACE corporate website. ACE is currently scoping the second phase of its corporate website, and is talking to some of its regularly funded organisations about its website development plans. It was interesting to discover how little any of the arts organisations around the table currently use the ACE website. We discussed the difficulty for ACE of creating a responsive and friendly online presence while also fulfilling its obligations to be responsible and careful about its formal public statements.

Robin Simpson.



Inspiration and Legacy from the 2012 Games by Robin Simpson
July 29, 2010, 8:28 am
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On Wednesday afternoon I was in London for a meeting of the Stakeholder Adviser Group for the ‘Inspiration and Legacy from the 2012 Games’ project: this is the Volunteering England/YouthNet project, funded by the Cabinet Office, which is working to ensure that the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games create a legacy of increased volunteering in communities across the country. The project is specifically working to provide those hundreds of thousands likely unsuccessful applicants for the 70,000 ‘Games Maker’ volunteer positions being recruited by LOCOG to help run the Games with alternative Games-inspired volunteering opportunities. In particular the project is working to promote sports, environmental and cultural volunteering. Already 160 organisations have signed up to be involved – including several voluntary arts umbrella bodies – and more than 10,000 Games-inspired volunteering opportunities have been posted on do-it.org (the national volunteering database). Volunteering England and YouthNet will be running 30 workshops over the next 8 months to encourage more than 1000 organisations to develop and recruit Games-inspired opportunities to volunteer. They are particularly keen to involve small, informal community groups. More details at http://www.volunteering.org.uk/gamesinspired.

Robin Simpson.



Comparing the arts infrastructure of the UK and Brazil by Robin Simpson
July 26, 2010, 4:16 pm
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Last Thursday I was at the Southbank Centre in London for a seminar with TT Catalão, Secretary for Cultural Citizenship at the Brazilian Ministry of Culture, and Tadeu di Pietro, Director of the Centre of Integrated Programmes at Funarte (the Brazilian equivalent of the arts council), about how the arts are structured in the UK as part of the Points of Contact exchange programme organised by People’s Palace Projects. Robin Osterley from Making Music talked about the way in which, in the early twentieth century, local choirs around the UK had created regional federations which eventually led to the founding of the National Federation of Music Societies (now Making Music). I then explained how Making Music and national umbrella bodies representing other artforms had come together in the late 1980s to create the Voluntary Arts Network as a single voice for the voluntary arts across the UK and Ireland. Louise de Winter, Director of the National Campaign for the Arts, described how NCA’s influence and reach depends on the many umbrella organisations (including Voluntary Arts) that are NCA members. Stephen Quashie, Manager of the ‘Value of Infrastructure Programme’ at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations warned that the UK Government’s agenda to sweep away unnecessary bureaucracy was a challenge for infrastructure organisations to show why they exist and what benefits they bring. NCVO has been working on developing a common language to describe the role of infrastructure organisations, focussing on three main functions: ‘Influence’, ‘Develop’ and ‘Connect’. Tadeu di Pietro said that Brazil doesn’t have anything like the network of arts infrastructure bodies that exists in the UK. One of the most difficult challenges for the Pontos de Cultura system in Brazil has been to persuade more than 3,000 Points of Culture to talk to each other to begin to create a national network. We agreed that, while it is equally difficult in the UK to get arts organisations from different disciplines to network directly with each other, the existence of specialist infrastructure bodies in each artform, which have grown from the grassroots and developed links with each other, provides an effective way of linking and supporting a vast and diverse arts sector.

Robin Simpson.



The Point of Culture by Robin Simpson
July 22, 2010, 12:09 pm
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On Wednesday afternoon I was at the Purcell Room for ‘The Point of Culture: Imagination at the Service of the People’. This was a debate chaired by Jude Kelly and featuring TT Catalão, Secretary for Cultural Citizenship at the Brazilian Ministry of Culture, Tadeu di Pietro, Director of the Centre of Integrated Programmes at Funarte (the Brazilian equivalent of the arts council), Paul Heritage from People’s Palace Projects, Alan Davey, Chief Executive of Arts Council England and Madani Younis, Artistic Director of Freedom Studios in Bradford. Madani was one of twelve representatives of UK arts organisations to visit Brazil in March as part of the Points of Contact exchange programme organised by People’s Palace Projects. It was a fascinating discussion about the Pontos de Cultura system in Brazil and its potential application in the UK. It was particularly interesting to hear about the role of artists in positions of power within the Brazilian Ministry of Culture and Funarte and the extent to which Pontos de Cultura has broken down barriers between professional and non-professional artists.

Robin Simpson.



Discussing culture and the Big Society by Robin Simpson
July 22, 2010, 12:08 pm
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On Wednesday I was in London for a meeting of the ACEVO Arts, Culture & Heritage special interest group. In preparation for the Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey, attending our next meeting in September, we had an extremely interesting discussion about the role the cultural sectors can play in ‘The Big Society’. In particular we focussed on the three main ideas of ‘The Big Society’ as described by Jonty Olliff-Cooper of Demos: to ‘turbo-boost’ the Office of Civil Society; to encourage civility and neighbourliness; to reform public services. We agreed that there was much that the cultural sectors are already contributing to civility and neighbourliness and the potential for them to do more.

Robin Simpson.



Meeting Andrew Dixon at Creative Scotland by Robin Simpson
July 20, 2010, 4:01 pm
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On Monday I was in Edinburgh where Fiona and I took the short walk down Manor Place from the Voluntary Arts Scotland office to the offices of Creative Scotland (all the ‘Scottish Arts Council’ signs having now been replaced by shiny new ‘Creative Scotland’ signs!) to meet Andrew Dixon, the new Creative Scotland Chief Executive. Andrew knows Voluntary Arts well from his time as Chief Executive of Northern Arts (later Arts Council England, North East) when he was involved in one of our advisory groups and worked closely with my predecessor Roger Fox. We had a wide-ranging and very encouraging meeting with Andrew. It is early days for Creative Scotland and there is still much work to do to in agreeing priorities for the new organisation, but it was reassuring to hear Andrew say that he thinks arts participation is going to be a key area for them. We also discussed the importance of working with umbrella and infrastructure bodies, particularly to help with engagement at a community level. Andrew is keen to move to a ‘commissioning for outcomes’ approach rather than acting merely as a grant-giver. Creative Scotland is still in the process of setting up staff teams but Andrew told us there will be portfolio manager with specific responsibility for the voluntary arts: indeed Creative Scotland is likely to have strengthened staffing capacity in this area compared to Scottish Arts Council.

Robin Simpson.