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.
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