Cultural Playing Field


Community Media Association Arts Project by Robin Simpson
September 24, 2010, 3:51 pm
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I was in Sheffield on Friday for a meeting of the Community Media Association Arts Project steering group. We discussed the forthcoming programme of nine regional roadshows (starting in Ipswich on 6 October, see: http://arts.commedia.org.uk/cma/east-of-england-roadshow/) which will provide an opportunity for arts organisations, including voluntary arts groups, to meet community media groups from their area to look at how they might be able to work together.

Robin Simpson.

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Growing the Big Society by Robin Simpson
September 23, 2010, 11:01 am
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I was back in London on Tuesday to take part in ‘Growing the Big Society’, an event organised by the Community Sector Coalition (CSC) and hosted by the Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) to explore the Government’s Big Society agenda. We heard presentations from Steve Moore of the Big Society Network, Nicola Bacon from the Young Foundation, Bert Provan from CLG and CSC Director Matt Scott. It was very interesting to hear a wide range of perspectives on what ‘Big Society’ might mean: I found the Young Foundation’s 10-point programme ‘Investing in Social Growth’ a particularly useful framework, see: http://www.youngfoundation.org/files/images/YF_Bigsociety_Screen__2_.pdf. Ironically, shortly after Francis Sealey from Global Net21 spoke about the need to recreate the “public square where people can come together and talk about pressing issues”, the fire alarm went off and we found ourselves gathering in a ‘public square’ round the corner from CLG where the final speaker, Andrew Climo from the Institute of Leadership & Community Management, had to declaim in soapbox style to the gathered crowd, without the benefit of his PowerPoint presentation. It was an interesting and thought-provoking event, though the spectacle of several thousand people being evacuated from the CLG building (very quickly and efficiently – the fire alarm was caused by some smoke from a small electrical fault) will inevitably be everyone’s main memory.

Robin Simpson.



Shakespeare United and 2012 by Robin Simpson
September 23, 2010, 10:37 am
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On Monday I was in London for a meeting at the Covent Garden offices of the Royal Shakespeare Company with Geraldine Collinge and Ian Wainwright of the RSC and Ian Flintoff, the founder of Shakespeare United. Shakespeare United is a project supported by the actors’ union Equity which started in 2004 with the intention of developing a massive Shakespeare celebration across the UK (see http://www.shakespeare2012.com). A particular focus of Shakespeare United is to take Shakespeare to places where there is currently no theatrical activity. We discussed possible links between Shakespeare United, the 2012 World Shakespeare Festival and Open Stages – the RSC/Voluntary Arts pro-am project. We identified a number of ways in which these programmes might support each other and agreed that they should naturally complement each other.

Robin Simpson.



Champions, spaces and running your group by Robin Simpson
September 10, 2010, 11:35 am
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On Thursday afternoon I was at Arts Council England head office in London for a meeting of the Amateur Arts Partnership Development Programme steering group. This was a special meeting to look in detail at three key areas. First, we considered a range of local volunteer ‘champion’ and ‘ambassador’ schemes and whether there was scope to join some of these up. We heard from Liz Cousins who is responsible for the ‘Community Learning Champions’ scheme established by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) and discussed the idea of using this as a framework for the development of the Voluntary Arts England Voluntary Arts Ambassadors scheme. Secondly we looked at several initiatives to open up venues and spaces for local community activities, including work funded by BIS and the Communities & Local Government/DCMS empty shops scheme. Finally we compared a number of resources to help people to establish and/or run local self-organised groups, including the Voluntary Arts ‘Running Your Group’ material and advice developed by BIS for self-organised learning groups. In all three cases we identified some clear opportunities to address key needs of the amateur arts sector identified in the DCMS/Arts Council England ‘Our Creative Talent’ research by working in partnership with other Government departments and agencies.

Robin Simpson.



‘Skills for Sustainable growth’ consultation event by Robin Simpson
September 10, 2010, 11:34 am
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On Thursday I was back in London to take part in a consultation event at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills as part of the Department’s ‘Skills for Sustainable growth’ consultation. This gave me a first chance to see John Hayes, the Minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, speak. He is a passionate and entertaining performer and seems genuinely enthusiastic about his responsibilities and the importance of learning in its broadest sense. It was great, in the context of a discussion about vocational skills, to hear the Minister stress that “adult and community learning is incredibly important and something the Secretary of State [Vince Cable] and I care about”. He also spoke about the need to make the “social and cultural case for skills” in terms of “the effect they have in communities”. We then broke into groups to discuss a number of key questions from the ‘Skills for Sustainable growth’ consultation paper. Coincidentally, the group I joined consisted almost entirely of third sector organisations and we had a useful discussion about the role of the third sector in skills development and I stressed the need to recognise that many people develop vocational skills through their participation in voluntary arts groups and other community activities, rather than through formal training. Following the completion of the consultation, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills is considering producing a white paper on skills towards the end of this year.

Robin Simpson.



Catching up with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport by Robin Simpson
September 10, 2010, 11:32 am
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On Wednesday afternoon I met Nick Pontefract and Steve Darke from the Arts Team at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. We updated each other on a range of issues and discussed the role the voluntary arts sector might play in the ‘Big Society’ agenda in preparation for my meeting with the Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey, next month.

Robin Simpson.



NCVO Funding Commission consultation meeting by Robin Simpson
September 10, 2010, 11:31 am
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I was in London on Wednesday where I took part in a consultation meeting organised by the NCVO Funding Commission. NCVO set up the commission in 2009 to look at concerns and uncertainties about funding for civil society organisations over the next 10 years. The commission is due to report in December 2010. This meeting brought together the Chief Executives of a range of national charities and specialist infrastructure organisations to consider the draft recommendations of the Funding Commission. Interestingly, while there was general support for most of the recommendations, many people said they were disappointed that the proposals were not more radical. There was a feeling that we should be trying to maximise the benefit provided by civil society organisations rather than trying to maximise income to civil society organisations. It was a fascinating discussion and a refreshing relief to be at a consultation event where the feedback from breakout groups was presented clearly and succinctly!

Robin Simpson.