Filed under: meetings | Tags: DCMS, DIUS, England, excellence, vcs, volarts
On Wednesday morning Mary and I were back in London to meet the Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, Ed Vaizey. We gave the Minister an overview of the voluntary arts sector and started to explore ways in which voluntary arts groups might support the development of the Big Society. Ed Vaizey spoke about the support he had given to a brass band in his constituency and was impressed and fascinated by the scale and diversity of the voluntary arts sector. It was a very cordial and positive first meeting and the Minister asked Voluntary Arts to work with DCMS on two specific initiatives he is developing. We also talked about Voluntary Arts England’s EPIC Awards and invited Ed Vaizey to attend our winners’ reception at the House of Lords in January.
Filed under: meetings | Tags: DIUS, education, England, politics, training, vcs, volarts
On Tuesday evening I was at the RSA to hear the Minister of State for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning, John Hayes, deliver a speech titled ‘The craft so long to lerne: Skills and their Place in Modern Britain’. John Hayes wanted to stress the importance of practical skills and the need for greater parity of esteem between academic learning and practical craft. This was not just about the economic need for a better skilled nation. The Minister said “there’s plenty of evidence to show that raising skills levels brings social as well as economic benefits, like better public health, lower crime-rates and more intensive engagement by individuals in the sorts of voluntary and community activities that improve everyone’s quality of life”. He spoke passionately about the “power of learning for the common good” and said he was proud that the Adult & Community Learning budget had been protected in the Comprehensive Spending Review. The Minister said “we must not forget the role that informal learning also plays in teaching skills. Acquiring skills make our lives, not necessarily wealthier, but definitely fuller. It raises our self-esteem and often also the esteem in which others hold us”. He finished by saying “skills, craft and dexterity give our lives meaning and value. They are at the heart of our society. Craft should be honoured and those who master it revered. So while we work to encourage the learning of practical skills, we must also work to build demand for and recognition of them.” John Hayes is a passionate advocate of learning for learning’s sake. He was even more eloquent once he departed from his script and started answering questions from the floor, stressing the effect that informal learning has on health, mental health, civic engagement and much more. Though ‘craft’ in the context of this speech encompassed a broad range of practical skills, from carpenter to software engineer, it was clear that developing skills in the arts and crafts is very definitely something that the Minister is keen to encourage.
On Tuesday Mary and I were at Arts Council England in London for the final meeting of the Amateur Arts Partnership Development Programme steering group. This group, which brings together Voluntary Arts, ACE, DCMS and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, was established by ACE Chief Executive Alan Davey in 2008 to respond to the conclusions and recommendations of the ‘Our Creative Talent’ research. We developed an ongoing action plan for this work and have been pursuing ten broad actions over the past two years, making considerable progress in many areas. One of the most tangible outcomes of the steering group’s work has been the development of Amateur Arts Forum meetings to bring together representatives of national voluntary arts umbrella bodies with ACE senior staff on a regular basis. On Tuesday we agreed that we have now established specific ways of taking forward all ten actions resulting from ‘Our Creative Talent’ and that it would be more productive to pursue these separately rather than continuing these overview meetings. This is a reflection of how the voluntary and amateur arts has become integrated into the work of Arts Council England: the steering group’s work has had significant influence on ACE’s new 10-year strategy ‘Achieving Great Art for Everyone’ which is going to be launched next week and several of our key actions will now be taken forward as part of that strategy. Voluntary Arts will continue to work with ACE, DCMS and DBIS both separately and collectively and we have agreed that the Amateur Arts Forum meetings with ACE will continue. The end of the Amateur Arts Partnership Development Programme reminds us how far we have come since 2008 and we are very grateful to everyone who has played a part in this process.
Filed under: meetings | Tags: ace, arts, DCMS, Europe, funding, politics, UK, vcs, volarts
On Monday I was at the Southbank Centre in London for the Points of Contact seminar, the culmination of the cultural exchange programme between the UK and Brazil that started with our visit to Brazil in March. Over the past couple of weeks representatives of 18 Brazilian arts organisations, together with a group of Brazilian policymakers, have been visiting the UK to compare practice and discuss what the UK could learn from the Brazilian Pontos de Cultura programme. Opening Monday’s seminar Juana Nunes from the Brazilian Ministry of Culture explained that Pontos de Cultura is “a natural, organic network of living production” which sought “to recognise cultural groups and what they were already doing in their communities”. She said it was “more about the flux of what people do rather than cultural structures or institutions”, “to recognise and reinforce the cultural energies in communities that were invisible to society”.
The main part of the seminar comprised presentations from several of the twinned pairs of British and Brazilian artists about what they had learned from each other. The seminar finished with the launch of a declaration created by the UK arts organisations involved in the project which included the following calls to action:
- We propose a clear mission for government and civil society to promote and protect cultural rights for all UK citizens
- We want a strategic move from arts policy to cultural policy
- We need a vision and language for the arts that includes a strong recognition of cultural rights, combined with actions which develop the creative and expressive lives of citizens and communities
- We argue for a vision of culture that connects our expressive lives with all aspects of the enrichment, health, security and development of civil society
- We recognise that cultural participation builds the autonomy and protagonism of individuals and communities – we need policies that stimulate new models of dynamic citizenship
In the final plenary session Mick Elliott, Director of Culture at DCMS, said it was important for us to “listen to the voices of communities and find ways of empowering them”. Former Secretary of State for Cultural Citizenship in the Brazilian Government, Celio Turino, (who devised the Pontos de Cultura programme) explained that the construction of a Point of Culture is a mathematical game, based on the equation: autonomy plus protagonism to the power of network equals a Point of Culture. I suggested that we have all the components of this equation in the UK but we don’t tend to put them together, all too often working in separate boxes. The voluntary arts sector clearly demonstrates its autonomy and is extensively networked within the confines of particular artforms but is not so effective at connecting with the wider communities in which voluntary arts groups exist and has not yet found a way of channelling its protagonism to develop communities and civil society. There is much we can learn from the Brazilian model and the end of the Points of Contact project (organised by People’s Palace Projects and supported by the British Council, DCMS, Arts Council England and the Brazilian Ministry of Culture) feels like just the start of a much longer debate.
On Friday Laraine and I were at White City in London to meet Alec McGivan, Head of BBC Outreach. We talked about the success of our Up for Arts project with BBC Radio Merseyside and the possibility of developing similar projects with other BBC local radio stations across the North of England. We also discussed how we might be able to work together more generally to help BBC Outreach to fulfil the six BBC Public Purposes: sustaining citizenship and civil society; promoting education and learning; stimulating creativity and cultural excellence; reflecting the UK’s nations and regions, and communities; bringing the UK to the world and the world to the UK; and supporting emerging communications technologies. It was a very encouraging meeting and we identified a number of potential collaborations to focus on initially.