Cultural Playing Field


Craft Club by Robin Simpson
October 15, 2010, 3:50 pm
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On Wednesday I was at Arts Council England in London to meet Phil Cave and Clara Goldsmith from Arts Council England and Amanda Jones from the Crafts Council to talk about Craft Club – a Crafts Council project in association with the UK Handknitting Association and the National Federation of Women’s Institutes. Craft Club is a three-year programme to develop craft in schools. It focuses on yarn-based activities: knitting, sewing and weaving. We discussed the possible development of the Craft Club programme within Arts Council England’s Arts Nation campaign, extending the activity beyond schools to families groups.

Robin Simpson.

 

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Voluntary arts umbrella bodies meeting by Robin Simpson
October 15, 2010, 3:49 pm
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I was back in London on Tuesday to chair a meeting of voluntary arts umbrella bodies organised by Voluntary Arts England. This was a discussion amongst some of our biggest and best resourced membership organisations about how we might work more closely together to support each other’s lobbying and advocacy. We also talked about encouraging voluntary arts groups to use School of Everything (http://www.schoolofeverything.com) to seek new members, using the NCVO Value of Infrastructure Programme to help measure the performance of umbrella organisations (see http://www.ncvo-vol.org.uk/networking-discussions/groups/30238) and using the Community Learning Champions scheme (http://www.communitylearningchampions.org.uk/) to link voluntary arts ambassadors and regional representatives.

Robin Simpson.

 



The amateur arts in the UK and Brazil by Robin Simpson
October 15, 2010, 3:45 pm
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On Monday afternoon Mary and I were at the South Bank Centre in London to meet Juana Nunes and Alexandre Santini from the Brazilian Ministry of Culture who are visiting the UK as part of the Points of Contact exchange programme organised by People’s Palace Projects. We joined Juana, Alex, Paul Heritage, Rosie Hunter and Fabricio Ramos for a discussion about the amateur arts in the UK and Brazil. It was fascinating to compare notes on a wide range of issues including education, community development, social exclusion and the right to cultural expression. Our Brazilian guests were particularly impressed by the scale of amateur arts activity in the UK: “in Britain you seem to have a real tradition of people ‘just doing’ arts and crafts”.

Robin Simpson.

 



The Art of Conversation: Membership or Bust? by Robin Simpson
October 8, 2010, 4:44 pm
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On Friday afternoon I attended the second half of the Voluntary Arts Scotland annual networking event ‘The Art of Conversation: Membership or Bust?’ in Glasgow. Representatives of voluntary arts groups and umbrella bodies debated the changing nature of membership, how to attract new members, what puts people off becoming members and the use of digital technologies in relation to membership. There were presentations from Laraine Winning from Voluntary Arts England, Isabel Cleary from Voluntary Arts Ireland, Helen Black from the Citizens Theatre and Liz Whitehouse, Chief Executive of the Quilters Guild of the British Isles, as well as contributions from Voluntary Arts Scotland staff and Committee members. I chaired the final panel session and it was interesting to hear a variety of innovative and intriguing ideas that had emerged during the day.

Robin Simpson.

 



Redefining creative expression by Robin Simpson
October 8, 2010, 4:37 pm
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On Friday I was in Glasgow for the Mission Models Money event ‘Towards an Ecological View of Creative Vitality’. This was a seminar to consider how MMM might develop an action research project in Glasgow and Perth & Kinross which would aim to define a broader and more inclusive definition of creative and cultural expression. Alan Brown, an American researcher and management consultant in the nonprofit arts industry, asked us how you would know whether your community is creatively vital. He explained that when people are asked whether they take part in the arts or cultural activity they tend to say that they don’t do anything whereas when people are asked if they do anything creative almost everyone can cite something. Cultural policy and the arts world only seems to value specific artforms, ignoring other forms of creative expression such as cooking, gardening, designing attractive living spaces or writing letters. Alan described a framework of five modes of creative participation (inventive, interpretive, curatorial, observational and ambient). He was concerned that arts organisations have a very limited interest in gaining an overview of the cultural ecosystem, typically focussing on their own funding rather than seeing their interdependence on other parts of the sector, including the voluntary arts. Claire Cooper from MMM described the planned action research project which will attempt to answer the question “how can developing a broader and more inclusive definition of creative expression evolve our world view of what constitutes a healthy arts and cultural ecology”. It was a fascinating, and fiercely intellectual debate and it was great to see officers from Creative Scotland, local authorities and audience development agencies stressing the value and importance of all forms of arts participation and the role of the amateur arts in healthy and creative communities.

Robin Simpson.

 



Community Media Association East of England Roadshow by Robin Simpson
October 8, 2010, 8:42 am
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On Wednesday I was in Ipswich for the Community Media Association East of England Roadshow. Community media organisations and arts organisations from across the Eastern region gathered at Endeavour House – the home of Suffolk County Council – for a day of presentations and discussions about how they might work more closely together. This was the first of a series of regional roadshows we are presenting as part of the CMA’s Arts Project, funded by Arts Council England. Our plan is to look at the role of community media organisations can play in relation to the arts – not just as a means of publicising existing arts activity but as a “producer, platform and partner”. On Wednesday we heard details of some fantastic examples of community radio stations that already engage in lots of arts activity. Future Radio – a station in Norwich run by around 100 volunteers – has an amazing record in covering and commissioning arts activity. In 2009, as the culmination of a project funded by a Grants for the Arts Lottery award from Arts Council England, Future Radio created a radio production of Hamlet – working with 10 local theatre companies in and around Norwich to recruit a cast of 20 mostly amateur actors, commissioning original music and broadcasting the play in seven weekly episodes. From the extract we heard, the results were very impressive. For more details see: http://www.futureradio.co.uk/platform. To find a community media organisation in your area that might be interested in working with your voluntary arts group go to http://map.commedia.org.uk/.

Robin Simpson.



Entertainment Licensing by Robin Simpson
October 1, 2010, 1:37 pm
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I was back in London on Friday to meet Stuart Roberts and Mabel Wanogho from the Entertainment Licensing team at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to talk about possible changes to the licensing of live entertainment. The Government hopes to reduce licensing requirements under the Licensing Act 2003 for various forms of live entertainment. DCMS is considering a range of options and having informal early discussions with those who may be affected. Stuart explained that they are examining whether the licensing system is sufficiently targeted and proportionate, considering its impact on low risk and small scale events. I provided some initial feedback from the point of view of voluntary arts groups and offered to convene a meeting of voluntary arts umbrella bodies to discuss any proposed changes in more detail.

Robin Simpson.