Filed under: meetings | Tags: ace, arts, DCMS, England, excellence, funding, Northern Ireland, politics, Scotland, UK, volarts
On Thursday I was at the Park Plaza Riverside Hotel on the Albert Embankment in London for the Arts Council England/RSA conference ‘State of the Arts 2011’. ‘State of the Arts’ is a big conference, attracting around 400 delegates, and it was a great networking opportunity. It was lovely to see people I hadn’t seen for years and to make plenty of new acquaintances. It’s a fairly expensive, corporate event and though it was good to see the alternative parallel ‘flash conference’ going on elsewhere in the hotel and online, the main conference sessions were disappointingly lacking in creativity in terms of their format. That said, there was an impressive array of speakers which included Deborah Bull, Sandy Nairne, Ekow Eshun, Phil Redmond, Ruth McKenzie, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Jonathan Mills, John Knell and Mark Wallinger.
The Culture Minister Ed Vaizey MP started his speech by talking about “the importance of the creative ecology – an alliance between the subsidised and commercial arts; the professional and the voluntary arts; and the arts and the creative industries”. He said “great strength of the arts is its ecology – subsidised arts feeding the commercial arts, the voluntary arts and the amateur arts ensuring the creative spirit is present in every corner of the nation”. The Minister said he wants Arts Council England “to be an organisation that is a source of advice and expertise for everyone who works or participates in the arts – not just for the organisations it funds, but right the way across the creative ecology”. He explained “Our strategy for the arts is very simple. We want to help all the arts – those that receive subsidy, those that are purely commercial, those that are voluntary and amateur”.
The conference also provided my first opportunity to hear from the new Labour Party culture team with the Shadow Secretary of State, Ivan Lewis MP, speaking in the final plenary session and the Shadow Culture Minister, Gloria de Piero MP, taking part in an earlier ‘Cultural Question Time’ session alongside Don Foster MP, co-chair of the Liberal Democrat back bench committee for Culture, Media and Sport. In the afternoon I attended a breakout session on ‘The Big Society’ which included Caoimhin Corrigan from ILEX talking about the ‘edge to centre’ approach being used by Derry City of Culture 2013 and Andrew Dixon, Chief Executive of Creative Scotland, praising the Feisan movement for bringing together so many people in communities and creating a sense of place. I particularly liked what Gavin Stride from Farnham Maltings said: “professional and amateur are not opposites – they are both constituents of great art”. Gavin spoke about the value of “the things people are prepared to do for free that they wouldn’t do if you paid them”. He said “participation and excellence belong hand in hand”.
It was an interesting day and it was very encouraging to see a number of references to the amateur arts – from the Minister’s speech onwards.
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