Cultural Playing Field


Creative People and Places – Arts Council England South East briefing session in Chatham by Robin Simpson
February 29, 2012, 10:50 am
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On Tuesday afternoon I was at the Brook Theatre in Chatham, Kent, for the Arts Council England South East Creative People and Places briefing session. The neighbouring local authorities, Swale and Medway, are both among the 71 eligible areas of lowest arts engagement for Creative People and Places and the discussion focussed on the development of a single consortium bid to cover both places. Stephanie Fuller from ACE South East said “we’ve done lots on audiences and engagement in the past but we’ve not cracked it. To make a statistically significant change is actually quite difficult. We are looking for something different here – something long-term.” She emphasised that ACE would be looking for three things from Creative People and Places: more people doing more stuff, sustainability and learning. Of the five Creative People and Places events I have been to so far, this was the first discussion that really started to tackle the question of how we might persuade people who don’t currently engage in the arts to do so. It was an inventive, creative discussion that started to get to the root of the issues and came up with a three-part strategy based around enticement, enjoyment and empowerment.

Robin Simpson.



Creative People and Places – Arts Council England London briefing session in Newham by Robin Simpson
February 24, 2012, 5:01 pm
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I was at Stratford Circus in the London Borough of Newham on Friday afternoon for an Arts Council England London briefing session on Creative People and Places. Shira Hess, who is leading on Creative People and Places for ACE London, stressed that ‘engagement’ in the context of this programme means the full spectrum of being inspired by culture in its widest sense. She talked about the importance of legacy and sustainability – what will be left at the end of 3 years – and said that successful bids will need to consider this from the outset. London has been allocated less than £1.8M of the £37M Creative people and Places fund: there are only 3 eligible London boroughs falling with the 20% lowest areas of arts engagement (Newham, Hounslow and Barking & Dagenham). Shira emphasised that the key to sustainability will be having the people in the relevant communities sitting at the heart of the Creative People and Places activities. My presentation on the potential that amateur groups offer to Creative People and Places was well received and lots of people came to talk to me, in the networking session that followed the presentations, about working with amateur groups.

Robin Simpson.



Discussing the BBC Performing Arts Fund by Robin Simpson
February 24, 2012, 12:48 pm
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On Friday morning I was at Broadcasting House in London to meet Miriam O’Keefe, the Director of the BBC Performing Arts Fund. The Performing Arts Fund distributes the money raised by phone-voting on TV shows such as Strictly Come Dancing. It runs grant programmes which are open to performing arts groups across the UK. Over the past year the fund’s focus has been on dance, they are about to launch a new community music scheme and next year they will be turning their attention to theatre. Miriam told me that the trustees of the fund are looking to get more exposure in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in order to encourage more applications from those places. We talked about how Voluntary Arts could help to publicise the fund’s programmes to amateur arts groups and how the BBC Performing Arts Fund could help us to promote our Running Your Group services, Epic Awards and Voluntary Arts Week.

Robin Simpson.



Creative People and Places – Arts Council England Yorkshire briefing sessions by Robin Simpson
February 23, 2012, 3:42 pm
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I was in Dewsbury on Monday for two Creative People and Places briefing sessions at Arts Council England Yorkshire. The Director of ACE Yorkshire, Cluny Macpherson, introduced each session and outlined the ambitions of the Creative People and Places programme. Pete Massey, who is leading the programme in Yorkshire, then went through the details of how consortia can apply for funding to increase arts engagement in one of the nine areas of least engagement that are within Yorkshire and Humberside. He emphasised the need for a radical and creative approach, saying “we want to change the culture of culture in a place”. Pete pointed out the correlation between areas of least engagement in the arts and indicators of deprivation. Over half the target areas are in the three Northern regions of England: Pete suggested you could almost drive the entire length of the M62 without leaving a place of least engagement. I then gave a short presentation about the role that amateur arts groups could play in Creative People and Places consortia.

Robin Simpson.



Creative People and Places – Arts Council England North East briefing session by Robin Simpson
February 17, 2012, 2:01 pm
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On Friday I took part in Arts Council England’s North East regional briefing session in Newcastle for Creative People and Places. Phil Cave described Creative People and Places as “the boldest, most ambitious thing” ACE has done to increase engagement in the arts. He said ACE was keen to look at radically different approaches – to allow the rest of the country to learn from the activity that will take place in the 15 chosen areas over the coming years. Phil reminded us that ACE’s 10-year strategic framework, ‘Achieving Great Art for Everyone’ talks about “supporting the public to help shape local arts provision”. Referring to those parts of the country that currently have very low levels of engagement with the arts, he said “we can’t fund our way out of this challenge: we have to find creative ways of making a difference” such as working with the amateur and commercial sectors. Phil told a large audience of arts organisations from the North East region “you’re going to have to work with the amateur sector”. ACE North East Director, Alison Clark-Jenkins, said that most of the North East is in the bottom 20% (those areas of least engagement eligible for Creative People and Places funding) and she felt “this gives us a mandate to be really bold and do something really different.

Robin Simpson.



re.volution Orientation Day by Robin Simpson
February 17, 2012, 8:54 am
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On Thursday I was in Newcastle to take part in an orientation day for re.volution – a new Peer Learning Network for small and medium sized arts and cultural organisations in England and Scotland, established by Mission Models Money (MMM). re.volution is designed to help the leaders of arts organisations solve the problems of trying to do too much, with too little, too often on your own. Designed to be very practical, re.volution has so far brought together around 50 Peers across England and Scotland physically and through on line space, so that we can receive and give advice, practical assistance and critical thinking on issues and challenges that we need help with or about which we have relevant expertise.?? On Thursday I met a small group of fellow Peers from organisations and networks including the visual arts, theatre and museums. The day was facilitated by Mark Robinson from Thinking Practice and was a very enjoyable opportunity for mutual support and networking.

Robin Simpson.



Joint meeting of NNVIA and EVDC by Robin Simpson
February 16, 2012, 8:10 am
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The Network of National Volunteer-Involving Agencies (NNVIA) is a national forum for national organisations that involve volunteers: NNVIA currently has 56 member organisations. Many NNVIA members also belong to the England Volunteering Development Council (EVDC) and this Wednesday, for the first time, EDVC and NNVIA held a joint meeting, at Birkbeck College in London. The joint meeting succeeded in attracting considerable more people than the combined total attending the last separate EVDC and NNVIA meetings. It focussed on two main topics, looking at innovation, technology and digital inclusion in relation to volunteering in the morning, followed by a discussion of employer-supported volunteering after lunch. We had three fascinating speakers – Annie Dare from Race Online 2012, Philip Colligan from the NESTA Innovation in Giving Fund and the Head of Corporate Social Responsibility at KPMG, Michael Kelly. Having a large group of people in the room made it possible to run effective open space discussions on the two topics. It was a really interesting day and I think showed the potential for similar joint meetings of the two networks. I was particularly fascinated by some of the discussion around innovation: Philip Colligan explained that the NESTA Innovation in Giving Fund is promoting reciprocity and making use of idling capacity. I loved the statistic that the average use of a drill in its lifetime is 12 minutes! “Why buy a drill when you need a hole?”

Robin Simpson.