Cultural Playing Field

NCVO Impact of Infrastructure conference 2012 by Robin Simpson
April 27, 2012, 1:54 pm
Filed under: meetings | Tags: , ,

On  Wednesday I was at Mary Ward House in London to take part in the NCVO Impact of Infrastructure 2012 conference. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) is approaching the end of its 3-year Value of Infrastructure Programme (VIP), funded by the Big Lottery Fund. Opening the conference, NCVO Deputy Chief Executive, Ben Kernighan, said there had been a big investment in voluntary sector infrastructure over the past decade – which he called a “golden age for funding for the voluntary sector”. The current Government focus is towards the ‘front line’ rather than infrastructure organisations. But Ben emphasised that “infrastructure is a really important part of the sector and has emerged from the sector … its role in providing a voice and advocacy for the sector is crucial”. He also spoke about a shift from supply-led to demand-driven support. Leesa Herbert from NCVO explained how the Value of Infrastructure Programme provided a robust and relevant framework, categorising the three key common roles of infrastructure organisations as: connecting; developing; and influencing. Sara Burns from Triangle Consulting explained how they had worked with NCVO to develop the VIP impact measurement tools. I spoke, in the afternoon plenary session, about how Voluntary Arts has started to use these impact measurement tools and the way in which we introduced staff and Board members to the system through a series of exercises at our 2011 Awayday. The Impact of Infrastructure conference was an extremely interesting and well-attended event. There were around 150 delegates – mainly from local voluntary sector infrastructure organisations (Councils for Voluntary Service and similar) but with a reasonable representation of national specialist infrastructure bodies like Voluntary Arts. Given how often it seems like we are a unique and complicated organisation, it was very reassuring to meet so many people doing similar work in different locations and sectors.

Robin Simpson.


The honours system in the arts and media sectors by Robin Simpson
April 20, 2012, 1:47 pm
Filed under: meetings | Tags: , , , ,

On Tuesday afternoon I was at Tate Britain in London for a meeting organised by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to discuss the honours system and how to increase the number of nominations for women in the arts and media. Lord Stevenson, who is Chair of the Arts and Media Committee which considers nominations from these sectors, chaired a fascinating session of presentations and discussion. He was joined by two other members of the Arts and Media Committee, Dame Jenny Abramsky and Dame Liz Forgan (“a gaggle of Dames?”) to talk about the quite shocking disparity between the numbers of nominations for male and female candidates for honours. Jenny Abramsky said “the honours system should be diverse, should be fair and should recognise what is going on in this country”. Liz Forgan said “the honours list is a very cheap, simple way of saying thank you to people”. She felt there was no shortage of potential nominees in the arts and media. Alison Bennett from the Cabinet Office, which oversees the honours system, explained that nominations are considered by eight expert committees (including the Arts and Media Committee). The Community, Voluntary and Local Services Committee (CVLS) accounts for around 40% of the honours list. Nominations are received directly from members of the public as well as via Government departments. Alison told us that women have never made up more than 47% of the overall list and the disparity was particularly bad in the higher level awards. In the 2012 New Year honours there were 7 Dames compared to 27 Knights. Within the arts and media nominations only 37% were for women (and only 33% were awarded). Pat Le-Bruin from DCMS said that it seemed that “everyone assumes someone else is doing something”. She emphasised that DCMS is happy to work with organisations planning to nominate someone, to advise them on how to create effective citations etc. We also heard from the playwright and critic, Bonnie Greer OBE, who spoke about how she had felt on being awarded an honour. She talked passionately about why she had decided to accept and said “if I can be awarded an OBE then everybody can”. It was a fascinating and inspiring session and certainly succeeded in enthusing me to look at what more we could do to encourage nominations for honours from the voluntary arts sector.

Robin Simpson.

Storytelling in Wales by Robin Simpson
April 20, 2012, 1:05 pm
Filed under: meetings | Tags: , , ,

On Monday I was at the University of Glamorgan in Cardiff to take part in a meeting about storytelling in Wales. Voluntary Arts Board member, Hamish Fyfe, is Director the George Ewart Evans Centre for Storytelling at the University of Glamorgan and called this meeting to look at how storytelling might be celebrated, supported and encouraged in Wales. Joining us around the table were representatives of museums, libraries, Cadw (the Welsh Government’s historic environment service) and several storytellers. We considered the possibility of trying to establish a centre in Wales along the lines of The Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh, though I think we felt that there were other ways of supporting storytelling that might be more effective than a building. Broadly we looked at three themes which I categorised as past (capturing and preserving traditional Welsh stories), present (supporting, celebrating and raising the profile of storytelling across Wales) and future (developing skills in storytelling and encouraging more people to participate). It was a really interesting first meeting and we agreed to meet again later in the year to develop these thoughts.

Robin Simpson.

Discussing Creative People and Places with Phil Cave by Robin Simpson
April 13, 2012, 12:43 pm
Filed under: meetings | Tags: , , , , ,

On Friday I have been at the offices of Arts Council England East Midlands in Nottingham to meet Phil Cave, ACE’s Director, Engagement and Participation. With only a few hours to go to the deadline for applications to the first round of ACE’s Creative People and Places programme, Phil and I reflected on what we had learned from the Creative People and Places regional briefing sessions around the country. It has been fascinating to see the different approaches being taken in the eligible areas to form consortia and develop applications. I have been pleased by the extent to which applications seem to be taking seriously the need to involve local amateur arts groups, though I suspect there is still some work to do to realise this in practice. Phil said he has been delighted by the level of interest in the programme from across the country and was looking forward to starting to read the applications.

Robin Simpson.

Meeting Tony Heaton at Shape by Robin Simpson
April 13, 2012, 12:41 pm
Filed under: meetings | Tags: , ,

On Wednesday afternoon Daniel and I were in Kentish Town, North London, to meet Tony Heaton, the Chief Executive of Shape. Shape is the major arts and disability charity, based in London, which works to support disabled people as artists and audience members. Shape is involved in running ‘Unlimited’ – the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad disability arts programme. We talked with Tony about showcasing some of the achievements of ‘Unlimited’ (particularly the five Unlimited International projects) within the annual conference of Amateo: the European Network for Active Participation in Cultural Activities, which Voluntary Arts is hosting in London in June. Tony also agreed to take part in a session within the Amateo Conference which will look at the involvement of disabled people in amateur arts groups across Europe.

For more information about the Amateo Conference 2012, and to book your place, go to:

Robin Simpson.