Cultural Playing Field

Voluntary Arts Week 2012 by Robin Simpson
May 17, 2012, 3:49 pm
Filed under: comment | Tags: , ,

Voluntary Arts Week 2012 has been taking place across the UK and the Republic of Ireland. More than 100 events have been registered on the Voluntary Arts Week website, at Voluntary Arts Scotland ran a launch event in an empty shop in Falkirk on Saturday. A host of local groups gave visitors the chance to try their hand at activities such as floral art and playing the guitar and drums, see: The Voluntary Arts Ireland team visited the Open Source event in Belfast at the weekend, see: The Voluntary Arts England/BBC Radio Merseyside Up for Arts project in Liverpool gave significant on-air coverage to Voluntary Arts Week: Helen Jones broadcast 5 slots on BBC Radio Merseyside to promote Voluntary Arts Week and her Voluntary Arts Week trail has been played 18 times. We also established an Up for Arts choir as part of Voluntary Arts Week. I wrote a guest blog about Voluntary Arts Week which was featured on the official Department for Culture Media and Sport website, see: Kelly wrote a great article about Voluntary Arts Week which was published on the Guardian website, see: There has been extensive discussion of Voluntary Arts Week on Twitter, using the hashtag #voluntaryartsweek. And on Wednesday afternoon I hosted the Voluntary Arts Week LIVE webcast: you can watch the video recording at Many thanks to everyone who has contributed to making Voluntary Arts Week 2012 such a success.

Robin Simpson.


NCVO Members Assembly meeting by Robin Simpson
May 17, 2012, 3:48 pm
Filed under: meetings | Tags: , , ,

On Thursday I was in Birmingham to take part in a meeting of the NCVO Members Assembly. The theme of the day was ‘responsible capitalism’ and we opened with a fascinating presentation from Michael Green, an economist who was formerly Head of Communications at the Department for International Development. Michael laid out the options for dealing with the “great vampire squid” of capitalism, urging the charity sector (particularly the charitable foundations) to become “activist investors”. Christine Berry from FairPensions – a charity which works to promote responsible investment by pension funds and other institutional investors – similarly talked about “leveraging the influence of shareholders to improve corporate behaviour”. The third speaker was Charlotte Gardiner, Policy Manager at NCVO, who talked about her role as a Board member of Enabling Enterprise – a Community Interest Company that helps young people develop their employability skills. In the interesting and wide-ranging discussion that followed there was much talk about the commercial sector wanting the voluntary sector to be more business-like. Ray Kipling thought we should be asking the commercial sector to be more voluntary sector-like. Ray, who used to work for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, asked how many commercial business could motivate a lot of people to go out late at night and face death? It was great to see a new North East region representative on the NCVO Members Assembly – Lisa Gardiner who some of you with very long memories will remember was the first Voluntary Arts England Information Officer. Lisa now works for North Tyneside VODA: it was lovely to see her again.

Robin Simpson.

Regeneration and the voluntary arts in Wales by Robin Simpson
May 17, 2012, 3:43 pm
Filed under: meetings | Tags: , , ,

On Tuesday I took part in a telephone meeting with Chris Warner and Jayne Stokes from the Regeneration Directorate in the Department for Housing, Regeneration and Heritage at the Welsh Government and Peter Owen from the Culture, Sport & Media Division. This was a follow-up to the meeting Hamish and I had with Chris and Peter in March. We talked about how to involve the voluntary arts sector in the forthcoming review of the Welsh Government’s approaches to regeneration. We also discussed the potential for developing some pilot projects to look at the role voluntary arts groups can play in relation to regeneration, possibly linked to the new Voluntary Arts Wales Up for Arts project in North Wales.

Robin Simpson.

Voluntary Arts Week 2012: 12 – 20 May by Robin Simpson
May 11, 2012, 4:14 pm
Filed under: comment | Tags: , , , , , , ,

Tomorrow marks the beginning of Voluntary Arts Week, which provides a unique opportunity to highlight and celebrate the often-neglected riches of the UK’s voluntary arts sector.

Around the UK nearly ten million people belong to voluntary arts groups and regularly take part in the voluntary arts. This includes activities such as singing in a choral society, acting in an amateur theatre group, folk dancing, painting, lace-making, calligraphy, pottery and bell-ringing. Every week millions of people take part in voluntary arts rehearsals, classes and meetings. This activity becomes such a vital part of people’s lives that it can be the main focus of their week: the day-job sometimes seems like a mere distraction from the preparation for our next performance or exhibition.

Participation in voluntary arts groups is, for many people, their main opportunity for social interaction – the place to make friends. It is incredibly difficult to measure the importance of the voluntary arts to its participants but it is clear that it makes a massive contribution to the quality of life, wellbeing, happiness and learning of millions of people across the country.

From 12 to 20 May 2012 Voluntary Arts is promoting the first UK and Ireland Voluntary Arts Week. Voluntary arts groups across the country will be running special events during the week to raise their profile and celebrate their achievements. Groups can add their events to the Voluntary Arts Week website where the full list will be published. We are also encouraging everyone involved in the voluntary arts to promote their activities through the ‘What’s in your Window?’ campaign, showing their skills by creating a crafty window display at home, or in a local community centre, library or charity shop during Voluntary Arts Week.

Please take a look at the Voluntary Arts Week website, take the time to visit some Voluntary Arts Week events, look out for the What’s in your Window? displays, try taking part in a voluntary arts group for the first time or take the opportunity of Voluntary Arts Week to tell people about your own involvement in the voluntary arts.

You can support Voluntary Arts Week in the following ways:

  • encourage more voluntary arts groups to register their events at (it’s not too late!)
  • attend the Voluntary Arts Week 2012 launch event in Falkirk town centre tomorrow: Voluntary Arts Scotland has secured the use of an empty shop unit at 43 High Street, Falkirk. Between 12 pm and 4 pm on Saturday 12 May the doors will open and passers-by will be welcomed into the space where they can try their hand at some of the arts and crafts on offer, watch a performance or two and find out more about the groups running in their area. There is a fantastic range of groups involved, with activities ranging from Floral Art to Martial Arts, and everyone is invited!
  • visit some Voluntary Arts Week events – use the events listing at to find events near you
  • tweet about Voluntary Arts Week using the hashtag #voluntaryartsweek
  • take photos of Voluntary Arts Week events and other voluntary arts activities and use the instagram app (free for iphone and Android) to upload them with the hashtag #voluntaryartsweek
  • keep an eye on the Voluntary Arts Week blog – go to and click ‘News’
  • encourage people to display their art or craft skill in a window, take a photo and upload it to the ‘What’s in your Window?’ page at
  • read my guest blog on the Department for Culture, Media and Sport website at:
  • join us online at 2 pm on Wednesday 16 May for ‘Voluntary Arts Week LIVE’ – a live video webcast which will feature Voluntary Arts Week highlights and interviews from across the UK and Ireland – go to at 2 pm on Wednesday to watch and comment live

Robin Simpson.

Understanding Everyday Participation by Robin Simpson
May 3, 2012, 2:21 pm
Filed under: meetings | Tags: , , , , ,

On Wednesday I had a telephone meeting with Dr Andrew Miles at the Centre for Research on Socio-Cultural Change (CRESC) at the University of Manchester. Andrew is leading the Understanding Everyday Participation project – a five-year research study funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council under its Communities, Culture and Creative Economies funding programme. Voluntary Arts is one of the project partners and Andrew and I discussed the role Voluntary Arts will play in the initial phase of the study which will focus on mapping the cultural ecosystems in six contrasting communities (four in England and two in Scotland – supported by additional funding from Creative Scotland). We also talked about the parallels and potential overlap with Arts Council England’s Creative People and Places programme.

Robin Simpson.

Running Your Group LIVE – Child Protection and Safeguarding by Robin Simpson
May 3, 2012, 2:16 pm
Filed under: meetings | Tags: , ,

On Tuesday afternoon Daniel and I were at the offices of Children England in London for the latest Running Your Group LIVE online event – an introduction to child protection and safeguarding. I interviewed Kevin Garrod, the National Partnerships Manager for Safe Network – the National Third Sector Safeguarding Unit – live on The interview included basic information about where to start if you are running a local amateur group that wants to undertake some activities involving children, dispelling some of the myths about criminal records disclosures, an update on forthcoming changes to the statutory guidance and the development of a vetting and barring scheme, the growing importance of taking measures to ensure online safety and much more. Kevin urged those involved in amateur groups working with children, young people or vulnerable adults to undertake at least Level One training which you can do online (free of charge) via the Safe Network website at or through your Local Safeguarding Children Board (which you can find at Our interview was webcast live as streaming video, with text chat allowing Running Your Group subscribers to put their questions directly to Kevin (many thanks to those of you who did). The video recording will be available shortly to watch in full on the Online Events page at In the meantime you can watch a short extract at This was our second Running Your Group LIVE online event and we managed to get the technology working much better this time. Kevin Garrod was a great interviewee – well-informed, clear and open. He helped us to present a simple, straightforward overview of a subject that can appear confusing and daunting to many amateur groups. If you were not able to join us live on Tuesday please do watch the video recording at

Robin Simpson.