Filed under: meetings | Tags: arts, England, politics, research, vcs, volarts, volunteering
On Tuesday I was at the Grand Theatre in Blackpool to speak at the Knowledge Exchange Network’s seminar on Arts Participation, Volunteering & the Big Society. Leeds Metropolitan University was commissioned by Arts Council England to coordinate a Knowledge Exchange Network and a series of seminars exploring key issues in participation and engagement in the arts across the North of England. The work is being coordinated by Leila Jancovich, from the UK Centre for Events Management, and Professor Franco Bianchini from the Cultural Planning and Policy Unit in the School of Cultural Studies. Tuesday’s seminar attracted an audience of around 40 people which included academics and a wide range of arts professionals and volunteers. I spoke about our RSC Open Stages project and the need for better connections between the amateur arts, professionally-led community arts and outreach work from arts institutions. Creative Producer Stella Hall described her experience of working with volunteer performers in several mass participation projects. Janet Berry, the new Programme Director of One Blackpool, gave us a summary of the Government’s Big Society agenda and its practical manifestations. Finally, Clore Fellow Sarah Stannage described her research with volunteer-led museums across Norfolk. These presentations provoked a thoughtful and fascinating discussion, with the diverse range of viewpoints present helping to develop our thinking on arts participation, the voluntary sector, volunteering, local democracy and much more.
Filed under: meetings | Tags: England, ncvo, politics, research, vcs, volunteering
On Monday I was at The Brewery in London to attend ‘Evolve 2013: The annual event for the voluntary sector’. This was the first annual conference of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) since the organisation’s merger with Volunteering England. It was a bigger event than normal – with more than 1000 delegates – and had an obviously increased emphasis on volunteering issues.
The morning session included a speech by the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who said “volunteering is good for our society: it helps to bind communities together”. He thought it was “critical to raise volunteering up the political agenda”. It was fascinating to see Boris Johnson in action. He is very entertaining, genuinely funny and self-deprecating, though it was interesting that he said very little about the effects of austerity or public funding cuts.
I then attended a seminar on ‘Technology and Social Action’ in which three speakers looked at the effects of the digital revolution on civil society. Helen Goulden, Executive Director of the Innovation Lab at NESTA, spoke about technological trends in relation to giving, including the concept of ‘behavioural targeting’. Karl Wilding, Head of Policy & Research at NCVO, looked at what this means for the voluntary sector, including whether ‘membership’ is still relevant in the digital age. Finally Emma Jane Cross from The BB Group (Beat Bullying) spoke about how her organisation is scaling its support by using online social networks. A really thought-provoking set of presentations which generated an interesting discussion.
In the afternoon NCVO Chief Executive, Sir Stuart Etherington, gave his annual ‘state of the sector’ speech. He said “this isn’t an easy time for voluntary organisations and the voluntary sector: times are tough … The [London 2012] Games lifted the cloud of limitation from people’s lives … volunteering is central to my vision for the sector and this is an opportunity that is too good to miss”. Stuart suggested that the brand ‘Big Society’ has become like “an embarrassing uncle” and reminded politicians that “listening to our experience and involving us should be a necessity, not an afterthought”. His rallying cry was that “now is the time for the voluntary sector to speak up. We have a good story to tell – let’s make sure we tell it … Helping Government solve problems is not acquiescence. Campaigning is something the public believe we should do”.
In the final session of the conference we heard from John Cruddas, Shadow Cabinet Minister and Head of the Labour Party Policy Review. Looking at how we rebuild social capital in the current climate he outlined ten points for consideration. He said “we need a politics that values relationships and wellbeing: we need to reduce social poverty”. He went on to ask “as the state withdraws, how can we reconfigure to create new minimum standards? How can we socialise delivery?” In response to a question from the audience, John Cruddas claimed “I’m probably the last person standing that still believes in the Big Society”. His responses to questions were considered and thoughtful and he was clearly keen to listen to the views of the voluntary sector in preparation for developing the Labour Party Manifesto for the next General Election.
On Thursday afternoon I was at The Roundhouse in London for a meeting of the What Next? subgroup which is looking at how to encourage arts and cultural organisations to engage with their MPs. We discussed the parliamentary Early Day Motion on The Importance of Arts and Creative Industries which was tabled by Joan Ruddock MP last week and has so far been signed by 57 MPs, see: http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2013-14/191
Filed under: meetings | Tags: arts, England, funding, politics, UK, vcs, volarts
I was in London again on Thursday for the ACEVO (Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations) Arts, Culture and Heritage Special Interest Group meeting. This group brings together the Chief Executives from a range of arts and heritage organisations and is chaired by Robin Osterley – the Chief Executive of Making Music, who is also a Trustee of both ACEVO and Voluntary Arts. This week we discussed the ACEVO annual conference which is to take place in London on 21 November and suggested topics and speakers that would be of particular interest to cultural organisations. We also got into an interesting debate about the applicability to the UK of the American model whereby all the Trustees of a cultural organisation must also be donors. Our guest speaker was Lizzie Crump from the Cultural Learning Alliance who spoke about the What Next? movement and encouraged everyone to get involved: http://www.whatnextculture.co.uk/ #wn2013
I was back in London on Wednesday to meet Femie Willems and Julia Terlunen from the Netherlands Cultural Participation Fund. In the Netherlands, rather than having a single Arts Council, Government funding for the arts is distributed through several thematic funding organisations. The Netherlands Cultural Participation Fund supports work to encourage participation in schools education, in the amateur arts sector and to develop emerging professional talent. It also operates an international strand of funding focussed on the neighbouring countries (Belgian Flanders, Germany and the UK). Femie and Julia had been spending a few days in London meeting representatives of Arts Council England, the Crafts Council, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and others to discuss the potential for working with the UK to develop and support arts participation. We spoke about the UK voluntary arts sector, the links between our Voluntary Arts Week and the Week of Amateur Arts in Flanders and the Netherlands and possible areas for further co-operation.