Cultural Playing Field

Up for Arts Lancashire by Robin Simpson
August 20, 2013, 4:20 pm
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On Tuesday I was in Blackburn to visit Helen Randle at BBC Radio Lancashire. Helen is the Broadcast Manager for our Up for Arts Lancashire project – a partnership between Voluntary Arts England, BBC Radio Lancashire and Lancashire County Council. To date we have run campaigns focussed on creative writing, dance and textile crafts – including dance sessions in 9 libraries across Lancashire and the wonderful People’s Patchwork project. The next focus for Up for Arts is singing – Lancashire in Harmony will include 13 sessions led by conductors who run community choirs across the country and will culminate in the formation of an Up for Arts Choir in time for Christmas. We are also about to launch the Lancashire part of our Volunteering in the Arts project in partnership with the National Operatic and Dramatic Association (NODA). Our aim is to match 25 volunteers with NODA members across Lancashire, encouraging BBC staff, County Council employees and students from local colleges and universities to volunteer to support amateur theatre groups. Lancashire County Council is providing strong support for Up for Arts and helping us develop links with libraries and museums. On Tuesday I also met John Clayton, Managing Editor of BBC Radio Lancashire, who stressed how important Up for Arts is to the radio station. It was great to see how the Up for Arts model, developed over the past few years with BBC Radio Merseyside, is now being used so effectively in a very different context in Lancashire. For more details see:


Arts Council England’s Cultural Commissioning Programme by Robin Simpson
August 16, 2013, 1:52 pm
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On Tuesday I was interviewed over the phone by Sally Bagwell at New Philanthropy Capital as part of the initial scoping stage of Arts Council England’s Cultural Commissioning Programme. A new consortium of organisations led by the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO), and including New Philanthropy Capital, the New Economics Foundation and Mission Models Money, is developing a mix of activities to help both commissioners in the public services and the arts, museums and libraries sectors. The aim of the programme is to help arts and cultural organisations get more involved in commissioning. On Tuesday we spoke about the very limited involvement that voluntary arts groups have in commissioning and the potential for them to bid for funding in this area, particularly in relation to health and wellbeing services.
Robin Simpson.

Arts Development UK Professional Development Working Party meeting by Robin Simpson
August 8, 2013, 4:25 pm
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I was in London on Thursday to take part in a meeting of the Arts Development UK Professional Development Working Party. This group oversees AD:uk’s professional development programme, its national seminar programme and the annual AD:uk conference. The 2013 AD:uk Conference takes place on 28 & 29 November in the new Birmingham Library and Birmingham Rep Studio Theatre. I will be speaking in a session looking at how the amateur arts might change over the next 20 years. Digital engagement with the arts, arts activities emanating from (and being organised through) online social networks, the changing nature of communities and culture, the effects of recession and austerity measures are all influencing how people engage with the arts in their everyday lives. In my conference session I will be discussing how we can best support amateur arts groups through this period of change and how the amateur arts could play more of an integral role in initiatives to increase engagement in the arts and to develop communities. At Thursday’s meeting we also talked about how to encourage AD:uk members to get involved in Voluntary Arts Week 2014 and the possibility of running a session in the 2014 AD:uk conference to allow local authority arts development officers from the UK to learn from the experiences of their counterparts in Flanders and the Netherlands in relation to developing their involvement in Voluntary Arts Week.
Robin Simpson.