Cultural Playing Field


Amateur Dramatics: Crafting Communities in Time and Space by Robin Simpson
October 25, 2013, 1:38 pm
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On Thursday afternoon I was in London to take part in the first meeting of the advisory group for a new research project, ‘Amateur Dramatics: Crafting Communities in Time and Space’. This three-year project, funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council’s Connected Communities programme, will look at the contributions amateur dramatics makes to constructing communities and the role of the arts in non metropolitan spaces. Helen Nicholson, Nadine Holdsworth and Jane Milling (who we previously worked with on the Grassroots Arts Connected Communities project) are leading the new study. They feel the amateur theatre scene has not been sufficiently researched, and they are interested in telling an untold story. Amateur theatre groups act as valuable social barometers of communities over time and make an important contribution to the creation and continuity of communities. I look forward to contributing to the research project and seeing the results of this study.

Robin Simpson.



Creative People and Places: Peterborough by Robin Simpson
October 25, 2013, 1:37 pm
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On Thursday morning I was at the Key Theatre in Peterborough for a meeting of the Creative People and Places consortium. We discussed and agreed governance systems for the consortium. We focussed particularly on commissioning arrangements. We then looked in detail at our plans for each of the three main strands of our programme to increase engagement in the arts (Community Producers, Voluntary Arts and Young Producers). We are now close to finalising our business plan for approval by Arts Council England.

Robin Simpson.



Creative People and Places: St Helens by Robin Simpson
October 16, 2013, 1:11 pm
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On Monday Laraine and I were at the Saints Stadium in St Helens to meet the new Creative People and Places consortium. The Heart of Glass programme has been awarded £1.5M from Arts Council England. It is being led by the Saints Community Development Foundation in St Helens, which will use both Rugby League and glass – two strong cultural identities of the town – as starting points to create arts experiences to inspire local people. It is great to see how importantly the role of existing amateur arts groups is being considered by all the Creative People and Places consortia in their three-year programmes to increase engagement in the arts. Alan Davey, Chief Executive, Arts Council England, said: “Creative people and places is unique because, for the first time, the doors are thrown wide open to communities, and, amongst others, to amateur and voluntary groups. We’re asking them to get involved in creating arts activities they know they’ll enjoy. There are some great ideas coming through which I hope will really whet the appetites of people who, up to now, haven’t felt the arts are for them.” On Tuesday Laraine and I talked to the St Helens consortium about how best to involve amateur arts groups in their programme, the potential for our Up for Arts project with BBC Radio Merseyside to support planned activities in St Helens, and the lessons that can be learned from the experience of our RSC Open Stages project.

Robin Simpson.



Arts Council of Wales meeting by Robin Simpson
October 3, 2013, 10:39 am
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On Wednesday Daniel, Hamish and I were at the Arts Council of Wales in Cardiff to meet Diane Hebb and Jackie Brown. We talked about the Voluntary Arts Wales departmental plan, the thinking behind the new Voluntary Arts Strategic Plan 2014-17, the work the Arts Council of Wales is funding to develop the take-up of our Running Your Group online information services in Wales and the funding ACW has just granted to support the creation of a website for the Summer of Stories 2014 initiative developed by the Storytelling in Wales group. We also discussed the Epic Awards scheme and Voluntary Arts Week and how we might develop these further in Wales. Diane emphasised that ACW recognises the valuable role Voluntary Arts Wales plays in relation to the amateur and voluntary arts sector.

Robin Simpson.



Age Scotland Awards 2013 by Robin Simpson
October 3, 2013, 10:36 am
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Age Scotland Awards ceremony in the Garden Lobby of the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh

Age Scotland Awards ceremony in the Garden Lobby of the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh

On Tuesday evening I was in the Garden Lobby at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh to attend the Age Scotland Awards. Age Scotland Chief Executive, Brian Sloan, explained that Tuesday was chosen for the awards ceremony as it was International Older People’s Day as well as being the first day of the 2014 Luminate Festival – Scotland’s Creative Ageing Festival which Age Scotland runs in partnership with Creative Scotland and The Baring Foundation (see: www.luminatescotland.org). The Age Scotland Awards honour people and organisations working for and with older people in Scotland and include awards for campaigning, partnership working and ‘volunteer of the year’. I was delighted to see the final award, for ‘Member Group of the Year’, presented to an arts organisation. Citadel Arts Group specialises in developing plays from the memories of old people. This excellent group performed at the Voluntary Arts Scotland parliamentary reception at the Scottish Parliament last year. The Age Scotland Awards ceremony was moving and inspiring – a great celebration of older people (see: http://www.ageuk.org.uk/scotland/get-involved/age-scotland-awards-2013/).

Robin Simpson.



RSC Open Stages Directors’ Weekend by Robin Simpson
October 3, 2013, 8:53 am
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Struan Leslie leading a workshop on movement at the RSC Open Stages Directors' Weekend at the Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

Struan Leslie leading a workshop on movement at the RSC Open Stages Directors’ Weekend at the Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

Last Saturday I was at the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon for the beginning of the Director’s Weekend – the first event in our new RSC Open Stages project. Directors from nearly 100 amateur theatre groups across the UK had assembled in Stratford for a weekend of workshops, skill-sharing and discussions with staff from the Royal Shakespeare Company and our other professional theatre partners. I spoke at the start of the weekend about the role Voluntary Arts played in developing the original Open Stages project and its importance in helping to raise the profile of the amateur arts and bring the professional and amateur theatre sectors closer together.

Voice & text workshop with Michael Corbridge at the RSC Open Stages Directors' Weekend at the Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

Voice & text workshop with Michael Corbridge at the RSC Open Stages Directors’ Weekend at the Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

I then sat in on some of the initial workshops (on voice & text – with Michael Corbridge, RSC Voice practitioner; and movement – with Struan Leslie, RSC Head of Movement) which shared approaches and techniques that the Directors could use in their amateur groups as they develop the productions that will be showcased through the new Open Stages project.

At lunchtime I spoke to the Directors about our Running Your Group online information services (www.runningyourgroup.org), our Epic Awards scheme (which is open for entries until 30 November, see: www.epicawards.co.uk) and Voluntary Arts Week (which will take place from 9 – 18 May 2014, see: www.voluntaryartsweek.org).

Movement workshop on the stage of the Courtyard Theatre at the RSC Open Stages Directors' Weekend, Stratford-upon-Avon

Movement workshop on the stage of the Courtyard Theatre at the RSC Open Stages Directors’ Weekend, Stratford-upon-Avon

Robin Simpson.