Cultural Playing Field

Arts Development UK annual conference by Robin Simpson
November 28, 2013, 6:24 pm
Filed under: meetings | Tags: , , , , , ,

On Thursday and Friday I was in Birmingham to attend the Arts Development UK annual conference in the splendid new Library of Birmingham. Opening the conference, ADUK Chair, Jane Wilson, referred to the publication of the ‘Rebalancing Our Creative Capital’ report, the Arts Council England/RSA publication ‘Towards a Plan A’ and the ACE strategy ‘Great Art and Culture for Everyone’. She said we are experiencing a radically changing environment, with major public disinvestment in the arts and the loss of many specialist local authority arts officer posts. The level of optimism and enthusiasm around arts in communities is phenomenal but we can’t always work miracles and the role of the arts in place-making is at risk. Jane said it was pleasing to see the start of a proper debate about arts policy and suggested we need more mutually reflective conversations. We then heard from Stephen Hughes, the Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council who said the new Library of Birmingham is set to be the hub of the region’s cultural economy. He said culture needs to be the heart of the city’s major development opportunities. The cultural scene is essential to Birmingham being seen as a thriving economic hub. Without arts and culture it would be hard to compete for new business but culture also plays a key role across other agendas including wellbeing, neighbourhood identity and skills.

On Thursday morning I led two seminars within the ADUK Conference to explore how the amateur arts might change over the next 20 years? I spoke about the new Voluntary Arts Strategic Plan with its twin concepts of ‘creative cultural activity’ and ‘creative citizens’. We looked at the potential effects of technological change, austerity, an ageing population and other societal trends on the traditional model of an amateur arts group. Both sessions provoked really interesting discussions about the strengths of the amateur arts, the risks to amateur activity and the likely changes in patterns of engagement.

Robin Simpson.

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