Cultural Playing Field


What Next? meeting by Robin Simpson
November 22, 2013, 4:33 pm
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On Wednesday morning I was at the Young Vic in London to take part in the weekly What Next? meeting. Our guest this week was the Director General of the BBC, Tony Hall. While he was working at the Royal Opera House, Lord Hall was an enthusiastic supporter of What Next? and a regular attender at the weekly meetings so it was good to see him return in his new role. I took the opportunity to speak to Tony Hall about the Up for Arts projects Voluntary Arts is running with three BBC local radio stations in the North West of England, in partnership with BBC Outreach. We discussed the potential to link mainstream TV series (such as the forthcoming programme on amateur painting) with such grassroots work to increase arts participation, supported by BBC local radio.

Robin Simpson.



Cultural Commissioning Programme Advisory Group meeting by Robin Simpson
November 22, 2013, 4:32 pm
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On Tuesday I was in London to take part in the first meeting of the Cultural Commissioning Programme Advisory Group. The Cultural Commissioning Programme is a three year programme, finishing in June 2016, funded by £895k from Arts Council England and being delivered by a partnership between the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, New Philanthropy Capital, the New Economics Foundation and Mission, Models, Money. In a changing landscape for public service delivery, with new markets developing, arts organisations provide high quality services that contribute to public service outcomes but few are engaged with public service commissioning. The programme will explore how arts organisations can better engage with commissioning in order to develop better public service outcomes, diversifying income and users for arts organisations and ensuring high quality arts work in a public service context. The Programme Advisory Group is chaired by Lord Michael Bichard and includes representatives of charitable trusts, local authorities, arts organisations, infrastructure bodies and corporate funders. On Tuesday we discussed the initial findings from the scoping phase of the programme and agreed the terms of reference for the Advisory Group.

Robin Simpson.



NCVO Members Assembly meeting by Robin Simpson
November 15, 2013, 10:54 am
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On Thursday I was at the National Council for Voluntary Organisations in London for my last meeting as a member of the NCVO Members Assembly. The first session of the day focussed on the draft new NCVO Strategic Plan. I took part in groups discussing the questions ‘how could NCVO work better with infrastructure organisations?’ and ‘is it realistic to ask members to share their knowledge and practices with others?’ After lunch we took part in the NCVO AGM and I am delighted to report that my place representing Recreation and Culture on the NCVO Members Assembly is to be taken by our old friend Jacqui Devereux from the Community Media Association. In the afternoon we looked at ‘Campaigning and the current environment’ and discussed the situation regarding the Lobbying Bill. The Bill is about to go into committee stage at the House of Lords, and NCVO and its voluntary sector partners will be trying to secure further changes. In response to significant changes in the campaigning environment a Campaigning and Lobbying Standards Group was established in September 2013 and will hold its first meeting next week, chaired by Sir Stuart Etherington. Finally we looked at ‘Preparing for the 2015 General election’, discussing the feedback to NCVO’s consultation on campaigning priorities for the election. I have enjoyed my time on the NCVO Members Assembly: it has been good to have the opportunity to influence NCVO’s work but the meetings are also a very valuable networking opportunity and provide a useful update on key voluntary sector issues.

Robin Simpson.



Meeting Angus McCabe from the Third Sector Research Centre by Robin Simpson
November 15, 2013, 10:30 am
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I was back in London on Tuesday to meet Angus McCabe from the Third Sector Research Centre. Angus updated me on the position of the Third Sector Research Centre whose funding ran out in August, but now has bridging funding until March 2014. The work Angus is undertaking on ‘below the radar’ community organisations has been funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust for two years. We talked about the recent Joseph Rowntree Foundation report on poverty, ethnicity and social networks which highlighted the importance of voluntary arts activity for minority ethnic communities (see: http://www.jrf.org.uk/publications/making-links-poverty-ethnicity-social-networks). Angus also updated me about another strand of TSRC work which is looking at the organising of community cultural activity in rural ethnic minority settings and we discussed the possibility of some joint work on community cultural activity.

Robin Simpson.



AHRC Connected Communities Advisory Group meeting by Robin Simpson
November 15, 2013, 10:29 am
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On Monday I was in London for a meeting of the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Connected Communities Advisory Group. This large group brings together academics (there were 6 Professors around the table on Monday!) and representatives of community partners to oversee the Connected Communities research programme. Connected Communities is the first major Research Council programme to have communities, in all their various forms, as its core focus. The programme is pioneering co-production of academic research with communities. On Monday we looked at plans for a Connected Communities Festival event in Cardiff in June 2014 and discussed how to develop the theme of communities and work and how best to support early career researchers.

Robin Simpson.



Cultural Campaigning Network meeting by Robin Simpson
November 8, 2013, 1:55 pm
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I was in London on Thursday where I chaired a meeting of the Cultural Campaigning Network. This is a forum for national organisations involved in campaigning on cultural issues. It’s always really useful to update each other on our current campaigns and lobbying activities and to hear about new pieces of research. I outlined the Voluntary Arts plan to campaign for renewed national cultural policies to sustain and develop local cultural infrastructure. The meeting also included a substantial discussion about the ‘Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital Report’ by Peter Stark, David Powell and Christopher Gordon (http://www.theroccreport.co.uk/) and a look at the new Arts Council England publication ‘Towards Plan A: a new political economy for arts and culture’ – see: http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/media/uploads/pdf/RSA-Arts-Towards-Plan-A.pdf

Robin Simpson.



Culture Guides partners meeting, Copenhagen, Denmark by Robin Simpson
November 8, 2013, 1:45 pm
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On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday Daniel and I were in Copenhagen for the first meeting of the partners in our new European project, Culture Guides. This is a a three-year project with partners from Denmark, Slovenia, Hungary and the Netherlands, supported by the Grundtvig programme, part of the European Union Lifelong Learning Programme. The project will create up to four pilot Culture Guide areas in the UK, where, with collaboration from local authorities, volunteering agencies and local arts organisations, volunteers will be trained as mentors to help socially-marginalised groups to access and participate in cultural opportunities in their area. The project is based on the concept of ‘citizen helps citizen’, using volunteers from within a particular locality to engage with new cultural participants in a reflexive manner, taking into account their interests and inclinations and offering practical and moral support to help them fulfil their creative ambitions.

 

Vartov, Copenhagen, Denmark

Vartov, Copenhagen, Denmark

The EU Grundtvig programme is named after NFS Grundtvig, a Danish pastor, author, poet, philosopher, historian, teacher and politician whose thinking on education was particularly influential. So it was incredibly appropriate that our first meeting took place at Vartov in Copenhagen, the building in which Grundtvig worked as a pastor from 1839 until his death in 1872.

Statue of NFS Grundtvig in the courtyard at Vartov, Copenhagen, Denmark

Statue of NFS Grundtvig in the courtyard at Vartov, Copenhagen, Denmark

 

As well as planning the details of our project and agreeing ways of working, we had two really interesting presentations to stimulate our thinking about Culture Guides. Karen Lisa Salamon, Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Copenhagen University, provided a provocation about authenticity and cultural engagement. She looked at the distinction between high culture and popular culture and the distinction between amateur and professional cultural production. We were also joined by Nicholas Kragekjaer Jespersen, who runs the Copenhagen Culture Guides programme which introduces children and their families to cultural activities. It was very useful to see the details of this scheme which, although slightly different in focus from the work of our project, is already realising in practice several aspects of our planned activity.

We ended our stay in Copenhagen with a visit to the best restaurant in the world. At the Restaurant & Bar Design Awards in London in September 2013, the New Nordic restaurant Höst won the “Best European Restaurant” and “Best Restaurant” awards. Amazing meal, amazing place, see: http://trendland.com/host-restaurant-copenhagen/

You can follow the progress of our Culture Guides project at: http://www.cultureguides.eu/

Robin Simpson.