Filed under: meetings | Tags: ace, arts, DCMS, drama, England, research, Scotland, volarts
On Thursday I was at the School of Museum Studies at the University of Leicester to take part in the ‘Histories of Participation, Value and Governance Symposium’. This event was part of the Understanding Everyday Participation research project, being led by Dr Andrew Miles from the University of Manchester. The symposium reported on the project’s progress in relation to ‘Work Package 1: Histories of Participation, policy and practice’ and will lead to a book about Histories of Participation. A series of engrossing presentations explored a wide range of aspects of everyday participation.
We heard from Dr Mark O’Neill, Director of Policy & Research at Glasgow Life about the traditions of cultural participation in Glasgow. Mark noted that “we are now reinventing the link between culture and health, which the Victorians thought was obvious.”
Dr Eleonora Belfiore from the University of Warwick spoke about ‘Policy Discourse, Cultural Value and the Buzzwords of Participation’, asking how and why a certain understanding of cultural participation has become so dominant and central to policy making in England. Eleonora looked back at the formation of the Arts Council of Great Britain after the Second World War and how support for the amateur arts was progressively squeezed out of its work.
Andrew Miles spoke about ‘Locating the Contemporary History of Everyday Participation’ and the assumption that those who didn’t participate in standard forms of culture were somehow in deficit.
Dr Jane Milling from the University of Exeter delivered a paper titled ‘The Usefulness of the Stage: Eighteenth-century cultural participation and civic engagement’ which suggested that, in the 1760s, every theatre goer was an omnivore: audiences could not distinguish between high and low art.
Andrew Miles presented a paper by Catherine Bunting – ‘Calling participation to account: a recent history of cultural indicators’ – which looked the effect the PSA3 target about increasing participation had had on policy during the New Labour governments. Dr Abigail Gilmore from the University of Manchester then spoke about regional and local cultural strategies in the early 2000s, including the creation of Regional Development Agencies and Regional Cultural Consortia in England. Abigail looked at the development of the Taking Part and Active People surveys.
Dr Lisanne Gibson from the University of Leicester gave a presentation on ‘Governing Place Through Culture’ which focussed on the research she has been doing in Gateshead as part of the Understanding Everyday Participation project.
Other presentations looked at the relationship between wellbeing and culture, the role public parks have played in everyday participation, the British tradition of clubs and societies (dating back to the 16th century), and the politics of community in community theatre practice. It was great to hear so many perspectives on everyday cultural participation and we had some great discussions of the issues throughout the day – both within the conference sessions and during the breaks. You can read more about the Understanding Everyday Participation research project at: www.everydayparticipation.org.
Filed under: meetings | Tags: arts, CLG, DCMS, health, politics, research, UK, vcs
On Wednesday I was in London to take part in the What Works Centre for Wellbeing panel meeting. We assessed applications made by research teams from across the country to run the four evidence programmes that will form the bulk of the work of the new What Works Centre. The What Works Centre for Wellbeing will be one of a number of What Works Centres which have been established to synthesise evidence to improve public and policy decisions. The Wellbeing Centre will build on the Office for National Statistics (ONS) national measurement programme. The Centre has initial funding of £4.3 million over three years. The Centre will comprise a central hub and four evidence synthesis programmes. The primary customers for the outputs of the Centre will be service commissioners, decision makers, practitioners and policymakers working both locally and nationally using evidence to ensure the best results for their localities. The four evidence programmes will look at wellbeing in relation to: work & learning; culture & sport; community; and cross-cutting themes. I was asked to assess applications for both the culture & sport and the community programmes. On Wednesday we agreed which applicants will now be called to interview. It was a really interesting day and it was great to have the chance to make the point that the Centre should be looking at wellbeing in relation to grassroots participation in creative, cultural activities.
On Monday evening I was at the University of the Arts/Central St Martins in London to attend the launch of the Creative Industries Federation. The Federation was the idea of Sir John Sorrell who felt there was an urgent need for the UK’s creative community to speak with a strong, independent voice, bringing together the public arts, creative industries and cultural education. The Creative Industries Federation will be independent of government, representing all sectors, bridging public and private and spanning the whole UK.
Monday’s launch event impressively demonstrated the level of connections the Federation, and its Director John Kampfner, have achieved already. Among the 200 people at the reception I spotted Tony Hall, Sir Peter Bazalgette, Sir John Tusa. Sandy Nairne, Sir Nicholas Serota, Alan Yentob, Professor Geoffrey Crossick, Alan Davey and Will Gompertz. I understand the assembled audience also included Elisabeth Murdoch, Ray Davies, Tamara Rojo and Jane Bonham-Carter.
The initial presentation involved brief speeches from Josh Berger (UK Head of Warner Brothers), Sir Anish Kapoor, the film director Paul Greengrass, Martha Lane Fox, a young games developer from Portsmouth, Mitu Khandaker, and the head of a growing Manchester TV business, Cat Lewis.
The keynote speech was then delivered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. George Osborne was keen to emphasise that his interest in the creative industries was not simply because of its economic impact. He said “ultimately what you do is express who we are as a society and give voice to the people of this country … it’s a human endeavour worthy of support in its own right, regardless of its contribution to GDP”. The Chancellor finished by saying “the arts and creative industries needs a single voice and now it has one”.
Deborah Bull then chaired a panel discussion with representatives of the three main political parties. For Labour, the Shadow Culture Secretary, Harriet Harman, talked about the importance of “universality”, saying “arts and culture is not just for some”. She also questioned how Ofsted can say a school is outstanding if it doesn’t have an outstanding cultural offer. For the Liberal Democrats, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, said “we should listen to this fantastic new organisation” and felt there is a need for much more focus on skills. Finally the Conservative Culture Minister, Ed Vaizey, said the Creative Industries Federation “is a win win for everyone here”.
The Creative Industries Federation could become a significant new voice in lobbying Government. By involving the big commercial companies of the creative industries, its messages about the importance of arts and culture might gain much more prominence – Monday’s impressive event being a demonstration of this. But there must also be a danger of those powerful commercial voices drowning out smaller, less-resourced arts organisations. And while the Federation’s promise to “insist that anyone, no matter who they are or where they come from, has an equal opportunity to fulfil their creative potential” is very welcome, another of its promises “we will bring together the public and private halves of the creative sector” suggests that the third, voluntary, part of the cultural spectrum is not yet fully part of its thinking. In my initial discussions with John Kampfner in October, he was keen to include the voluntary arts in the Federation’s work but I there is clearly still some thinking to be done in this area.
Filed under: meetings | Tags: ace, arts, DCMS, DEFRA, England, funding, rural, volarts
On Thursday afternoon I was at Arts Council England in London for the ACE Rural Stakeholders meeting. This was the second gathering of cultural organisations with a particular interest in rural affairs. The main focus of this meeting was a presentation by Jonathon Blackburn from Arts Council England and Stephen Hall from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs about the ACE/DEFRA review of data and evidence relating to arts and culture and rural communities. A baseline exercise looking at available data and evidence has already begun, as has generic activity looking at issues relating to data and evidence relating to the economic impacts of arts and culture at a local level. The rural stakeholders group will receive another update on this work at our next meeting later this year. We also had a presentation from Rob Wells from DEFRA about European Union rural development funding.
Filed under: comment | Tags: ace, arts, DCMS, England, heritage, ncvo, research, Scotland, vcs, volarts
On Tuesday I was in London for a meeting of the partners in the AHRC Connected Communities Everyday Participation research project. It was very interesting to hear from the researchers who have been conducting the project’s first door-to-door interviews, in Cheetham Hill, Manchester and Broughton in Salford. They have been asking people what they do in their leisure time and the excerpts from the interview transcripts we saw were fascinating. It’s chastening to remind ourselves how far away most people are from ‘the arts’ but it was very encouraging to see how the Voluntary Arts definition of ‘creative cultural activity’ is proving extremely relevant in this study of ‘everyday participation’. The project team have also been re-analysing data from the Taking Part survey to start to create a new segmentation based on statistical methods (hierarchical cluster analysis). This revealed some interesting and surprising patterns of cultural participation.
On Wednesday I was at the British Library in London to hear the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, Maria Miller, deliver a speech about cultural value. Maria Miller asserted the value of culture, citing a range of examples in which culture moves and inspires us, provoking an emotional response. She quoted Steve Jobs who said “technology alone is not enough. It’s technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields us the results that make our heart sing.” The Secretary of State said culture weaves “a spell that lifts you way beyond the hum-drum of normal life” and suggested that we are increasingly defining ourselves by our cultural experiences and interests. She defended her 2013 speech at the British Museum in which she said she was wrongly thought to have said the only justification for supporting the arts is its value to the economy but stressed that this approach had achieved a good spending review settlement for DCMS. I managed to ask the Secretary of State to consider the importance, in articulating the value of culture, of better understanding the links and interdependencies between those aspects of culture that are publicly funded and the 10 million people who take regularly part in local voluntary creative cultural activity across the country. She replied with praise of for the involvement of such a wide variety of groups. She said the role of volunteering is important because it gives us ownership and “ultimately culture isn’t something that is presented by Government … it’s something that we all own. And I think that involvement of individuals is absolutely critical.” You can read maria miller’s full speech at: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/culture-secretary-maria-miller-keynote-arts-and-culture-speech