Filed under: meetings | Tags: arts, education, England, funding, politics, UK
On Monday evening I was at Battersea Arts Centre in South London to hear a speech about arts, culture and creativity by the leader of the opposition, Ed Miliband MP. This event was organised by the new Creative Industries Federation and the Federation’s Director, John Kampfner, introduced Ed Miliband, saying “[The arts] is our superpower. We need to nurture it through innovation, entrepreneurialism and joined up working. We need to do far better, as the Warwick Commission reported, in making the arts accessible to all and yes, we need a body politic that is proud to invest in what makes this country great.”
Ed Miliband started by saying: “I care about you and your success because I think the arts, culture and creativity define who we are as a nation, because you make an incredible contribution to our economic success and because I think government policy has to make a difference and help you succeed as an industry and a sector. And I’m conscious that by making a speech [about the arts] I’m venturing into relatively uncharted, not to say risky, territory.”
He said all of us will have our first memories of what moved us as children. Publicly funded art and culture is vital to our dynamism. Access to the arts and culture is not an optional extra, it is essential. He thought the findings of the Warwick Commission should worry us all.
Ed Miliband outlined three parts to Labour’s plan in relation to the arts and culture: increasing creativity in schools; improving access to culture; and encouraging people to work in the arts and creative industries. While it was wonderful to hear a party leader speaking so enthusiastically about the arts so close to a general election, I was disappointed that he did not say anything about the importance of participation in creative cultural activities – particularly as this was such a significant theme of the Warwick Commission report.
Ed Miliband said “I come with an offer, a different offer to put policy for the arts, culture and creativity at the heart of the next Labour Government mission. Of course we should keep the Department of Culture: it says something about our country that that should even be a question. But I want to go further. I don’t believe culture belongs just to one Department, because what you do matters across our whole society and we can only achieve the vision of a society that I believe in, based on equality and social justice, if we recognise the value of the arts and culture across every part of Government.”
He said he would make a permanent change to how the arts and culture are represented in Westminster, creating a Prime Minister’s Committee. There would be a focus on equality of access across the country and further devolution of resources. He spoke about the significance of the 50th anniversary of Jennie Lee’s 1965 White Paper on Wednesday and said “tonight I rededicate myself to making that mission our own” and we should “hold my feet to the fire over this”.
In the questions that followed the speech, Stella Duffy, Co-Director of Fun Palaces, asked Ed Miliband: “If we only look at funnelling people into education, into buildings and into institutions, we are forgetting those people in community who need our support around the arts and culture too.”
Ed Miliband replied: “Stella, where does that take you to in particular?” and Stella responded: “It takes us to Voluntary Arts, it takes us to 64 Million Artists, it takes us to Fun Palaces, it takes us to the Cultural Learning Alliance. There are hundreds of organisations, many of us quite small, quite new, who are looking at the arts in a completely different way. We are saying there are millions of people in the country who are scared to go into the buildings, even in the very beginning. They haven’t had it in schools for the past 5 years, they haven’t had what Jennie Lee promised, and what we are saying is we need to be asking those people in their communities. Stop flying in experts and as the community what they want.”
Ed Miliband said “I think it’s important what you’re saying but isn’t the key to this (and there are a lot of people in the room who would know more about this than me) what we said about education. The reason I talked a lot about education is it is so crucial, because if you don’t necessarily have it in your family background where else are you going to discover culture creativity and the arts?”
Stella replied: “Totally – I am that girl. I didn’t have it in my family either. But it’s also in community. Unfortunately we have an attitude of behaving as if the arts only belong in big buildings at the moment, and there are hundreds of thousands of arts centres that also need our support just now.”
Ed didn’t seem to fully understand the point Stella was making and spoke again about the importance of cultural education in schools.
David Jubb, Artistic Director of Battersea Arts Centre, summing up at the end of the evening, said: “Last Thursday the BBC and What Next launched the Get Creative campaign across the country, and to Stella’s point about how more people become involved in art and culture, if everyone in this room can go out and get involved in that Get Creative campaign, with your organization, your resources, that would be terrific.”
Filed under: meetings | Tags: ace, arts, education, England, funding, politics
On Tuesday evening I was at the Southbank Centre in London for the Arts Council England ‘State of the Arts’ debate. This event was used to launch ACE’s new publication: ‘Create: A journal of perspectives on the value of art and culture’ – see: http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/what-we-do/value-arts-and-culture/state-arts/create/.
The State of the Arts debate consisted of two panel discussions, very effectively chaired by Victoria Derbyshire from BBC Radio Five Live. The first discussion looked at ‘Culture and the city: what is the role of arts and culture in the growth of our major metropolitan centres?’ The panel consisted of Doreen Stephenson (the Leader of East Lindsey District Council), Lord Adonis, the journalist Simon Jenkins (who is Chair of the National Trust) and Lord Heseltine. Michael Heseltine suggested that the process of human ingenuity and creativity is unstoppable and called it “a spontaneous eruption of natural human instinct”. The discussion soon became focussed on the ‘rebalancing’ issue (raised through the reports of GPS Culture) with Simon Jenkins saying that, when it comes to how we subsidise the arts “London just eats it”. He went on to suggest that “the real trouble is at local government level where it really has been quite savage. And if you want to know my view about London funding there ought to be a massive cross-subsidy from London to the provinces. London can look after itself, more or less.”
The second panel discussion was on ‘Education: how can every child benefit from arts and culture?’. The panel comprised the Shadow Schools Minister Kevin Brennan, Dave Moutrey (Director and Chief Executive of Home, the new arts centre in Manchester), Professor John Coyne (Vice-Chancellor of the University of Derby) and the scientist and novelist, Professor Sunetra Gupta. On the education system, Sunetra Gupta said “the main return we want from our investment is creativity” and Dave Moutrey spoke about the importance of “learning the joy of reading, not just learning reading”. Kevin Brennan felt that “education should be about producing a well rounded individual” and John Coyne worried that he was from the generation that was “educated” whereas his daughters were “assessed”. I liked Suneptra Gupta’s plea for a “system in which you can study things you’re not good at” and Dave Moutrey agreed that “education shouldn’t just be about passing exams.” This discussion became dominated by the recent warning from the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, that studying arts subjects could hold young people back in the job market. John Coyne very politely suggested that the Minister “was well-meaning misunderstood and badly briefed”. Kevin Brennan simply pointed out that, in educational terms, “politicians are a mixed ability group”.
From Sunday to Wednesday I was in Utrecht in the Netherlands for the Art-Age Conference. Art-Age is our European Union Grundtvig Lifelong Learning Programme partnership project looking at arts-based learning and active ageing. The partnership includes six organisations from five countries (Denmark, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Sweden and Slovenia), including national amateur arts representative organisations, alongside others providing expertise in the field of learning and culture in a civil society context.
This week’s conference was the culmination of the two-year project and brought together around 45 delegates, including groups of older arts participants from each of the five countries. The UK representatives were members of the 3rd Thought Arts Collective from London (who have been working with Maxine Webster and Peter Avery at 1st Framework). They performed an interactive theatre piece during the conference and have now been invited to perform it at the Löftdalens Folk High School in Sweden.
The conference included fascinating keynote speeches from two Dutch academics. Professor Jeroen Lutters, spoke about ‘The essence of civilisation: on the value of aesthetic learning by arts participation’ and Professor Evert Bisschop Boele gave a presentation titled ‘Learning by elderly people: a contextual and biographical view on how elderly people learn in music and its consequences for arts participation’. But the most interesting parts of the conference were the group discussions which brought together elderly people from across Europe to look at why they take part in creative cultural activity, what learning results from their participation and how we might make a better case for support of arts-based learning for older people. These discussions were dynamic, thought-provoking and extremely enjoyable.
The conference was very well organised by our Dutch colleagues at Landelijk Kennisinstituut Cultuureducatie en Amateurkunst (LKCA) and I think it was a very succesful conclusion to the Art-Age project.
On Thursday afternoon I met Ruth Churchill Dower and Michelle Render from Early Arts, in Huddersfield. Early Arts is the national network for early childhood educators who believe in nurturing their children’s creative potential. Early Arts produces creative teaching materials which are directly relevant to the ways in which young children learn. We had a wide-ranging conversation, comparing notes on our attempts to generate income from information resources, considering the potential for local voluntary arts groups to support arts activity in nurseries and discussing the new Voluntary Arts Strategic Plan. We agreed to explore a number of ways in which our two organisations might be able to support each other’s work.
On Monday I had a telephone meeting with Anna Jones, Arts and Cultural Officer, Arts Programmes, at Trinity College London, to talk about Arts Award. Arts Award supports children and young people to develop their creative and leadership skills through a series of unique qualifications (see: http://www.artsaward.org.uk). We discussed the potential for voluntary arts groups to become Arts Award Supporters and agreed to look at creating a Voluntary Arts Briefing about Arts Award.