Filed under: meetings | Tags: arts, England, Europe, volarts, volunteering, Wales
On Monday and Tuesday I was in Budapest, Hungary, with Laraine and Daniel for the final conference of our EU Culture Guides project. Culture Guides was a two-year project that started in October 2013 under the Grundtvig strand of the European Commission’s Lifelong Learning Programme. Six partners from five countries aimed to investigate the possibility of a European framework to recruit, train and manage volunteers to act as mentors or guides to introduce and help marginalised social groups to participate in local art and culture activities, either as audience members or as active participants. Voluntary Arts ran pilot Culture Guides schemes in four locations – St Helens and Swale & Medway in England, and Torfaen and Wrexham in Wales.
The conference was opened by Dora Duro, Chair of the Hungarian Parliament Committee on Culture. I chaired the first panel session in which the six partner organisations summarised how the project had worked in each of the participating countries. The conference included a range of group sessions in which we looked at the learning from the Culture Guide pilots and shared our experiences of working with different socially marginalised end-users. There were also practical participatory sessions in which we learned some circus skills and Hungarian folk songs. The Keynote speech was given by Professor Sandor Striker from ELTE, the University of National Excellence in Hungary, who spoke about ‘Art and culture policies for the socially marginalised’. We also had a presentation from Dr Cees van den Bos, from the Netherlands, comparing volunteering in different countries. The conference brought together partner organisations, volunteers, other cultural organisations, civil society and volunteering organisations from across Europe. It was a really enjoyable couple of days and a nice way to bring this excellent project to an end.
For more details please see Daniel’s excellent Culture Guides Handbook at: http://www.cultureguides.eu/outcome-and-results/guidelines-for-the-european-handbook/
On Wednesday I was at Christiansborg, the Danish Parliament in Copenhagen, to give a keynote speech in the Amatørkultur conference. This one-day event, organised by AKKS (the Danish equivalent of Voluntary Arts) and DATS (the Danish amateur theatre association) aimed to encourage the development of a new national cultural policy for the amateur arts in Denmark. I was one of three foreign speakers (the others being from Belgium and Norway) invited to open the conference. We addressed an audience of around 100 local and national politicians, civil servants and representatives of amateur arts organisations in the splendid Faellessalen room at Christiansborg. I spoke about the gradual moves towards re-integrating the amateur arts into national cultural policy in England that we have seen over the past ten years. I talked about our work on the Participation Manifesto, the Our Creative Talent research, our development of the Up for Arts model, the RSC Open Stages project, Arts Council England’s Creative People and Places programme and the current opportunities presented by the BBC Get Creative campaign.
The second conference session involved a panel of people with responsibility for culture within five local authorities from across Denmark. The panel included a mixture of officers and elected councillors. Among the opinions expressed were the thoughts that “the amateur arts is about enthusiasm – don’t think of it as a means to achieve something else, such as health” and “culture is seen as for the elite: the amateur arts can help transform this”.
The final session of the day was a discussion between the Danish Culture Minister, Marianne Jelved, and the culture spokespersons from most of the other national political parties. The Minister spoke about the use of lottery funding in Denmark, bemoaning the fact that, over the years, politicians have decided that lottery funding should be used to support the running costs of cultural institutions so there is now only 10% of this funding left for more experimental activity. She said “a national strategy has to inspire not restrict” and suggested that there is a lot of artistic talent in Denmark that is not developed. Marianne Jelved finished by saying “when you talk about the meaning of life, talk about arts. Art has a special language.”
On Wednesday I chaired a meeting of the Cultural Campaigning Network. This is a forum for national organisations involved in campaigning on cultural issues which allows us to share our advocacy plans and identify opportunities for collaboration. This week we discussed the Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation funding decisions. We also heard updates on the National Campaign for the Arts ‘ 50p for Culture’ campaign (http://www.50pforculture.org/), ‘My Theatre Matters’ (http://www.mytheatrematters.com/), and Making Music’s work to secure the future of Leicester Music Library (http://www.makingmusic.org.uk/our-work/news/news/leicester-music-library-making-music). I spoke about our plans for a joint Voluntary Arts/Arts Development UK initiative to explore new models to sustain and develop local cultural infrastructure. We then had a presentation from Luca Bergamo and Clymene Christoforou about the Culture Action Europe annual conference which will take place in Newcastle-Gateshead from 9 – 11 October 2014 – the first time the conference will have been held in the UK – see: http://www.cvan.org.uk/news/2014/6/26/the-culture-action-europe-annual-conference-to-be-held-in-newcastle-gateshead. We also had a presentation, from Joseph Young of AIR Council, on the ‘Paying Artists’ campaign, developed by a-n (The Artists Information Company), which is seeking to highlight and challenge the fact that visual artists in the UK are regularly expected to develop and exhibit their work without a fee – see: http://www.payingartists.org.uk/.
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.
Filed under: meetings | Tags: England, Europe, volarts, volunteering, Wales
On Monday and Tuesday I was at BBC Radio Merseyside in Liverpool where we hosted the latest meeting of partners in our European Grundtvig project, Culture Guides. Daniel, Laraine, Helen Jones and I were joined by colleagues from Denmark, the Netherlands, Hungary and Slovenia. It was very interesting to compare the contrasting approaches to developing the pilot volunteer programmes in each country. In the UK we are planning pilots in four locations – two in Wales and two in England where one of the areas will be Merseyside. We took the opportunity this week to show our partners how Culture Guides will build on our Up for Arts project in Liverpool, linking to the BBC local radio station and the existing ‘A Team’ volunteers. Helen gave our European guests a tour of the radio station and a presentation about Up for Arts. She also arranged a guided tour of Liverpool which was a big hit with our visitors. Two of our partners even ended up on the airwaves talking about their experience of visiting Liverpool. You can hear the pieces Helen recorded with Bente from Denmark and Matjaz from Slovenia at: https://soundcloud.com/voluntary-arts/bente-and-matjaz-are-up-for