Cultural Playing Field

Community Games by Robin Simpson
February 28, 2014, 10:10 am
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On Monday I was in Birmingham to meet Nikki Enoch, the National Manager of Community Games (a legacy of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games). Since January 2012 there have been 3,551 Community Games across England. Each Community Games has to be led by volunteers, needs an cultural element as well as sports and must have opening and closing events. Community Games is run by a partnership involving the County Sports Partnership Network and the YMCA, and is administered by Nikki who is a freelance consultant. To run a Community Games in your community all you need to do is register on the Community Games website at You will then be contacted by your local County Sports Partnership and will receive a toolkit, access to e-training and a package of resources including bunting, banners, postcards and t-shirts that can be customised for your event. You get a page on the national Community Games website to promote your event and help and advice from your local County Sports Partnership. We talked about the potential to involve voluntary arts groups in providing the cultural elements of Community Games, the possibility of voluntary arts groups leading their own Community Games and the opportunities to link Community Games to Voluntary Arts Week. Community Games is an England initiative at the moment but has ambitions to spread to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Robin Simpson.


Keeping the Spirit of 2012 alive by Robin Simpson
November 22, 2013, 4:34 pm
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On Wednesday afternoon I took part in a meeting of the seven projects funded by the Big Lottery Fund/Spirit of 2012 Trust ‘Keeping the Spirit Alive’ programme. The Big Lottery Fund has established the £40m Spirit of 2012 Trust to take an ongoing role in supporting the legacy of London 2012. The Trust will focus on volunteerism, attitudes to disabilities, and the potential of young people to be more involved their communities, using sport, culture and the arts, with other major events (such as the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games) providing a spur. It was incredibly interesting and inspiring to meet representatives of the other six funded projects and to learn more about their plans. We found a lot of commonality between our projects and huge potential for collaboration. You can read about all seven projects at:

Robin Simpson.

Running Your Group Weekly, 11 February 2013 by Robin Simpson
February 15, 2013, 11:01 am
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On Monday I hosted Running Your Group Weekly. Kevin and I were joined by Irene Heathcote from Quilts 4 London – the winners of the 2013 England Epic Award. Irene told us how a simple idea to make gifts for the athletes at the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games developed into a massive project that involved thousands of people across the UK (and Australia!) with Irene’s postman making four deliveries a day as the pennants rolled in. You can watch our conversation with Irene at and please join us there next Monday at 5 pm for another Running Your Group Weekly video webcast.

Robin Simpson.

The Volunteering Network by Robin Simpson
November 16, 2012, 4:25 pm
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I was in London on Monday for The Volunteering Network – a joint meeting of the England Volunteering Development Council (EVDC) and the Network of National Volunteer-Involving Agencies (NNVIA). We were joined by Justin Davis-Smith, Chief Executive of Volunteering England, and Sir Stuart Etherington, Chief Executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) to address the question ‘where’s the voice of volunteering in our new world?’. Justin and Stuart explained in detail the planned merger between Volunteering England and NCVO and how the new organisation will support volunteering. Justin said volunteering has never been more relevant and necessary but it has never been harder to make the case for investment. Stuart said that NCVO has leading edge experience in governance but not much on other aspects of volunteering and welcomed the additional expertise that Volunteering England would bring. He said volunteering is absolutely core to the future of the new merged organisation: it will be an intrinsic and important part. Stuart suggested that the nature of capacity-building will change over the coming years with more emphasis on digital and peer-to-peer learning and fewer big conference and publications. In the second half of the meeting we focussed on ‘giving time and volunteering: the post-Olympic and Paralympic opportunity’. We heard from David Moorcroft and Rebecca Birkbeck from Join In and David McCullough, the Chief Executive of WRVS. David Moorcroft said three things stood out for him from London 2012: the Torch Relay (which reached almost all parts of the country); the Paralympics (which transformed perceptions of disability); and the Games Makers (who defined the Olympic spirit).

Robin Simpson.

Has volunteering developed a new momentum? by Robin Simpson
November 9, 2012, 3:55 pm
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I was in London again on Thursday to take part in the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) Members Assembly meeting. The theme of the meeting was ‘Has volunteering developed a new momentum?’ – looking at the effect of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games on volunteering. NCVO Chair, Martyn Lewis, introduced the debate, saying “it’s been an amazing summer of volunteering but it does present a challenge for the volunteering organisations”.

Justin Davis-Smith, Chief Executive of Volunteering England said “we have never seen volunteering more in the public eye” but wondered whether we could keep this going. He pointed out that the 270 volunteer centres around the country are having a very tough time with their funding cut by 25% this year, on top of 18% cuts last year. Research undertaken by LOCOG indicates that 44% of the UK population wish they had been Games Makers. Justin asked how we can bottle the spirit of London 2012 in a climate where many organisations who have been working with volunteers for many years are suffering. He suggested there were six lessons from the success of the Games Makers programme: leadership, planning & strategy, management & training, recognition, innovation & technology and investment.

Tiger de Souza, Head of Volunteering at NSPCC, suggested that people had volunteered for London 2012 to be part of something massive – a once in a lifetime opportunity. Do any of our current volunteering opportunities generate similar feelings? He pointed out the attraction of a very defined time period for volunteering – whereas most volunteering opportunities are open-ended. Tiger suggested that when you ask most people how they got into volunteering the answer is something like “I made a throwaway remark at a dinner party and the next thing I knew I was the Treasurer!” He talked about the need for succession planning, role descriptions and advertising and wondered how many of us are truly following best practice. Tiger felt that calling the London 2012 volunteers ‘Games Makers’ had made a big difference. The Games Maker training events had been incredibly slick and professional, the volunteers felt special and privileged, good use had been made of technology and the whole experience had been fun. Tiger said the key lessons were that volunteering needs a re-brand, we need to create opportunities that fit into people’s lives and we need to develop recognition of the value of volunteers (as a society). The challenge is investment – we need to be creative.

It was a fascinating discussion with some excellent speakers – easily the best NCVO Members Assembly meeting I have been to.

Robin Simpson.

Making Music Conference 2012 by Robin Simpson
September 20, 2012, 12:43 pm
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Last weekend I was at the Making Music conference at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama in Cardiff. On Saturday afternoon Daniel and I had a meeting with Nick Smith and Katherine Lane from Superact and Robin Osterley and Evan Dawson from Making Music to discuss Bandstand Marathon. We reflected on the success of the 2012 Bandstand Marathon which had included more than 300 events across the country on the previous Sunday. We also talked in detail about the plans for Bandstand Marathon 2013 which is likely to take place in July. We discussed a number of additional components we hope to add next year, including links between Voluntary Arts Week in May and Bandstand Marathon in July. On Saturday evening the Making Music conference concert included the premiere of ‘Island Race’ – a short choral piece which I wrote with Robin Osterley and Evan Dawson to celebrate London 2012. Robin conducted the Richard Williams singers, the Gentlemen Songsters and the Abergavenny Borough Band in a rousing performance at the end of the concert. It was a very exciting experience to hear my words sung by the choirs and I think the piece worked well (though I am a little biased!). The concert was recorded by BBC Radio 3 and I am looking forward to hearing the recording. If you’re interested you can see the words of ‘Island Race’ at and Making Music members who are interested in performing the piece can download scores for free from

Robin Simpson.

Bandstand Marathon 2013 by Robin Simpson
July 6, 2012, 9:55 am
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On Tuesday I was in London to meet Nick Smith and Katherine Lane from Superact – the organisers of Bandstand Marathon. Bandstand Marathon – hundreds of simultaneous performances on bandstands across the country on a designated day each year – has become a very successful annual event over the past four years. This year, on 9 September, Bandstand Marathon will be the final event of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. On Tuesday I met Nick and Katherine, with Robin Osterley and Evan Dawson from Making Music, to discuss plans for Bandstand Marathon 2013. We talked about expanding the range of groups involved to encompass the other performing arts, visual arts and crafts as well as music. We also discussed a potential project to establish new community choirs around the country with the target of performing as part of Bandstand Marathon. And we looked at the possibility of moving the date of Bandstand Marathon to coincide with Voluntary Arts Week in May 2013. After much discussion we agreed that trying to bundle Bandstand Marathon and a number of possible connected projects together with Voluntary Arts Week might prove too complicated a concept to market effectively. We also felt that Bandstand Marathon would be better suited to a date in July at the end of the school year. We did, however, agree that we would work together to develop several initiatives to increase arts participation which could be launched during Voluntary Arts Week in May and then work towards final performances as part of Bandstand Marathon in July. We also agreed to cross-promote Voluntary Arts Week and Bandstand Marathon.

Robin Simpson.