Cultural Playing Field


2014 Epic Awards Winners’ Reception at Platform Arts in Glasgow by Robin Simpson
February 28, 2014, 11:33 am
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On Wednesday evening I hosted the 2014 Epic Awards Winners’ Reception at Platform Arts in Glasgow. Delegates from the Voluntary Arts Scotland conference were joined by Epic Award winners and runners-up from across the UK and the Republic of Ireland. The evening started with a performance of a song from the Commonwealth Games Songbook from local voluntary arts choir, East End Voices. The awards and certificates were then presented by the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop MSP, and the Chair of Voluntary Arts, Peter Stark. The four Epic Award winners each received special Epic Award 2014 trophies made for us by Maklab and GalGael. GalGael is a community-engaged organisation in Glasgow that offers vulnerable people the opportunity to learn practical skills in wood working and GalGael also made the baton for the Commonwealth Games Queen’s Baton Relay. I read out personal messages of congratulation to the Epic Award winners from the UK, Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland Culture Ministers. Details of all the winners and runners-up can be found at http://epicawards.co.uk. The evening finished with the presentation of the Peers’ Award for Excellence 2014, voted for by the shortlisted groups, which went to Foyle Haven Arts Collective in Derry for a creative writing project that gave the homeless and those struggling with addiction a voice in print and on stage as part of Derry/Londonderry UK City of Culture 2013. We were then piped out of Platform Arts by Scotland Epic Award runners-up, Lewis Pipe Band. Thanks to all Voluntary Arts staff, Board members, Advisory Group members and Voluntary Arts Ambassadors across the UK and Ireland for their help with the administration, shortlisting and judging of Epic Awards 2014. A particular thank you to Jemma Neville, Director of Voluntary Arts Scotland, who managed the Epic Awards scheme this year. Thanks also to everyone who sponsored Epic Awards and donated prizes – we really value your support. And thanks to Fiona Campbell for her calligraphy on the beautiful Epic Award certificates. The Epic Awards Winners’ Reception was part-funded by the Big Lottery Fund and Spirit of 2012 Trust ‘Keeping the Spirit of 2012 Alive’ programme. It was a moving and inspirational evening celebrating the extraordinary achievements of local volunteer-led arts groups. 

Robin Simpson.



Voluntary Arts Scotland Conference ‘Culture, creativity and you: why making matters’ by Robin Simpson
February 28, 2014, 11:31 am
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On Wednesday I was at Platform Arts in Easterhouse, Glasgow for the Voluntary Arts Scotland Conference ‘Culture, creativity and you: why making matters’. Delegates were brought to the conference from the centre of Glasgow by bus with local historian Douglas McCreadie explaining the history and culture of the area. The Acting Chair of Voluntary Arts Scotland, Jim Tough, opened the conference and Jackie Shearer, Arts Manager at Platform, described the role the arts centre has been playing in urban regeneration in Easterhouse.

Richard Holloway speaking at the Voluntary Arts Scotland Conference 'Culture, creativity and you: why making matters'.

Richard Holloway speaking at the Voluntary Arts Scotland Conference ‘Culture, creativity and you: why making matters’.

Our keynote speaker was Richard Holloway, Chair of Sistema Scotland. Richard, a former Chair of Scottish Arts Council, spoke passionately and inspirationally about the how humans “represent the world back to itself” through art. He said “play is the fundamental engine of human evolution” and suggested that culture requires both conservatives who preserve traditions and radicals who break new ground. He spoke about the challenges of the modern world, suggesting “we have created a leisured class [the unemployed] with no capacity for using that time wisely”. He said “we’ve created a class that works too hard and a class that can’t get work”. Richard Holloway spoke about the success of ‘The Big Noise’ in Raploch, Stirling, saying there are now 12 children from Raploch in the National Youth Orchestra of Scotland.

Crafting the Arts panel discussion at the Voluntary Arts Scotland Conference 'Culture, creativity and you: why making matters'

Crafting the Arts panel discussion at the Voluntary Arts Scotland Conference ‘Culture, creativity and you: why making matters’

After lunch the conference continued with a panel discussion, chaired by Caroline Docherty from Creative Scotland reflecting on the Voluntary Arts Scotland Crafting the Arts project (funded by The Big Lottery Fund). Gillian Harrison and Carol Stobie spoke about our learning from the project, the changes to local authorities and Third Sector Interfaces over the past five years and the achievements of our Voluntary Arts Ambassadors. It was great to see so many Voluntary Arts Ambassadors in the room and to have a chance to pay tribute to the wonderful voluntary contribution they have made to the work of Voluntary Arts Scotland.

Feltmaking at the Voluntary Arts Scotland Conference 'Culture, creativity and you: why making matters'

Feltmaking at the Voluntary Arts Scotland Conference ‘Culture, creativity and you: why making matters’

Delegates then engaged in a ‘Cultural Crofting’ creative discussion, addressing the challenges facing local cultural infrastructure and expressing possible solutions through the medium of felt-making – with expert instruction and support from members of the International Feltmakers Association.

Chriistopher Silver and Patricia Ferguson discussing the Scottish Independence Referendum at the Voluntary Arts Scotland Conference 'Culture, creativity and you: why making matters'

Chriistopher Silver and Patricia Ferguson discussing the Scottish Independence Referendum at the Voluntary Arts Scotland Conference ‘Culture, creativity and you: why making matters’

The final session of the conference saw us hosting what we believe to be the only public debate on the Scottish Independence Referendum to focus on the implications for the arts and culture. Christopher Silver of the National Collective represented Yes Scotland and the Labour Party’s Shadow Culture Minister, Patricia Ferguson MSP, spoke on behalf of the Better Together Campaign. They were joined by Andy Milne, Chief Executive of SURF, Scotland’s Independent Regeneration Network who provided a thoughtful provocation. The ensuing debate was thoughtful and polite with many areas of agreement between the speakers about the importance of the arts and culture in Scotland’s future and the need to encourage as many people as possible to vote in the referendum.

The Voluntary Arts Scotland was an excellent event in a great venue with a creatively constructed programme, interesting speakers and an attentive sell-out audience. Congratulations to Jemma, Kelly, Gillian, Carol, Jason, Cassandra and Harriet for a wonderful event.

Robin Simpson.



Luminate Festival meetings by Robin Simpson
February 7, 2014, 2:31 pm
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Last Thursday I was in Edinburgh for the final meeting of the Luminate Festival Strategy Group. This group of partners in Scotland’s Creative Ageing Festival (including Creative Scotland, Age Scotland, The Baring Foundation and Voluntary Arts) has overseen the first two years of Luminate but is now handing over to a new Board of Trustees as the Luminate Festival becomes a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. In our final meeting we examined the formal evaluation of the first two festivals produced by BOP consulting and identified key recommendations for the new Trustee Board to pursue. I then took part in the first meeting of the Trustee Board which looked at the governances and finances of the new organisation and the planned programme for the third Luminate Festival which will take place in October 2014.

Robin Simpson.



Age Scotland Awards 2013 by Robin Simpson
October 3, 2013, 10:36 am
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Age Scotland Awards ceremony in the Garden Lobby of the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh

Age Scotland Awards ceremony in the Garden Lobby of the Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh

On Tuesday evening I was in the Garden Lobby at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh to attend the Age Scotland Awards. Age Scotland Chief Executive, Brian Sloan, explained that Tuesday was chosen for the awards ceremony as it was International Older People’s Day as well as being the first day of the 2014 Luminate Festival – Scotland’s Creative Ageing Festival which Age Scotland runs in partnership with Creative Scotland and The Baring Foundation (see: www.luminatescotland.org). The Age Scotland Awards honour people and organisations working for and with older people in Scotland and include awards for campaigning, partnership working and ‘volunteer of the year’. I was delighted to see the final award, for ‘Member Group of the Year’, presented to an arts organisation. Citadel Arts Group specialises in developing plays from the memories of old people. This excellent group performed at the Voluntary Arts Scotland parliamentary reception at the Scottish Parliament last year. The Age Scotland Awards ceremony was moving and inspiring – a great celebration of older people (see: http://www.ageuk.org.uk/scotland/get-involved/age-scotland-awards-2013/).

Robin Simpson.



Meeting the new Chief Executive of Creative Scotland by Robin Simpson
September 20, 2013, 10:29 am
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On Tuesday I was in Edinburgh where Jemma and I met Janet Archer, the new Chief Executive of Creative Scotland. We talked about the current activities of Voluntary Arts Scotland, the development of the new Voluntary Arts Strategic Plan 2014-17 and our planned work in Scotland over the next few years. We discussed Creative Scotland’s new Annual Plan 2013-14, particularly Strategic Outcome 2 “Access to, and participation in, the arts and creative activity increases year on year across Scotland, particularly from equality groups and people from less advantaged backgrounds” and the proposed strategic partnership with Voluntary Arts Scotland. We also briefed Janet on Epic Awards 2014 – the winners’ reception for which will take place at Platform in Easterhouse, Glasgow in February 2014. It was a positive, interesting and wide-ranging first discussion with the new Chief Executive.
Robin Simpson.



Luminate Festival Strategy Group meeting by Robin Simpson
July 3, 2013, 4:19 pm
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I was at Creative Scotland in Edinburgh on Monday afternoon for a meeting of the Luminate Festival Strategy Group. Luminate is Scotland’s Creative Ageing Festival: the second annual festival takes place across Scotland from 1-31 October 2013. On Monday, the Festival’s Artistic Director, Anne Gallacher, updated us on the programme for this year’s festival including the works being commissioned by Luminate, the curated programme of events and the film programme. We discussed how Luminate might inspire policy discussions and provide a forum for policy debate around older people and the arts. We also discussed the future governance and funding of Luminate. See: http://www.luminatescotland.org/

Robin Simpson.



Creative Exchange by Robin Simpson
July 3, 2013, 4:16 pm
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Open plan offices in the old Corn Exchange building in Leith

Open plan offices in the old Corn Exchange building in Leith

On Monday I was in Leith to visit the new Voluntary Arts Scotland office. We now have desks in a magnificent newly furbished office space in the old Corn Exchange in Leith. Creative Exchange has been created with investment from the Scottish Government, Edinburgh City Council, Edinburgh University and Creative Scotland is set up to be the digital hub for Scotland with all the latest technology including super-fast-broadband.  Our staff will be in great company, and will bring a different perspective to the world of work for the other tenants, who will include digital startups, PhD students, and digital design companies.

Robin Simpson.

Creative Exchange, Leith

Creative Exchange, Leith

The new Voluntary Arts Scotland office
The new Voluntary Arts Scotland office



Voluntary arts research in Scotland by Robin Simpson
May 17, 2013, 8:57 am
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I was in Edinburgh on Thursday where Jemma and I met Alastair Evans and Maggie Page at Creative Scotland. We discussed the Creative Scotland research programme and how it might look at aspects of the voluntary arts sector in Scotland. We reflected on studies into the voluntary arts in England, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in recent years and identified areas in which more evidence would be useful.

Robin Simpson.



Luminate Festival Strategy Group meeting by Robin Simpson
April 18, 2013, 3:29 pm
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I was at Creative Scotland in Edinburgh on Tuesday for a Luminate Festival Strategy Group meeting. Luminate is Scotland’s annual creative ageing festival, supported by Creative Scotland, the Baring Foundation and Age Scotland. Festival Director Anne Gallacher updated us on decisions about commissions for the 2013 festival. We also discussed the future governance model for the Luminate Festival and considered the external evaluation of the 2012 festival.

Robin Simpson.



Understanding Everyday Participation by Robin Simpson
March 21, 2013, 2:35 pm
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I was back in London on Wednesday for a meeting of the Understanding Everyday Participation research project steering group. The project website is now up and running at: http://www.everydayparticipation.org and it explains that “This project proposes a radical re-evaluation of the relationship between participation and cultural value. We are used to thinking about the benefits of the arts as a traditional way of understanding culture and its value but what about the meanings and stakes people attach to their hobbies and pastimes? Can we speak of supposedly mundane activities like shopping, taking the dog for a walk, or meeting up with friends as having cultural worth?” A major part of the project will be in-depth, face-to-face interviews with people in each of 6 geographical ecosystems. There will be 180 initial interviews which will be repeated later in the project to reveal any longitudinal change. On Wednesday we looked in detail at the draft interview topic guide and suggested amendments and additions to the planned interview questions. We also considered a proposal for analysis of existing quantitative data collected by the Taking Part survey in England.

Robin Simpson.