Cultural Playing Field


Community Arts Qualifications Advisory Group meeting by Robin Simpson
December 4, 2015, 3:11 pm
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On Thursday I was at the offices of UK Music in London for the first meeting of the new Community Arts Qualifications Advisory Group. This group has been set up by Creative & Cultural Skills for two reasons. Firstly, the Government’s current apprenticeship reform programme requires a fresh look at all existing apprenticeship frameworks, converting them to new ‘Apprenticeship Standards’ by September 2017. CCSkills believes the current Community Arts framework is popular and important to maintain and has established the Advisory Group to shape a new apprenticeship for the future. The Advisory Group will also formally advise on the curriculum development for the new National College for the Creative and Cultural Industries. This is an initiative CCSkills is setting up to deliver high quality, industry-led intensive vocational training at Purfleet in Essex, and through partners nationwide. CCSkills plans to include a community arts strand to the curriculum (working title ‘Audiences and Participation’). The Advisory Group will shape this strand, working with the University of the Arts London Awarding Body. At our first meeting we discussed the need for more apprentices in the arts and the challenges and opportunities for larger arts organisations as a result of the Government’s new apprenticeships levy which comes into force from April 2017.

Robin Simpson.



Arts Development UK Professional Development Working Party meeting by Robin Simpson
September 5, 2014, 4:17 pm
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On Friday I was in Birmingham for a meeting of the Arts Development UK (ADUK) Professional Development Working Party. We were joined by Jessica Harris from NCVO to discuss the Cultural Commissioning Programme (CCP) and the potential for links between the CCP learning programme and the ADUK professional fellowship programme. We also considered the possibility of further ADUK national events to share learning and research from the CCP, following the success of the initial national seminars on cultural commissioning in June 2014. We then discussed the ADUK Conference which will take place at the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff on 16/17 October, where the keynote speaker will be the Chair of Voluntary Arts, Peter Stark. You can book your conference place at: http://artsdevelopmentuk.org/2014/08/arts-development-uk-conference-arts-for-life/. We were delighted to learn that the 2016 ADUK Conference will be hosted by Hull, UK City of Culture 2016. We also looked at the programme for the next ADUK national seminar which will focus on Arts & Health and will take place at the Catrin Finch Centre at Wrexham University in February or March 2015. The ADUK Professional Development Working Party then discussed ‘Our Cultural Commons’ – which is a partnership between Voluntary Arts and ADUK. We looked in particular at the scoping research currently being undertaken by the C3 Consultancy, led by Sue Isherwood, and talked about how best to publicise Sue’s call for existing examples of innovative, collaborative approaches to local cultural infrastructure. We also considered how the proposed Our Cultural Commons national event in June or July 2015 would fit into ADUK’s wider events programme. Finally we reviewed the ADUK Professional Fellowship Programme, which has now been running for three years, and discussed how to encourage more ADUK members to take part and the potential for further progression beyond the level of Senior Fellow. The fellowship programme is a really interesting way of encouraging and enabling continuing professional development for people working in local arts development and it is good to see how well the scheme has been taken up so far.

Robin Simpson.


Meeting the Connection Culture Programme Manager by Robin Simpson
August 8, 2014, 12:42 pm
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I was in Peterborough on Monday to meet Josie Hickin, the new Creative People and Places Programme Manager for Connection Culture. The Peterborough Creative People and Places consortium (of which Voluntary Arts is a member) has employed Josie to lead its programme to increase engagement in the arts in Peterborough. We talked about the various strands of the Connection Culture programme (focussing on young people, diverse communities and the voluntary arts sector – supported by the ‘Chamber of Culture’ which is providing training and mentoring). We discussed some of the particular challenges we are likely to face and the role each of the consortium partners will play in the delivery of the programme strands. It’s great to have Josie in post and I hope the Connection Culture programme will now really start to take shape.

Robin Simpson.



Do Something Brilliant by Robin Simpson
June 20, 2014, 9:59 am
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On Thursday I was in London to take part in the first meeting of the advisory group for the Media Trust’s ‘Do Something Brilliant’ campaign. ‘Do Something Brilliant’ is a flagship campaign, funded by the Big Lottery Fund, which offers charities and community groups opportunities to tell their stories in different ways. See the ‘Do Something Brilliant’ TV advert at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w-oTVZnvFdI. The campaign showcases stories to inspire people as well as providing training, resources, workshops, and a community newswire. ‘Do Something Brilliant’ was launched in February this year and has already broadcast a range of material online and through the Community Channel (Freeview channel 63). The campaign is working across the UK, with Outreach Managers and Advisory Boards in each nation. There are four themes to ‘Do Something Brilliant’ – active, together, green and creative. Voluntary Arts has been asked to advise on the ‘creative’ theme and to ensure that voluntary arts groups take advantage of the opportunities to raise their profile and the workshops (on digital storytelling, video skills etc) being provided by the Media Trust. See: http://www.dosomethingbrilliant.co.uk/

Robin Simpson.



Connection Culture, Peterborough by Robin Simpson
May 16, 2014, 10:41 am
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On Wednesday I was in Peterborough for a meeting of the Creative People and Places consortium – now called ‘Connection Culture’. We worked on the details of the three main strands of our programme to increase engagement in the arts in Peterborough. These strands focus on young people, diverse communities and voluntary arts groups and will be backed up by a ‘Chamber of Culture’ which will provide advice, training and mentoring to local artists and cultural organisations.  

Robin Simpson.



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 http://www.communitygames.org.uk/. 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.



RSC Open Stages Skills Sharing Weekend at The Questors Theatre, London by Robin Simpson
February 28, 2014, 9:58 am
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Last Saturday I was at the Questors Theatre in London for the start of our latest RSC Open Stages Skills Sharing Weekend. Questors, founded in 1929, is the largest non-professional theatre company in Europe and hosts a season of around twenty productions a year. Questors is the only amateur theatre company among the regional partner theatres supporting Open Stages and acts as a hub for the amateur theatre groups in London and the South East taking part in the current Open Stages project.

 

Michael Corbridge leading a voice workshop at the RSC Open Stages Skills Sharing Weekend at The Questors Theatre in London

Michael Corbridge leading a voice workshop at the RSC Open Stages Skills Sharing Weekend at The Questors Theatre in London

On Saturday around 100 amateur actors from participating groups gathered at the Questors Theatre in Ealing to take part in workshops on voice, acting, movement and stage combat, led by the RSC’s team of professional expert facilitators. I’m always incredibly impressed by the standard of the amateur actors we see at the Open Stages skills sharing sessions. Invariably they tackle exercises used by drama schools and professional theatre companies with a level of skill, creativity and experience that makes it impossible to tell that you are not actually watching an internal RSC training session.

On Saturday we were joined by Erica Whyman, the Deputy Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Erica joined the RSC in January 2013 and works closely with Artistic Director, Gregory Doran, on all aspects of artistic strategy. She now has overall responsibility for the Open Stages project and the RSC’s programme of work with amateur theatre and this was her first experience of an Open Stages skills-sharing weekend. I talked to Erica about the origins and development of Open Stages and the RSC’s plans for further work with the amateur theatre sector beyond the end of the current Open Stages project.

Robin Simpson.



Meeting Pauline Tambling at Creative & Cultural Skills by Robin Simpson
January 24, 2014, 3:24 pm
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On Friday I was at the Backstage Centre in Purfleet in Essex to meet the Chief Executive of Creative & Cultural Skills, Pauline Tambling. We discussed the new Voluntary Arts Strategic Plan 2014-17 and looked at areas in which Voluntary Arts and CC Skills might be able to collaborate. We talked about the potential for the two organisations to support each other’s work in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We also looked at potential links between the new Voluntary Arts development officer posts in England and CC Skills.

Robin Simpson.



Culture Guides partners meeting, Copenhagen, Denmark by Robin Simpson
November 8, 2013, 1:45 pm
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On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday Daniel and I were in Copenhagen for the first meeting of the partners in our new European project, Culture Guides. This is a a three-year project with partners from Denmark, Slovenia, Hungary and the Netherlands, supported by the Grundtvig programme, part of the European Union Lifelong Learning Programme. The project will create up to four pilot Culture Guide areas in the UK, where, with collaboration from local authorities, volunteering agencies and local arts organisations, volunteers will be trained as mentors to help socially-marginalised groups to access and participate in cultural opportunities in their area. The project is based on the concept of ‘citizen helps citizen’, using volunteers from within a particular locality to engage with new cultural participants in a reflexive manner, taking into account their interests and inclinations and offering practical and moral support to help them fulfil their creative ambitions.

 

Vartov, Copenhagen, Denmark

Vartov, Copenhagen, Denmark

The EU Grundtvig programme is named after NFS Grundtvig, a Danish pastor, author, poet, philosopher, historian, teacher and politician whose thinking on education was particularly influential. So it was incredibly appropriate that our first meeting took place at Vartov in Copenhagen, the building in which Grundtvig worked as a pastor from 1839 until his death in 1872.

Statue of NFS Grundtvig in the courtyard at Vartov, Copenhagen, Denmark

Statue of NFS Grundtvig in the courtyard at Vartov, Copenhagen, Denmark

 

As well as planning the details of our project and agreeing ways of working, we had two really interesting presentations to stimulate our thinking about Culture Guides. Karen Lisa Salamon, Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Copenhagen University, provided a provocation about authenticity and cultural engagement. She looked at the distinction between high culture and popular culture and the distinction between amateur and professional cultural production. We were also joined by Nicholas Kragekjaer Jespersen, who runs the Copenhagen Culture Guides programme which introduces children and their families to cultural activities. It was very useful to see the details of this scheme which, although slightly different in focus from the work of our project, is already realising in practice several aspects of our planned activity.

We ended our stay in Copenhagen with a visit to the best restaurant in the world. At the Restaurant & Bar Design Awards in London in September 2013, the New Nordic restaurant Höst won the “Best European Restaurant” and “Best Restaurant” awards. Amazing meal, amazing place, see: http://trendland.com/host-restaurant-copenhagen/

You can follow the progress of our Culture Guides project at: http://www.cultureguides.eu/

Robin Simpson.



RSC Open Stages Directors’ Weekend by Robin Simpson
October 3, 2013, 8:53 am
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Struan Leslie leading a workshop on movement at the RSC Open Stages Directors' Weekend at the Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

Struan Leslie leading a workshop on movement at the RSC Open Stages Directors’ Weekend at the Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

Last Saturday I was at the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon for the beginning of the Director’s Weekend – the first event in our new RSC Open Stages project. Directors from nearly 100 amateur theatre groups across the UK had assembled in Stratford for a weekend of workshops, skill-sharing and discussions with staff from the Royal Shakespeare Company and our other professional theatre partners. I spoke at the start of the weekend about the role Voluntary Arts played in developing the original Open Stages project and its importance in helping to raise the profile of the amateur arts and bring the professional and amateur theatre sectors closer together.

Voice & text workshop with Michael Corbridge at the RSC Open Stages Directors' Weekend at the Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

Voice & text workshop with Michael Corbridge at the RSC Open Stages Directors’ Weekend at the Courtyard Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon

I then sat in on some of the initial workshops (on voice & text – with Michael Corbridge, RSC Voice practitioner; and movement – with Struan Leslie, RSC Head of Movement) which shared approaches and techniques that the Directors could use in their amateur groups as they develop the productions that will be showcased through the new Open Stages project.

At lunchtime I spoke to the Directors about our Running Your Group online information services (www.runningyourgroup.org), our Epic Awards scheme (which is open for entries until 30 November, see: www.epicawards.co.uk) and Voluntary Arts Week (which will take place from 9 – 18 May 2014, see: www.voluntaryartsweek.org).

Movement workshop on the stage of the Courtyard Theatre at the RSC Open Stages Directors' Weekend, Stratford-upon-Avon

Movement workshop on the stage of the Courtyard Theatre at the RSC Open Stages Directors’ Weekend, Stratford-upon-Avon

Robin Simpson.