Cultural Playing Field


Culture Guides by Robin Simpson
July 24, 2014, 11:07 am
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Culture Guides logo

Culture Guides logo

On Wednesday I joined Daniel, Laraine and Janina in Birmingham for part of our two-day Culture Guides event. Culture Guides is our EU Grundtvig partnership project, which is engaging volunteers as “culture guides” in six European countries – to reach out and strengthen the access for social and cultural marginalised groups to arts and culture as a gateway to personal development and social inclusion. It is based on the concept of “cultural sustainability” meaning that active citizenship, social inclusion and cultural cohesion will be promoted by “citizens help citizens” in a civil society context. In the UK, Voluntary Arts is working in four areas to recruit and develop volunteer Culture Guides – Wrexham and Torfaen in Wales, and St Helens and Faversham in England. This week volunteers and representatives of our partner organisations from Wrexham and St Helens joined us in Birmingham to learn more about the project and to start to explore the details of how the volunteer Culture Guides will work in practice in each location. You can see more details of the Culture Guides project at http://www.cultureguides.eu/ and there is a Facebook group for the UK part of the project at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/533636160091364/?fref=ts

Robin Simpson.



Culture Guides meeting by Robin Simpson
February 7, 2014, 2:33 pm
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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

Robin Simpson.



Arts Development UK annual conference by Robin Simpson
November 28, 2013, 6:24 pm
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On Thursday and Friday I was in Birmingham to attend the Arts Development UK annual conference in the splendid new Library of Birmingham. Opening the conference, ADUK Chair, Jane Wilson, referred to the publication of the ‘Rebalancing Our Creative Capital’ report, the Arts Council England/RSA publication ‘Towards a Plan A’ and the ACE strategy ‘Great Art and Culture for Everyone’. She said we are experiencing a radically changing environment, with major public disinvestment in the arts and the loss of many specialist local authority arts officer posts. The level of optimism and enthusiasm around arts in communities is phenomenal but we can’t always work miracles and the role of the arts in place-making is at risk. Jane said it was pleasing to see the start of a proper debate about arts policy and suggested we need more mutually reflective conversations. We then heard from Stephen Hughes, the Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council who said the new Library of Birmingham is set to be the hub of the region’s cultural economy. He said culture needs to be the heart of the city’s major development opportunities. The cultural scene is essential to Birmingham being seen as a thriving economic hub. Without arts and culture it would be hard to compete for new business but culture also plays a key role across other agendas including wellbeing, neighbourhood identity and skills.

On Thursday morning I led two seminars within the ADUK Conference to explore how the amateur arts might change over the next 20 years? I spoke about the new Voluntary Arts Strategic Plan with its twin concepts of ‘creative cultural activity’ and ‘creative citizens’. We looked at the potential effects of technological change, austerity, an ageing population and other societal trends on the traditional model of an amateur arts group. Both sessions provoked really interesting discussions about the strengths of the amateur arts, the risks to amateur activity and the likely changes in patterns of engagement.

Robin Simpson.



Arts Council of Wales meeting by Robin Simpson
October 3, 2013, 10:39 am
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On Wednesday Daniel, Hamish and I were at the Arts Council of Wales in Cardiff to meet Diane Hebb and Jackie Brown. We talked about the Voluntary Arts Wales departmental plan, the thinking behind the new Voluntary Arts Strategic Plan 2014-17, the work the Arts Council of Wales is funding to develop the take-up of our Running Your Group online information services in Wales and the funding ACW has just granted to support the creation of a website for the Summer of Stories 2014 initiative developed by the Storytelling in Wales group. We also discussed the Epic Awards scheme and Voluntary Arts Week and how we might develop these further in Wales. Diane emphasised that ACW recognises the valuable role Voluntary Arts Wales plays in relation to the amateur and voluntary arts sector.

Robin Simpson.



Arts Development UK National Committee meeting by Robin Simpson
September 27, 2013, 3:52 pm
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On Friday I was in London for the Arts Development UK National Committee meeting. ADUK has more members now than at the end of last year and the planned diversification of its membership seems to be working well as now only 10% of members are arts development officers. The ADUK annual conference takes place in Birmingham on 28/29 November. We discussed the ADUK survey into arts investment by local authorities which suggests the long term picture is quite bleak. I spoke about the launch of our Epic Awards scheme (www.epicawards.co.uk) and announced the dates for Voluntary Arts Week 2014 (9-18 May).
Robin Simpson.



Arts Development UK Professional Development Working Party meeting by Robin Simpson
August 8, 2013, 4:25 pm
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I was in London on Thursday to take part in a meeting of the Arts Development UK Professional Development Working Party. This group oversees AD:uk’s professional development programme, its national seminar programme and the annual AD:uk conference. The 2013 AD:uk Conference takes place on 28 & 29 November in the new Birmingham Library and Birmingham Rep Studio Theatre. I will be speaking in a session looking at how the amateur arts might change over the next 20 years. Digital engagement with the arts, arts activities emanating from (and being organised through) online social networks, the changing nature of communities and culture, the effects of recession and austerity measures are all influencing how people engage with the arts in their everyday lives. In my conference session I will be discussing how we can best support amateur arts groups through this period of change and how the amateur arts could play more of an integral role in initiatives to increase engagement in the arts and to develop communities. At Thursday’s meeting we also talked about how to encourage AD:uk members to get involved in Voluntary Arts Week 2014 and the possibility of running a session in the 2014 AD:uk conference to allow local authority arts development officers from the UK to learn from the experiences of their counterparts in Flanders and the Netherlands in relation to developing their involvement in Voluntary Arts Week.
Robin Simpson.



Storytelling in Wales by Robin Simpson
June 11, 2013, 2:12 pm
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On Tuesday I was at the University of Glamorgan in Cardiff for the Storytelling in Wales meeting. This is a regular gathering of representatives of organisations including Museums Archives and Libraries Wales, the National Museum of Wales, NIACE and Voluntary Arts Wales, convened and chaired by The George Ewart Evans Centre for Storytelling. On Tuesday we discussed plans for a ‘Summer of Stories’ in 2014 to raise the profile of storytelling in Wales, with the intention of building towards a ‘Year of Stories’ in 2015 or 2016.

Robin Simpson.



Meeting Baroness Randerson by Robin Simpson
May 16, 2013, 11:26 am
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I was in Cardiff on Monday where Hamish and I met Baroness Randerson, the  Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Wales Office. Jenny Randerson, a former Minister for Culture, Sport and the Welsh Language in the Wales Assembly Government, succeeded David Jones as the Wales Office junior minister when he was promoted to Secretary of State for Wales in September 2012. We talked about the voluntary arts sector in Wales, the work of Voluntary Arts Wales, Voluntary Arts Week and Epic Awards. The Minister had a good understanding of our sector and was very supportive.

Robin Simpson.



Volunteering in the Arts webcast by Robin Simpson
April 26, 2013, 1:14 pm
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On Tuesday Daniel and I were in Rhyl in North Wales to interview Tim Day, Director of Volunteering and Policy at the Wales Council for Voluntary Action for Running Your Group LIVE. Our discussion about Volunteering in the Arts looked at a wide range of issues faced by small, local, voluntary arts groups trying to recruit and manage volunteers. When most voluntary arts groups are first set up they tend to be run by a small group of friends and acquaintances: Tim talked about how groups could take the next step and look outside of their circle for volunteers with specialist skills. He discussed the importance (and the difficulty) of turning potential volunteers away if their skills don’t match what is required. Tim also looked at the emerging new forms of volunteering, such as micro-volunteering and remote volunteering. It was a really interesting interview – one of the best Running Your Group LIVE online events we have done. You can watch the recording at http://www.runningyourgroup.org (login and click on ‘Live online events’). Many thanks to everyone who joined in the live online discussion on Monday and contributed questions for Tim.

Robin Simpson.



Meeting NIACE Dysgu Cymru by Robin Simpson
March 1, 2013, 11:46 am
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I was in Cardiff on Tuesday where Daniel and I met Richard Spear and Essex Havard from NIACE Dysgu Cymru – the Wales branch of The National Institute of Adult Continuing Education. NIACE works to promote adult learning, particularly for those who have missed out on formal education. We talked about developing links between Voluntary Arts Week (11-19 May) and Adult Learners’ Week (18 – 24 May). We also discussed how the two organisations might support each other’s lobbying and advocacy work in Wales and opportunities to link our work on active ageing.

Robin Simpson.