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Join us at a series of free nationwide conferences | Inquiry into the Civic Role of Arts Organisations
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Join us at a series of free nationwide conferences

'A Civic Role for Arts Organisations: Relevance Risks Rewards' will be travelling across the UK over the next few months
Posted by Sian Williams

In June we will be launching a series of free, nationwide conferences: ‘A Civic Role for Arts Organisations: Relevance Risks Rewards‘.

Here’s a bit about what they will cover:

~~ What does it mean to play a civic role? For some arts organisations, it is at the heart of their mission and practice; others think it is not relevant. Communities are questioning whether the public money that arts organisations receive is benefiting local people; there are hard questions to be asked and there are no easy answers.  

We will be visiting four areas across England in June. Each conference will speak to different topics but all will be about the same central theme.

  • 10th June, Manchester, The Whitworth: ‘Partnerships, People and Power Dynamics’

What partnerships can the arts sector develop to foster cross-sector working, embed culture and the arts in the heart of civic life and bring about systemic change? Where does the power lie in these partnerships and how does that influence artistic practice, curation and creation? Are the cultural experiences that are on offer relevant to people’s lives?

The conference will start with key perspectives addressing the topic: ‘’Partnerships, People and Power Dynamics’ within the overarching theme of Relevance, Risks and Rewards, followed by interventions, presentations and panels.

Opening perspectives from Nina Simon, Founder/CEO, OF/BY/FOR ALL, Alistair Hudson, Director, The Whitworth & Manchester Art Gallery and Esme Ward, Director, Manchester Museum.

Speakers include Alison Clark (Arts Council England) Matt Fenton (Contact)  Liz Moreton  (Battersea Arts Centre) Ed Watts (The Whitworth & Manchester Art Gallery) Ruth Holdsworth & An-Ting Chang (Chinese Arts Now) and Elinor Morgan (MIMA) John Organ (Manchester Homelessness Charter), Fee Plumley (Streetwise Opera), Cookie (Artist in Residence at Manchester Museum) and David Tovey (With One Voice).

Click here to read biographies of some of the speakers.

  • 19th June, Sage Gateshead: ‘The Art of Cultural Democracy’

Who decides what cultural democracy means? What is at risk and what could the rewards be? Who is in the driving seat and whose voices are being heard? Given the diverse and changing nature of society and world politics, surely we need new systems and approaches within the arts sector to better include, listen to and respond to our diverse communities – or does the whole arts and culture  system need replacing with new models of co-creation and collaborative commissioning?

The conference will start with key perspectives addressing the topic: ‘The Art of Cultural Democracy’  within the overarching theme of Relevance, Risks and Rewards, followed by interventions, presentations and panels discussing a plurality of approaches and experiences.

Opening perspectives from Wendy Smith (Sage Gateshead) Michael Chandler (Cardboard Citizens) and Claire Doherty (Creative Director). Speakers include Chenine Bhathena (Coventry City Of Culture) Dr Steven Hadley (Culture, Place and Policy Institute – University of Hull) Claire McColgen (Culture Liverpool) Tina Ramdeen (Roundhouse) Joanna Resnick (Slung Low) Lyn Gardner (Theatre Writer – Stage Door & Associate Editor – The Stage). 

Click here to read biographies of some of the speakers.

Click here to see the afternoon’s schedule. 

  • 21st June, London, Wellcome Trust: ‘Cultural Spaces: Temples or Town Halls?’

Cultural spaces, whether they be building based, conceptual, virtual, pop-up or temporary locations outdoors, can play a pivotal role in developing creativity, enriching lives and communities and fostering social cohesion. A majority of cultural spaces are funded with public money, we continue to create new spaces but who is benefiting and how are communities involved in making the decisions? How relevant is the work that is produced to the lives and ambitions of the communities that cultural spaces are located within?

The conference will start with key perspectives addressing the topic: Cultural Spaces: Temples or Town Halls?’ within the overarching theme of Relevance, Risks and Rewards, followed by interventions, presentations and panels: ‘Re-imagining our cultural spaces’ and ‘New space, who will come?’

The opening perspectives will be from Sir Nick Serota, (Chair of Arts Council England) and Delia Barker (Roundhouse).

Speakers include Tristram Hunt (V&A) Tania Wilmer (Future Arts Centres) Matt Peacock (With One Voice) Victoria Pomery and Karen Eslea (Turner Contemporary) Helen Featherstone (Yorkshire Sculpture Park) Ruth Mackenzie (Theatre du Chatelet) Tony Butler (Derby Museums) Ruby Baker and Khadijah Ibrahiim (Poet in the City). – David Tovey – (With One Voice/One Festival of Homeless Arts), Holly Lombardo (National Rural Touring Forum) and David Bryan (XTEND).

Click here to read biographies of some of the speakers. 

  • 28th June, Bristol, Arnolfini: ‘Art: A Catalyst for Radical Change’

In a time of political, social and environmental change, how can arts and culture provoke us to question the status quo and inspire us to create new approaches that can lead to systemic change? Equally, how can the arts provide a safe space for debate, enhancing understanding and tolerance? If art has the potential to change the world and inspire action, for example against climate change or social injustice, who is taking responsibility for lighting the touchpaper? What support structures can we offer the fresh voices that are making themselves heard?

The conference will start with key perspectives addressing the topic: ‘Art: A Catalyst for Radical Change’ within the overarching theme of Relevance, Risks and Rewards, followed by interventions, presentations and panels to debate systems, fresh approaches and potential levers for change.

Opening perspectives will be from Gary Topp (Arnolfini), Doreen Foster (Warwick Arts Centre) and Alan Lane (Slung Low).

Other speakers include: Jonathan Harper (Paraorchestra), Stella Duffy (Fun Palaces), Kate McGrath (Fuel), Alice Sharp (Invisible Dust) and Ben Twist (Creative Carbon Scotland).

Click here to see the schedule.

  • 18 September, Birmingham Rep: ‘Flagship Cultural Events: a debt or opportunity for the community?

In recent years there have been a number of flagship events – e.g. the Olympics, 14-18 Now, City or Borough of Culture, the opening of an arts building, the unveiling of a high profile artistic commission, or hosting a major prize – which have provided the funds, profile and opportunity to create and celebrate imaginative and wide reaching arts and culture programmes. With two more upcoming opportunities in the Midlands – the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham 2022 and Coventry City of Culture 2021 – it is timely to ask how these opportunities can support increased participation, who really benefits and how relevant is the programming? What is the legacy and are these opportunities a catalyst for lasting change or merely a firework that burns brightly then fizzles out?

Speakers confirmed so far include: Chenine Bathena (Coventry 2021) John McGrath (Manchester International Festival) Martin Green (Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022) Nigel Hinds (Cultural Olympiad, 14-18 NOW) Kully Thiarai (National Theatre Wales/ Leeds 2023), Rebecca Blackman (Arts Council England) Jo Verrent (Unlimited) David Tovey (With One Voice).

Click here to see the afternoon’s schedule >

Click here to read biographies of some of the speakers >

There will also be a special presentation from the Beatfreeks.

Other dates and locations

We will also be running these conferences in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland in the autumn.

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