State of the arts

Together with hundreds of other arts professionals I was at the State of the Arts conference last week. A number of the discussions were better than last year, and I liked the format of the first session with the audience tasked to answer and devise a question at their round table.

I lucked out for this, as I had Andrew Nairne and Laura Dyer from ACE, Jo Healy from Photographers Gallery and Gavin Stride from Farnham Maltings at my table – so we had a great discusson. Our answer to the question ‘what needs to change’  – Arts organisations need to listen to their audiences.

I found the parallel panel Where are the new audiences a frustrating experience –  the panel members weren’t well placed to address the question and despite the chair’s best efforts, the audience contribution didn’t really get us anywhere.

Back to some positives – Deborah Bull from the ROH was great talking about how we need to place audiences and artists at the heart of what we do, and I like Phil Redmond’s trajectory for arts orgnisations to

1st – survive

2nd -listen

3rd – become self aware

Plus he had a wonderful John, Paul, George and Ringo response… finishing with his prefered  philosphical response from George  that all things must pass…

Note to orgnisers –

Next year, I’d like to see fewer politicians on the panels (5 was too many, and 2 on the same panel the kiss of death) as this led to a not very sophisticated political point scoring style of debate.

Please bring back Matthew Taylor, who is a brilliant chair and John Knell who effortlessly combines being clever with being clear.

How will the coalition affect culture?

Torin Douglas, Media Correspondent, BBC News, considers how the coalition government may affect culture, specifically the BBC, the Olympics, the Lottery and digital media policy.

“More people take part in cultural activity in this country than vote”

The Stage has just published an article by Nick Clegg addressing the Lib Dems political standpoint on culture. Although he leads on the strong and measurable economic impacts of the arts and heritage sector, he does go on to say “I want to build a new economy, in which we no longer worship risk-taking and greed, but we value ideas and expression“. So what is that exactly? What opportunities will the Lib Dems create for free creative expression? It seems that their focus for culture is it bring it back to education, with “an extra £2.5 billion for schools” although only specifying that this “will allow teachers to cut class sizes and provide more one to one tuition” rather than how the arts will be incorporated into formal education.

I’m afraid for me it continues to get even more woolly – he’s taken this opportunity to raise the Lib Dems standpoint on Iraq, human rights, climate change and even their income tax policy.

Sorry Nick, to me this just seems like another opportunity to signpost your other key manifesto points and there’s nothing robust about how you would continue to support the arts in the UK. I’m not convinced. What do you think? Please do comment!

Do arts, live longer…

Hi, I’m Josie, I’d like to share some recent findings from the world of arts and health research – which is what I used to do before arriving at Audiences London…

In an eye-catchingly titled article, ‘Cultural participation – A Matter of life and Death?’, Mark O’Neill, Director of research at Culture and Sport Glasgow considers recent international research that shows cultural participation makes such a difference to people’s mental and physical wellbeing, that people live longer as a result. The research began in Sweden, but its findings are being confirmed and developed all over the world.

Encouragingly for arts marketers (and anyone else too busy to go to the cinema), it’s not a use it or lose it situation:
‘like physical fitness, regular participation in culture helps maintain wellbeing, and requires regular engagement to realise the benefits. And like sport and physical activity, the benefits can be achieved by starting participation at any age, and recovered after a period of inactivity.’

He concludes:

‘…there is a strong ethical dimension implicit in this research. If engagement with culture enriches people’s experience to the degree that it creates healthier, more flourishing lives, then the issue of access is critical… The obligation to people whose background does not include the cultural capital required to begin the engagement with formal culture is also clear: this is a key justification for public funding.’

That’s all from me, I’m off to take my culture pill!

Musings on the LSO Digital Symposium

lsodigitalI’ve just got back from the LSO “All Change?” Digital Symposium. Both Anwen and I were in attendance and I think our feelings about the day are about the same – lovely to network and join in the debate as always but we really need to move on this conversation now and talk about the impacts, actions and responses of digital development. One thought from the day stood out for me in particular:

Government should have led the way in testing and researching digital content and social media, much as they tested new school learning frameworks in laboratory conditions in the 50s and 60s, we should expect them to finance and develop models for the public to engage with online media, test them, refine them and release this information to publicly funded organisations.
Although I think it might have been an interesting approach, my argument with this is that approaches to interactive social media (by which I mean not videos or podcasts, but a platform that genuinely allows the audience to participate) should be unique to each organisation due to online content’s very nature of transparency and openness.

Hmm, I could have phrased that better, but it’s been a long week!

You can view comments from the day at twitter.com/AllChange_LSO. Were you there? What did you make of the day? And can you refine my response above?!

Doing it for the kids

The latest briefing from the Arts Council’s 05/06 Taking Part survey reveals a profound correlation between childhood experience of the arts and later adult arts attendance. According to the report, exposure to the arts as a child dramatically increases an individual’s chances of being an adult arts consumer, and is almost as strong a predictor of arts engagement as education.

The research emphasises the importance of current policy and initiatives designed to encourage young people’s engagement with arts activity; projects like Find Your Talent and the current under 26 free theatre campaign, A Night Less Ordinary (check out Anwen’s post to see how AL are involved in this one). Instructively titled Encourage children today to build arts audiences for tomorrow, the full Arts Council Taking Part report is available  to download here.

P.S. This might be old news those of you receiving Audiences London’s bi-weekly newsletter. If you’re not already on our mailing list but would like regular tasty morsels of audience candy like the above, sign up to the newsletter here.

Should public funding be decided by the public?

The Directory of Social Change have aired their thoughts on BIG Lottery’s proposal to allow the public to have a say win who receives public funding. Their response was a resounding NO! What do you think? You can read the article here.