Arts Council of Wales
Taking Part Arts Participation Strategy 2009-2013
Operation Zulu - Valleys Kids Power of the Flame funded by the legacy Trust
Adain Avion - Marc Rees, Y Lle Celf, National Eisteddfod of Wales 2010
Participation in the Arts – a position statement by the Arts Council of Wales and the Voluntary Cultural Sector: Arts Council of Wales and the Voluntary Cultural Sector share the belief that people of all ages, abilities and cultures, wherever they live in Wales, have the right to define, create, and actively participate in the arts activities of their choice.
‘ Everyone has the right to freely participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts ’ Article 27 ‘Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ Participation in the Arts is a primary mechanism for experiencing this cultural right and offers an inclusive and essentially different experience from the consumption of the culture produced by others. Arts Council of Wales and the Voluntary Cultural Sector believe that participation in the arts is an empowering creative process that engages, educates and promotes a healthy nation. Arts Council of Wales and the Voluntary Cultural Sector recognise that, in partnership with others, they have a duty to broaden the public access and increase opportunities for practical participation in the arts throughout Wales and in so doing provide a pathway for enjoyment, personal development, wellbeing, community cohesion and the enrichment of local and national culture.
Arts Council of Wales/Voluntary Cultural Sector Compact Working Group June 2007
A Story To Call My Own - Marianne Harman, Re-live Theatre
Go on – have a go… Most of us are instinctively creative, although we don’t always believe it. It’s one thing to sing lustily in the shower, quite another to do it in the company of others. And yet there are few things in the arts that can be quite as satisfying as plunging in and having a go. Sometimes we can surprise ourselves. We can discover hidden talents, or develop new skills that can stretch and change who we are. Taking part in artistic activity can be a powerful means of self-expression. And whether what you’ve done is actually any good or not isn’t the point. What you’ve done is to assert your right as a creative individual to use your own imagination, your own voice in ways that are unique and special to you. Such things are important. This is why we want as many people as possible to experience and enjoy the arts: to be inspired by imagination and creativity, excited by ambition and spectacle, fascinated by the new and unfamiliar. It’s what will help make Wales an enjoyable and exciting place to live, work and play. Play matters. It’s what we do for enjoyment, relaxation and companionship. It’s how we make friends and belong. It’s how we experiment and develop new skills. September 2010
Taking part in the arts brings people together. We know that vibrant and sustainable communities are about neighbourhood and place. They’re about the everyday issues of community spirit, safety, health and education – the ties that bind people and communities together. They’re also about enjoyment, well-being and inclusion – being part of the community, not apart from it. At its best, taking part in the arts actively empowers people to engage in the cultural life that surrounds them.
South Wales Intercultural Community Arts (SWICA)
What are we actually talking about? People of all ages participate in arts activities in different ways and for different reasons. It might be for social, educational, and cultural reasons, for physical and emotional well-being, or just for the sheer joy of it. By 'participation' we mean active, practical involvement in arts and crafts, either as an individual or in a group. It might be to create something original – or a way to explore ideas, feelings and emotions, or be entirely for fun and enjoyment – not as a viewer or an audience, but as a maker or a participant. It includes amateurs, volunteers and professionals sharing what they do.
Inclusive and welcoming to all A generous, tolerant and dynamic society values and respects the creativity of all its citizens. It’s a society that embraces equality and celebrates difference and diversity, wherever it’s found in race, gender, sexuality, age, disability or ability or people from different socio-economic groups. There’s so much that can enrich and expand our culture. The disabled participant, for example, whose lived experience of society’s response to their disability can reveal unique, sometimes disturbing, insights that are artistically and culturally significant; the dub poet whose dissonant but eloquent voice speaks of different truths and forces us to look afresh at the world through different eyes. Bilingual practice also has a role to play in breaking down barriers between Welsh speaking and non-Welsh speaking people and communities. Wales has a strong and growing bi-lingual culture to which Participatory Arts activity delivered through the medium of Welsh makes a significant contribution. The ability to take part in activity through one’s first language, without the need to negotiate meaning through translation, can be essential to an individual’s enjoyment and personal development. The arts help us to appreciate and learn. They encourage curiosity, enquiry, and understanding. The arts help us to explore and articulate our common humanity, our place in the world. They help us to express what’s distinctive and singular, but also what unites and binds us together. The world around us is changing, and changing fast. So too is Wales. Our major towns and cities continue to grow, and we need to be sure that the arts develop in tandem with this. Where there is a sense of isolation in urban, suburban and rural communities, we need to develop and sustain centres of cultural provision. Our population is ageing. And as people live longer, their interests, their health and their income will all have an impact on how they enjoy and take part in the arts.
School of Rock Project, Sbarc! Galeri, Caernarfon
What do we do at the moment? Our regular support for Participatory Arts is delivered mainly through Community Arts organisations, but also through the work of producing companies and venues that run education and outreach projects and through the variety of national and locally based projects and programmes, supported through our schemes and revenue funding. The Participatory Arts in Wales are widely hailed as a world-leading example. Our community and voluntary arts groups have been praised by the British Council, and many community and voluntary artists from Wales regularly travel the world with their work. They are effective ambassadors for Wales and Welsh culture. Of course, much Participatory Activity also happens without our financial support as Wales has a strong tradition of communities coming together to create their own cultural opportunities. Local Authorities across Wales have been especially successful at creating partnerships with and between arts providers and community groups. Local Authority Arts venues, and community venues that they support, also provide numerous opportunities for people to participate in the arts. In the current financial climate, we will need to work in partnership with local authorities to make best use of the resources available.
More than an end in itself? Wales has a rich legacy of the creativity that’s been supported, and culture that’s been achieved, by earlier generations of extraordinary people. We should, of course, be inspired by their 20th century aspirations. But at the same time we should be determined to find new forms of artistic engagement and expression appropriate to today. For many people, ‘doing’ is as important as ‘seeing’ or ‘hearing’ – sometimes more so. Amateurs and volunteers underpin the cultural DNA of the arts in Wales and feed in to the development of our award-winning artists and national companies. Much of their activity is unfunded, has its own structures and economy – and it’s a credit to their energy and commitment that this work has continued to thrive and grow. Although this cannot be an area of Arts Council priority, we are respectful of its value. We need to be mindful of encouraging links and connections between this activity and the funded arts sector. A heavy-handed emphasis on clear-cut distinctions between amateur and professional can in some cases be culturally irrelevant, even damaging to emerging arts practice. We need also to recognise that volunteers and amateurs sometimes underpin the professional activity that we most value. So where does the Arts Council fit in? We recognise that the arts are something that all people can ‘do’ and the “doing” takes place in many different places and is supported in many different ways. Every person can be creative, and we should defend to the hilt their entitlement to take part in, and enjoy, the arts. But for us, taking part in the arts is about change and development, authorship and ownership. It is about work that empowers and connects – work which is unique, authentic and life-affirming. We are particularly interested in that remarkable ability of the skilled arts professional to work alongside individuals and communities, to find their voice, unlock new dimensions of experience that might otherwise have remained unused and undiscovered. Work, which at its best, is genuinely transformational. Our Hand in Hand report, published in March 2008 showed for the first time how taking part in the arts can result in better self confidence, higher self esteem and bigger aspirations on the part of the individual; which in turn can lead to positive changes within communities and, eventually, economic growth. September 2010
Why we think the participatory arts are important We believe that participation in arts and crafts activities should be open to everybody. We are particularly keen to encourage those who tend to be under-represented in arts participation (including the most vulnerable in our society and those who face particular challenges and barriers which prevent them taking part). We believe active participation: is a fundamental aspect of human expression plays a valuable role in developing culture, identity and community produces personal, social – and on occasions, economic benefits – for participants, their families and the communities in which they live and work.
Valley & Vale Community Arts
So what do we want to do? Over the next three years we’ll concentrate on three priorities:
Increasing opportunities for people to actively participate in the arts
Promoting the benefits of taking part in the
Raising the quality of Participatory Arts practice
Helping the Participatory Arts in Wales to become more durable and sustainable
Support a network of effective Community
arts Tackling barriers to participation
Document and share knowledge about exemplary activity Monitor and evaluate activity to measure its impact Develop professional skills and expertise Develop a Voluntary/Community Sector Training and Development Fund
Arts organisations Excite funding partners about the benefits and opportunities that Participatory Arts can bring
Our plan Increasing opportunities for people to actively participate in the arts We’ll do more to promote the benefits of taking part There’s nothing quite like the authentic first-hand testimony of people whose lives have been changed by the arts. We’ll promote the benefits of taking part in the arts by collecting and telling the stories – spreading the word about how great taking part in the arts really is. We need to increase the public profile of this work through news stories and the more effective use of technology. Part of this will involve us looking at how we use our web site, and the web sites of others, to share stories and exchange experience. We need to look at how we signpost people to what is on offer across Wales, and in doing this we will need to work closely with our partners, particularly the Local Authorities and other arts networks. And, we will take advantage of the opportunities that exist through getting involved in large scale arts events, such as the Cultural Olympiad Programme, World Dance Day, and Big Draw. We’ll work to tackle the barriers to participation In March 2008 we published Arts and Public Engagement a report on the results of research into the barriers that prevent people from taking part in the arts. The main reasons centred around lack of public transport, community safety, cost and lack of interest. We now need to find ways of addressing these, working through the organisations we fund and in partnership with other key agencies, such as Local Authorities and Communities First.
Raising the quality of Participatory Arts practice We’ll document and share knowledge about exemplary activity. We need to get better at sharing information about best practice and will find the most effective routes for doing this. This could include profiling participatory arts at our national conference, facilitating networking opportunities, producing a compendium of best practice. We’ll monitor and evaluate activity to measure its impact. Our priority is to support participatory arts activity that is transformational and we’ll need to gather the evidence to show the impact of this work. We’ll further develop our community arts toolkit and roll it out across the sector. We’ll also encourage the collection of testimonial evidence, of the stories that September 2010
show how participating in the arts is changing the lives of individuals and communities. Weâ€™ll support the development of professional skills and expertise. Thereâ€™s a wealth of experienced highly professional community artists working in Wales but we need to look to the future and encourage young talented individuals to see this as a viable career option. To do this we must work in partnership with bodies such as Creative and Cultural Skills to develop programmes, apprenticeships and mentoring schemes which focus on community arts. We must also look at developing our experienced community artists as cultural leaders and mentors. Weâ€™ll provide support to help the voluntary and community sector raise the quality of their activities. Following our Investment Review, we have made a commitment to setting up a new Voluntary/Community Sector Training and Development Fund which will enable organisations across all artfoms to work with professional artists, musicians, composers, performers, writers, directors, choreographers, trainers and tutors to develop and raise the quality of their activities.
Helping the Participatory Arts in Wales to become more durable and sustainable We will support a network of effective Community Arts organisations and professionally led arts bodies A network that offers high quality, transformational participatory arts activities, embedded within and owned by local communities. A network which is strong and sustainable. We cannot do this on our own. If the participatory arts are to be truly durable and sustainable we need to excite our funding partners about the benefits and opportunities that Participatory Arts can bring. We will share our research, the results of our evaluation work and the stories and testimonials we collate with all existing and future, potential funding partners.