Nicola Turner writes…
When I was asked to curate a series of Platforms, the remit was to examine issues around ArtWorks: Developing Practice in Participatory Settings with the aspiration of reaching a wider community of practice. Speakers selected were to be working in the field, generating practice, and the seminars were aimed at an audience interested in finding out more about the learning from ArtWorks and the wider debate around developing practice. Target audience members were CPD providers, commissioners, HE/FE educators, trainers and artists.
With the generous and expert support of the ArtWorks Cymru, London and Scotland Pathfinders and the Wired Consortium in Plymouth, five Platforms were held in Manchester, Cardiff, London, Plymouth and Glasgow. They explored these questions: ‘Where have we come from? Community Arts to Contemporary Practice’; ‘The Quality Question – How do you do it?’; ‘Do Participatory Artists Benefit from Accreditation?’; ‘How do we define quality in participatory settings?’; and ‘Embedding Participatory Arts through Systems Thinking or How to make participatory arts stick in the systems that make our society tick?’
What really struck me was how needed the Platforms were – as places to share practice; to interrogate very particular issues in a detailed way; to give voice to the passion and rigor with which the participants approached participatory work; and to join up people who worked in participatory practice.
It was clear from the conversations that there is still work to be done to build on the learning from ArtWorks; that there needs to be fuller, UK wide conversation and agreement about what a shared language could be; what defines quality; what accreditation looks like; and how we embed good practice and training in participatory work. In addition, it was clear that some of these were emerging issues in the early days of community arts – and as outlined in previous ArtWorks provocations, that these are well travelled journeys.
The train has been at this Platform before. How can we move it on? What does a shared articulation of participatory practice look like and how can we not have the same conversations in another thirty years?
My sense is of a fragmented landscape in which amazing, powerful, passionate work is taking place, but where there is a real need for a strategic approach to mitigate the sense of isolation and impermanence. As funding becomes more difficult, undertaking participatory work is under threat and this magnifies the need to share and embed knowledge to ensure that the train has sufficient momentum to complete the journey.
Nicola Turner is an arts consultant and director of NT Creative Arts Ltd. Current projects include the International Creative Entrepreneurs programme for Creative Scotland, conferences and events for the PHF, advising on the Accelerate and Realise Your Dream Programmes for British Council Australia.
Nicola was previously the Assistant Director for the Cultural Leadership Programme (CLP) leading on the strategic development of the work-based learning strand of CLP and Artist Practitioner Leadership Development and International Leadership.
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