NRTF attends – A Civic Role for Arts Organisations Day

Friday, July 26, 2019

NRTF Director Holly Lombardo was invited to speak at a symposium run by Gulbenkian Foundation (UK) called A Civic Role for Arts Organisations: Relevance, Risks, Rewards. 21st June, London, Wellcome Trust: Cultural Spaces: Temples or Town Halls (1 – 5.30pm)

This London conference at the Wellcome Collection, focused on ‘Cultural Spaces: Temples or Town Halls?’. Popular topics included ways to make cultural spaces more welcoming to all citizens; the need for deep and meaningful engagement; and calls for change in the sector so that staffing and visitors reflected the diverse population of London.



Talking about the Civic role the arts play… The opening perspectives were from Sir Nick Serota, (Chair of Arts Council England) and Delia Barker (Roundhouse).
Speakers included 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).

We explored – 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.

Following the two-year Inquiry into the Civic Role of Arts Organisations, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch) is working with partners across the country to support a series of conferences. They shared experiences, discussed, debated and imagined the significance of a civic role for arts organisations and the relevance they hold within our communities. Speakers share the innovative, sometimes radical, ways in which they are developing their arts organisation’s civic role.

Cultural spaces, whether they are 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 started 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?’ Opening perspective from Sir Nick Serota, Chair, ACE 

Delegates at the events were treated to a sneak preview of a new publication, ‘What Would Joan Littlewood Say?’. The collection of essays by leaders in the arts and cultural sector argues that arts organisations should do more for and with the communities they are part of. You can read an online version https://civicroleartsinquiry.gulbenkian.org.uk/resources/what-would-joan-littlewood-say