No Boundaries 2014: Day 1: Part 1

No Boundaries is a two day conference exploring the role of culture in the 21st century. I was fortunate to stumble across a tweet about it a couple of days ago and since they were doing a live stream I thought I’d give it a little listen. Suffice to say I ended up spending the whole day listening to the speakers. It was brill!! I’m definitely going to catch as much of it as possible tomorrow as well!

What impressed me was not just the quality of the speakers, but the variety of backgrounds from which they come. Although I didn’t get to see all the speakers I still took a lot away from the day and I’d like to share some of my thoughts on the different speakers I managed to catch (which turns out to be quite a lot). Where I can I’ve linked their twitter handles so you can check them out!

Lynsey Merrick from The Lowry

Lynsey spoke about how access to arts for young people is a human right and how whilst at the moment arts seem to be marginalised, we have to work to bring them to the mainstream. In other words we need to start a creative revolution. This is definitely a speaker where I’m going to go back and watch the whole lecture.

Jude Kelly, Artistic Director of Southbank Centre

I absolutely love the southbank centre and it’s somewhere that I’ve been many times. The range of their arts provision is extensive, right down to the huge gamelan they have in the centre. Truly wonderful.

What I found interesting about Jude’s segment was the way she discussed the provision of arts for young people and children. Mostly it is sculpted to certain times, ie school holiday, half term, christmas. It’s often difficult to find ongoing provisions for children and a wide enough choice of activities. This is definitely something I encountered in my home town, so it’s great to be involved with places like ‘The Studio’ in Bicester that has activities every night.

However I think the most important point Jude made was this.

“The sombre enemy of good art is not having the imagination to take a leap into the dark” – Jude Kelly

Those involved in the arts must take a leap of faith. Instead of waiting for children to be taught the arts in schools, artists must take the lead. This seems to be particularly pertinent at a time when a certain Mr Gove is trying to make schooling more confined, rather than allowing creativity to blossom.

Vikki Heywood, RSA Chair

This lecture was on the validity of the arts and how in an age of austerity measures we need to prove and justify how we use funding. Having had a session on this at OYAP there were definitely thoughts that were reinforced, chiming with the what Vikki was saying. Everyone in the arts world is able to tell you about the holistic value of arts but it’s much more difficult to measure and prove this. It all comes down to the following formula:

Art for art’s sake + measurable impact = value

The other part to her argument was that whilst artists are not currently seen as adding value to debates, neither do we put ourselves forwards. We need to be more actively involved in real debate, acting on the boards of businesses, schools, in order to achieve real change. We need to aim for authentic funding.

Another important point that she made, which came up in pretty much every speaker’s lecture, was that we need to make creative experiences open at all, not just to the privileged. This is something that I think really links in with OYAP’s work. I’m very lucky to be working with them!

Russell Willis-Taylor, President & CEO of National Arts Strategies

Unfortunately this was another one that I didn’t get to see the whole thing for. However the half that I saw was witty and engaging and included some of the best quotes of the day. So let’s start off with a good one!

“Collaboration is like a muscle, the more you use it the better it gets – it’s a bit like dating” – Russell Willis-Taylor

We are constantly forming partnerships and collaborations, whether that be with fellow artists, arts organisations or business and institutions. They are so very important to everything we do, and so Russell explained that collaboration is a way of making systems more efficient and therefore more effective.

She also introduced the idea that we need to “build communities, not audiences”. More often than not audience members want to have a go at what they are seeing. They want to be engaged on a practical level with art forms. I think this is such an important thing to remember and it’s something I will definitely take on board for the future.

David Lockwood, Director of Bike Shed Theatre

This was an excellent example of a start up that’s grown into a really important part of it’s community. David spoke about how they aimed to let everyone in to begin with before starting residencies in order to focus what they were doing and create a better space. By allowing theatre companies to spend longer at the venue, they were able to better engage with the wider community and build a following.

“If you give artists space and ownership, they create great work. That’s where we started.” – David Lockwood

David then moved on to a five point model which highlights the important aspects of running such a company.

  1. Strip Back – realise what is essential.
  2. Be Connected – with both your artists and audience, as well as bringing them together.
  3. Make new work.
  4. Be truthful and brave.
  5. Use your Space – “all of it, all the time”

Since I still have another 6 people to talk about from today, I think I’ll leave things here and catch up with the rest tomorrow.

If you’ve been watching #nb2014 then let me know what you’ve thought of the speakers so far! I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings!


One thought on “No Boundaries 2014: Day 1: Part 1

  1. Pingback: No Boundaries 2014: Day 1: Part 2 | Charlotte Pearson

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