Meeting Arts Council England about recognising our socially engaged/ ecologically engaged/ transitionary practice



















We met with Arts Council England on Tuesday 16th December to discuss recognition of our work as a unique form of artistic practice.  Alison Clark-Jenkins, Director for ACE North and for Combined Arts, kindly agreed to meet us along with some of her working group looking at 'participatory' practice.  Stephen Pritchard attended the meeting in person, whilst Bridget McKenzie and Lucy Neal took part via video conference from ACE London and Ruth Ben-Tovim took part via Skype.  We were very positively received.  This blog post is an overview for our supporters and followers about the key points raised.

We talked about the broad scope of our practice and our various approches.  We explained that the field shared a focus on people, process, ethics, social justice, sometimes politics, place, communities, ecological concerns, etc.  We pointed out that we felt largely ignored and misunderstood by many within UK arts institutions.  We also pointed out that our practice was often suspicious of arts institutions and state intervention but that we frequently worked in interdisciplinary ways.  We explained that we tended towards independence and that our work was often self-organised.  ACE discussed our practice in terms of initiatives such as Creative People and Places and Paul Hamlyn Foundation's ArtWorks.  We pointed out that they, along with outreach and arts education, were focused on audience development, continued professional development and participation.  We explained that 'engaged arts' was always issue-based.  We also noted that these initiatives were not artist-led.  We were keen to also explain that our field of practice must be conceived of as an art form as valid as any other and that our work aimed at high experiential as well as high aesthetic values whilst aiming to address issues of social justice.

There were areas that ACE wanted to explore further and better understand.  They asked us if we would be willing to participate with them to develop these areas and to continue to seek to better define our field of practice.  The aim remains to recognise our work as a unique art form.  We will all play a part in this ongoing dialogue with Arts Council England but it was agreed that Ruth Ben-Tovim and Stephen Pritchard would be the initial points of contact with ACE.

We suggested that ACE might initially look at Culture Shift and their interesting 'Gablik test' as a starting point for understanding our practice.  We also recommended various US groups such as Creative Time, A Blade of Grass, Open Engagement, etc.

We have agreed to meet again in January and will soon be arranging this with ACE.  When we know the date, we will be contacting everyone to ask for comments and ideas about how to progress our discussions and call for recognition.

This is a very brief overview of what was a very positive meeting with Arts Council England.  We welcome any comments and ideas!

Warm festive wishes and more soon...