I’ve been thinking recently that Community Arts Programmes across the UK are pretty isolated.
It seems enough to cope with doing things in your own community – making things happen against the odds – never mind about the next village or city scheme.
‘What goes on in Dunfermline stays in Dunfermline’ it seems to me ‘What happened in Hastings will always just stay in Hastings’.
Maybe that’s a good thing. Why should we worry about what other people are doing? We do what we do and we are proud of it. We don’t need to make any more of it – than it is.
Yeah that is a way to work. That is definitely a way to look at things – but for me it doesn’t feel enough
There is, of course, the wonderful World Community Arts Day a kind of of virtual festival shared over the internet on 17th February ever year. This year they put out the call on their web page and thousands of people responded. They shared links from all over the world. 2013 was their 7th Festival and their biggest yet – I hope the 8th World Community Arts Day will be bigger still.
The World Community Arts Day has its roots in the Craigmillar Festival Society, (1962 -2002). A community arts organisation that existed in the Craigmillar area of Scotland and was an important contributor to the community arts movement. By 1972 it was employing over 600 people and involving 1700 volunteers. One of the founders, Helen Crummy MBE, wrote a book about the project “Let The People Sing”- still a few second hand copies available at Amazon. It was pioneering work and sadly it is no more. But there is an extraordinary legacy
Many artists, politicians and researchers came to Craigmillar, either to see or become involved in the community activities. Each of these have taken the seed and rooted it worldwide, from The Easterhouse Festival Society, Notting Hill Carnival and also in the work of Neil Cameron and Reg Bolton in Australia. Craigmillar Festival Society helped create many things, amongst them; The Mermaid Sculpture by Pedro Silva; The Gentle Giant Sculpture by Jimmy Boyle and The Bill Douglas film trilogy.
Craigmillar was at the forefront of the Golden Age of artistic expansion in Edinburgh in the early 70s and helped to create several lasting institutions, among them, Theatre Workshop Edinburgh.
In the meantime I believe we need something else. We need to share what we do. Talk to each other. Learn from each other. Inspire each other.
I’ve been reading about The National Guild for Community Arts Education in USA
They describe themselves as follows:
“Come together with our vibrant network of community arts education professionals to share knowledge, resources and strategies for success. Our dynamic network of more than 450 arts education organizations includes community schools of the arts; arts centers; and arts education divisions of performing arts institutions, universities, museums, and other organizations. They are located in urban, suburban and rural communities in 45 states”
Does the UK Need An Organisation Like This?
What do we have in the UK? Local and Regional are organisation doing great jobs. But there is no national body that I am aware of. No organisation working to lobby governments to support a national initiative. No body working with Arts Councils and Local Authorities to help community arts programmes across the country to feel that they are part of a movement.
Do we need that? I think so. But does anybody else think so? If we can create such a body I think we need to do it together.
Can we work with small groups, large regional bodies, academic organisations, community interest groups, theatres, concert halls, art centres, health groups, organisations involved in caring for people’s well-being? – Could we bring such a group of people together across the county and make something happen? Yes we can.