Returning from No Boundaries

The day after a major arts conference is always one for reflection, especially after listening to 30 speakers variously presenting in York, Bristol, New York and from beyond the grave.  An extraordinary technical and creative achievement by Clare Reddington and Marcus Romer of Watershed and Pilot supported by Arts Council England and British Council.   I guess there were 400 of us in the two conference locations of York (me) and Bristol (them) plus many people in many nations following on twitter and through live streaming.  Get online and have a look at – dip in and see what was being explored.

Personal favourites Nii Sackey, Sophie Cotterill and Lynsey Merrick – young people making a difference, making art happen, and challenging us to realise the world of our childhood and our artistic development is from a different era.   And the one thing about us all, at whatever age, in the creative industries is that you can teach old dogs new tricks…we just may need a little longer to get there.   David Lockwood, Alex Fleetwood, Jake Orr, Margaret Heffernan and Kully Thiaria talking passionately about future society, how we connect to communities and audiences, and the role that artists and creative organisations can have in shaping the world of business and life.   My thanks to Sheila of Doncaster for inspiring us all and reminding us that everything we do is about people – real people who have real lives that we are hoping to inspire, change, delight, educate, support, and most definitely involve.

If you have not yet caught up with the Arts Council’s growing and persuasive “holistic case for arts and culture” then check into nb2014, or the RSA or Arts Council websites and listen to Sir Peter Bazalgette (chair) and Alan Davey (CEO) exploring this work.  Yesterday they were talking to an audience who understood and knew almost all the arguments. The next step is to get out there and articulate the case for the arts as an essential part of our cultural, educational, social, and economic fabric.  It was fantastic to learn in another session that the Lowry in Salford is part of statutory provision within certain areas of council activities.  Embedding what we do in the essential fabric of our world is so so important.  Whether you are a major commercial organisation, or an unfunded unknown individual creative, or hoping to retain or gain 3 year funding – then do look at this holistic case.

In Day 2 Abigail Posner of Google energised the room with goats, and Benjamin Barber rounded off with some powerful reality checking and political thought. If you were in Bristol you got the bonus of being able to focus on him live, and getting a bit of debate time with him I gather. We in York had time out with a rap poet who, like Luke Wright before him, played the role of observer and challenger to the seriousness of the discussions.

I am afraid that I’m old, and my attention was getting very stretched with wall to wall passionate, knowledgeable speakers.   Unlike the annual Devoted and Disgrunted which explore much of the same territory with total involvement of every person in the room, this conference allowed no time for conversation or debate with the speakers.  The coffee breaks were great but if you didn’t know people already then it was pretty difficult to get to know the people in the room (and impossible to know the people in the other city) I wanted to be able to shout out who wants to explore my area of the arts or talk about your burning issue.   I hope that the phenomenal success over nearly 10 years of D&D together with the technology and speaker-pulling-power of this State of the Arts funded conference can be combined.  Wow to have D&D next February with even half the luminaries in the room getting down and dirty in debate and exploration with the 300-400 people who I know will be there from the creative industries from all over the UK.  That would be awesome.  I hope Watershed, Pilot, Arts Council, British Council, Improbable and many other partners can make D&D 2015 have even fewer boundaries than it already does.

For me…I came to talk about StoryMusic2020. I had 4 fantastic conversations with new people in the first 45 minutes of the 2 days.  Then I settled in to be a listener and a tweeter for 2 days, surfacing for coffee and informal chats with old friends.  I didn’t meet the kind of new people I hoped to meet – but I am very glad I was there.   I did have a few moments with the Google executive who gave an empassioned speech about giving happiness. She gave me a great contact. An email is winging its way to thethat global player  as I write this.  That one 30 second conversation may have been worth the 2 nights hotel, delegate fee, and three days away.

I was inspired by the young energy on the platform when it appeared.  I enjoyed tweeting and re-tweeting what I heard.  I was suitably impressed with the technology which made it all happen.  And now I will check back on the site for some of the speakers’ presentations where I zoned out or need to review a nub of genius I wrote down in my notebook.   Like D&D I came away with a book of reportage of many sessions which is always helpful.  I will return to the site and read more.

Dear Anglia Ruskin students,  and all those on their way into or up this cultural profession – please check into the site. Please read and listen.  Please add comments on twitter or any other medium. And then challenge yourself whenever you think you may be reaching a boundary, or making one, or avoiding one – go for it – break through.

Thank you Marcus and Clare for your creation.