Lessons on collaboration and relevance from Creative People and Places

Lessons on collaboration and relevance from Creative People and Places

By Mark Robinson
Creative People and Places Network


Mark Robinson shares some of the key learning from across the Arts Council of England funded Creative People and Places projects in 2016.

Faster, but slower, slower, but faster: Creative People and Places Learning 2016

About Creative People and Places

Creative People and Places (CPP) is an action research programme happening in 21 areas across England, aimed at increasing arts engagement by bringing artists and local people together so more people choose, create and take part in brilliant art experiences where they live. Arts Council England invested £37 million of National Lottery funding into 21 independent consortia working within a common framework. It has committed to investing a further £20 million between 2015 and 2018 and has so far awarded in excess of £12 million over two further rounds of funds for existing places. Managed independently, each consortium has identified its own priorities and ways of working with local people and partners. By March 2016, CPP had collectively created 1.2 million engagements. In 2015 90% of audiences were from lower or medium engaged groups, higher than the average of those groups in the general population.

A different way of summarising

CPP has learnt:

  • to make the process collective and collaborative and to invest the right time into it
  • that each Place is different and each Place is many places
  • that people previously not active in the arts will engage if the work is relevant and useful to them, their lives and where they live
  • that change is possible by working with people not on them, involving non-arts partners and taking an asset-based approach

It makes me wonder:

  • if CPP has lessons for changing the system that created 'low levels of arts engagement'
  • if confidence, a place and a platform for local voices can increase social capital at a time when that is urgently needed

How CPP is learning to play it faster but slower and also slower, but faster

This is the second learning summary for Creative People and Places (CPP), following 'Building Whilst Flying'. That report highlighted infrastructure, risk and failure, big splash activity versus embedded activity, freedom and flexibility and future sustainability as key themes for the future. Each of these can be traced, a year on, in this report.

I have tried to give several 'ways in' for different types of reader by taking a hybrid approach. For a quick read, concentrate on the headings, summaries and 'road signs' - some guidance, some warnings. Alongside those you will find longer descriptions and arguments, and links to more detail and local stories. The rare person that wants a sonnet-shaped executive summary may turn to the final page.

What follows should be read with caution. Large bodies of evidence are now emerging from the Places funded in Round 1 but Round 3 Places are still establishing frameworks. Evidence considered is unevenly spread and at times contradictory. Full clarity is yet to emerge. About the crucial question of the sustainability of behavioural change, for instance, it is too early to say. The area of digital engagement is not very apparent, although some digital art has been commissioned. The impression is that CPP is essentially a face-to-face practice.

My title attempts to embrace contradictory dualities within CPP. Excellence of product and process. Depth and breadth. Leadership and co-creation. Big splashes and careful partnerships. And so on. Record producer Martin Hannett once demanded another take from A Certain Ratio's guitarist by urging him to 'Play it again, faster, but slower'. This sums up the challenge facing CPP at this incomplete and uncertain moment.

Download the report to read on:
Faster, but slower, slower, but faster (PDF)

Creative People and Places is an Arts Council England funding programme which focuses on parts of the country where involvement in creativity and culture is significantly below the national average. More.

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Increasing Reach Outreach & Collaboration
Resource type: Research | Published: 2017