I went to the Birmingham Total Place summit last week with the specially commissioned cubes and illustrations Orlagh and I had made for the Early Intervention Project, in response to conversations with parents, carers and workers. They revealed some of the difficulties faced by children and their families and the often very intense frustrations they have in accessing support or working with local services. Proboscis was commissioned through educator and organisational consultant Lesley Cramman, who was facilitating the strand on Early Intervention and we were all driven, in making these, to bring the everyday voices of families, parents and carers into the event. Total Place is a government initiative to look at how a ‘whole area’ approach to public services can lead to better services at less cost.
The event, hosted by BeBirmingham drew a much more varied crowd than I had expected and most people I spoke to expressed real concern and care about their communities and neighbourhoods. However its hard not to be just a little bit skeptical about the ability of Local Government to open up to new ways of thinking and working, despite the obvious commitment, imagination, skills and passions of many of the people I met who work in it. I had some moving and inspiring conversations with a group discussing how to make meaningful connections between the Local Authority and neighbourhoods and how to improve democratic engagement. I hope that the ideas of these people are present in the decisions that come out of Total Place and that the “better services” can lead before the “reduced costs”. I’d love to see staff being allowed to take risks to effect changes and be supported to have more time to talk with and listen to the people and communities they work with and for.
As part of our contribution to the Creator Research Cluster, Giles Lane, Sarah Thelwall (mycake) and Tim Jones (Solar Associates) organised a 1 day workshop at The Rookery in Clerkenwell to explore how small arts organisations could explore working with research departments in universities, and develop the case for becoming Independent Research Organisations. The workshop brought together around 20 participants from a wide group of artists and creative professionals, many of whom are already in collaborations with universities, to share experiences and insights into collaborative practices.
The workshop was partly inspired by Sarah’s Troubadour study for the Creator Cluster (due to be published in June 2009 by Proboscis), the executive summary of which was circulated to all the participants. It drew on the experiences of Proboscis (already an IRO since 2005), Blast Theory and Scan who have all maintained long term partnerships and collaborations with universities stretching back a decade or more. The AHRC was also represented at the workshop and was helpful in identifying the probable routes needed to be taken to achieve IRO status in the current climate.
The participants agreed to set up an informal cluster of interested parties who wanted to take the process further.
Participants: Giles Lane (Proboscis); Sarah Thelwall (mycake); Tim Jones (Solar Associates); Ruth Catlow (Furtherfield); Helen Sloan (Scan); Julianne Pierce (Blast Theory); Rob La Frenais (Arts Catalyst); Tassos Stevens (Coney); Ruth & Bruno (Igloo); Glenn Davidson (Artstation); Rachel Jacob (Active Ingredient); Evelyn Wilson (LCACE); Gini Simpson (Queen Mary); Annamaria Wills (cida); Carien Meier (Drake); Ben Cook (LUX); Tim Harrison (ACE London); Isabel Lilly (Stream); Joanna Pollock (AHRC); Nick? (A Foundation).
Absent Friends: Bronac Ferran (boundaryobject); Julie Taylor (Goldsmiths); Lorraine Warren (Southampton); Ted Fuller (Lincoln)
Funded by the CREATOR Cluster, part of the EPSRC’s Digital Economy programme.
Proboscis were commissioned by Cardiff University’s Human Resources Division to run a StoryCubes Workshop as part of their internal Leadership Programme.
Workshop Facilitation: Karen Martin & Orlagh Woods