Curious Blog: ArtsmarkFebruary 23, 2017
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Curious Futures Manager, Holly Ball, attended the Creative and Cultural Skills Conference in Purfleet, Essex, earlier this month. She was accompanied by Keeley Wilkinson, one of Curious Minds' Young Associates. We asked them both to share their thoughts on the day. Here's what they said:
I attended the CCSkills Conference as a Young Associate for Curious Minds. The theme for this year’s conference was diversity within the creative industries. We heard from a range of keynote speakers including Lord Hall from the BBC and Sarah Weir from the Roundhouse. Both talked about the importance of improving diversity within the creative industries and ways that is can be done. I particularly liked Sarah Weir’s description of her Olympic Park project when she talked about taking the work out into the community. This was interesting because its in their community but the Games weren’t for them and she tried to bring it to them. For example, by decorating the construction boards with art work.
Weaved alongside these were speeches from the apprentices as well as an apprentice panel. These young people have undertaken apprenticeship in a range careers from stage rigging, workshop facilitating to an internship for with the National Trust. They spoke about their experiences, explaining they feel trusted and invested in by the company and see the apprenticeship as a great stepping stone to the creative industries. The apprentices urged employers to keep offering these opportunities: seeing them as important and accessible by all. I liked that they were from a range of different art forms, and that the audience asked them what employers could do further and gave them the chance to say what they wanted to happen next. It means that it can move forward in a positive way for both apprentices and for the company and that is really important.
The afternoon was made up of breakout sessions: the chance to learn how to open up the creative industries to all. As a Young Associate and emerging practitioner I found these sessions very informative, understanding how creative careers can move forward and become accessible paths for more people. I spoke to one of the apprentice speakers Sarah, who told me about her Arts Award Gold and how she found this useful to do alongside her apprenticeship. It allowed her reflect in a creative way and choose certain areas to develop her professional practice.
During her speech, Sarah summed up for me the essence of the conference ‘using the arts to bring people together’. This is something I have always believed the arts can do, I feel improving the diversity within creative organisation can continue this.
This is the fourth time that I’ve attended this event as part of my role at Curious Minds. It was great to see a clear theme of equality and diversity being the focus of the event. This has been a strong element of my work since joining the organisation; with Strong Voices targeting the 6% most disadvantaged and vulnerable children and children, and Trailblaze being for those young people facing challenging circumstances. I was also very happy to be joined by Keeley, one of our Young Associates, who has an interest in work with young carers and in mental health and wellbeing.
Curious Futures Manager
One of the biggest, and most welcome, changes to previous years was the inclusion of apprentices' own voices, as they gave keynote speeches outlining their experiences on the Creative Employment Programme. This must have been a daunting experience, speaking in front of such a big room of people, but they all did a great job and their employers proud. My only disappointment with this was that no one north of Birmingham spoke at a national conference - and there were no male apprentices represented. I hope it is something that can be improved upon next year.
I also noted the seemingly narrow view of equality and diversity being presented with the focus being placed on how people were tackling disability, gender and BAME challenges. This was really interesting to hear and consider, however, there are other areas within equality and diversity that I would argue are of equal importance and that only received limited references throughout the day. This includes; mental health, sexuality, religion, amongst others. I understand that this is a complex and large subject to discuss. Perhaps a decision was taken to focus on certain areas, but this could have been made clear to the delegates if that was the case. Or perhaps with a little planning the focus could have been shifted to other areas during the breakout sessions. Additionally, there was a large amount of content that discussed what people do in general terms, and didn’t provide the practical ‘and this is how we did it’ anecdotes that we would have found helpful. Keeley and I discussed this at length throughout the day and agreed that we wanted to heat more detail about how speakers and workshop leaders went about effecting change and the opportunity to think about how it could apply it to our own work.
The conference is going on the road over the coming years and I hope we get the opportunity to host colleagues here in the North West. Equality and diversity is of enormous importance to creative and cultural industries. Diversification of the workforce is something that needs to be positively addressed both now and in years to come. It was fantastic to see lots more North West faces at the event with representation from Brighter Sound, Manchester City Council, Royal Exchange Theatre and the award-winning Collective Encounters (2017 Winner of the Creative Choices award). I look forward to working with partners across the region to influence positive change and ensure that the future creative workforce accurately reflects our modern, multi-cultural society.