Three partners from the ArtWorks Alliance Admin Group (previously known as the Leadership Group, but successful distributed leadership led to the name change…) share their experiences of collective and collaborative working for better participatory arts.

If you’re thinking about whether to join in the Alliance as a supporter or partner – or just wondering how being part of the network makes a difference to people and their organisations – hear from those already making and taking the benefits it provides.

First up, Chris Stenton, Executive Director of People Dancing. People Dancing, along with a-n The Artists Information Company, ArtQuest, Engage, National Association of Writers in Education and Sound Sense, were members of ArtWorks Navigator, one of the original Paul Hamlyn Foundation ArtWorks: developing practice in participatory settings pathfinder projects. ArtWorks Navigator established ArtWorks Alliance to build on the legacy of ArtWorks and address the identified sector need to ‘share and learn from one another’s experience and better represent the interests of everyone working in the field.

‘The range of experiences within the ArtWorks Alliance network is fantastically broad and diverse: engagement with it offers a fast-track to a whole host of deep knowledge and different perspectives united by a common theme. The network’s approach is based on meaningful dialogue: it is non-hierarchical, very generous and reflects the participatory arts practices we strive to represent and progress. I can’t think of a single Forum or event when new knowledge or learning hasn’t been gained, both personally and organisationally. We coalesce and take responsibility between us for making things happen. It is refreshing, reassuring and re-energising in equal measure.’

And this from Russell Martin, Director of Artquest, another member of the ArtWorks Navigator pathfinder.

‘ArtWorks Alliance lets me tie up all the various strands of our organisation’s thinking about participatory practice in one place, re-using the best thinking and experience in our programme. We don’t have to begin from scratch on projects and research as we get access to how other organisations have tackled problems in the past. We can find allies – sometimes in unexpected places – to help shape and deepen our thinking by drawing from how artists work in other cultural sectors, across art forms we don’t specifically cover. It’s a model that’s reinvigorated other partnerships we have with better ways to work.’

Finally, hear from Catherine Rogers who first got involved in the Alliance as a Board member representative of partner Arts Development UK, before it closed. She liked what she found so much, she joined up with her own organisation, Creative Leicestershire.

‘ArtWorks Alliance has become something of a lifeline, connecting us to a national network of organisations who are open to new people and new ideas, who value differences and care deeply about participatory arts. We are a service that supports individual arts practitioners and small creative enterprises in our local area, so the reciprocal support of the Alliance is vital not only to us but also to the hundreds of people we work with, who sometimes feel they don’t have a voice. Often participatory arts are hidden from the headlines when our sector celebrates success, but they are our oxygen. ArtWorks Alliance helps us breathe it in so we can energise the conversations that need to happen.’