ArtWorks Alliance members meet in regular Forum meetings and also larger Gatherings twice a year.
Forum meetings are great opportunities for general information and knowledge exchange as well as focusing on specific topics that members want to discuss and action. Everyone always leaves a Forum with at least one new idea or contact to follow up – and often, several!
Our first member Forum of 2022 took place on Tuesday 15 February, hosted and facilitated by Collective Encounters. It was an Open Space style event, with member chosen discussion topics including Supporting emerging practitioners; Creativity and community organising/activism; How can we support participatory artists’ wellbeing?; and Practical steps for improving workforce diversity.
The next Forum takes place on Wednesday 27 April, 10 am to 12 noon, via Zoom It’ll start with some facilitated serendipitous networking and the main discussion agenda will be set by participants.
AWA Gatherings are all about having time and space for deeper knowledge exchange that makes a difference to participatory arts. Through sharing and learning from each other’s experiences, we can tackle sector issues best solved by working together, enriching impact through joint advocacy and action. Gatherings are always for the wider AWA family, so organisational members can bring Board members, volunteers and close associates (such as regular freelance artists) and individual members can bring along a collaborator (or two!).
The first Gathering of 2022 will take place in May, date tbc.
Looking back at 2021…
The Support & Sustain Gathering, sponsored and hosted by People Dancing, was our last event in 2021. Taking place on 24 November via Zoom, we focused on workforce support and development in the times of Covid and climate crisis. You can find a copy of the Making your practice more sustainable presentation here – and read the blog from Genevieve Rudd who gave the presentation for some more inspiration for action.
Snapshot of our other member events:
The first Forum of 2021 took place on 24 February, via Zoom. There were some great ‘coffee conversations’ at which all sorts of serendipitous connections were made, practice shared and knowledge exchanged. Our open space sessions covered workforce issues, digital participation and advocacy.
At the second Forum on 20 April 2021 we focused on current key issues for members and consulting on the format and content for the first Gathering of the year on 19 May facilitated by Mortal Fools, which was a great success. We packed in so much knowledge and practice exchange – from hybrid and blended delivery to improving the relationships between organisations and freelancers – and closed with a spoken word piece summarising the passion of the morning. You can watch a post-event recording of Why do participatory arts matter? here.
We then re-connected after the summer and started network planning for 2022 at the Forum on 14 September. Here are just a couple of comments from members at the end of the session:
‘I’m a member of AWA because as a freelancer, I want to be plugged into conversations I would otherwise be outside of due to not being part of an organisation.’
‘It helps to be connected to people across the UK to share experiences, ideas, dreams and everything in between.’
Recap on 2020 events…
The last Zoom Forum of 2020 took place on 9 December. ‘Good news and new practices’ was the theme for conversations and we also had breakout discussion groups on getting the narrative right when targeting funding; developing and deploying codes of practice; digital developments; and good governance for collective working.
At the previous Forum on 18 September we shared how everyone was ‘getting on with it’ in terms of their current work; identified ‘nations and regions’ advocacy actions in the UK-wide context, following up on the recent meeting with Arts Council England (see News & Views); and pitched ideas for the wider networking and deeper knowledge exchange Gathering event on 8 October. This was facilitated by Mortal Fools and we had a really productive afternoon sharing ideas, inspirations and resources with plenty of people experiencing that Alliance ‘magic moment’ when you’re ‘instantly networked to a rich vein of knowledge’.
Back at the July Forum, we were delighted to have a presentation and Q&A session from Kate Fellows, Head of Learning and Access at Leeds Museums and Galleries, about the work of the four task and finish groups on education and learning for the cultural sector which Clore Learning Spaces has been supporting with input from GEM, Engage and a number of performing arts networks/organisations to help colleagues plan for education, learning and participation work, as lockdown relaxes. In addition, members enjoyed networking and discussed plans for sector advocacy.
The Forum meeting in June was the first we held under our new membership model. There was a special focus on digital participation with plenty of discussion about the impact of Covid-19 on the participatory arts sector and the support and championing that ArtWorks Alliance provides.
And the last ‘in person’ Forum meeting in the old partnership model was held in September 2019 in Leeds, hosted and chaired by Heads Together Productions. Partners held a pre-Forum conference call about participatory arts with Alison Clark, Director of Combined Arts at Arts Council England, shaped the then upcoming January 2020 Gathering for Partners and Associates (our last, pre-Covid in person event) and discussed the Alliance’s Development Plan.
‘It’s fantastic having your work contextualised, feeling you’re not on your own but part of something where there is a shared level understanding. This really supports being able to move things on. And it’s so great being collaborative rather than transactional.’
Check out how you can Join in.
Contact Mary Schwarz, Secretariat at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.