voluntary arts ireland

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Old fashioned democracy?

Well its official, the Northern Irish arts community will have its very own hustings event on 19th April 2011 from 09.30am-12pm in the Grand Opera House, Belfast. Invited representatives from all the political parties will articulate their policies towards the arts and members of the arts community across Northern Ireland will get the chance to question and challenge those policies.

I'm sure its not the first arts hustings event in Northern Ireland but it certainly is not a regular occurance in the region and perhaps taking a leaf out of the National Campaign for the Arts in Ireland is the beginning of a more constructive dialogue between the sector and government.

There are many questions to raise with political parties in Northern Ireland not least "do you have a policy on the arts?" Questions around how the arts impacts on peoples' lives are also likely to take precedence - the contribution of the arts to a healthier civil society, to the economy, to wellbeing, to education, to the economy. Perhaps fundamental to this is how to place the arts within policy - its not a singularly definable subject, indeed its strength is in its diversity. This is often at odds with the way in which government in Northern Ireland is structured, however, how is that Health - itself a fantastically diverse range of disciplines commands such singular attention? There is perhaps something for the arts to learn in this?

Nevertheless the old-fashioned democratic values a hustings event has come to represent should be a natural catalyst for the many articulate people involved in the arts in Northern Ireland. It is true to say that a lot of the time now we are seeing these debates carried out online through social media, which is perhaps the up to date hustings. Very much to the vanguard and the potential for seismic change when it is wedded to citizens' core desires is certainly exciting as witnessed in places such as Egypt.

We could well need a seismic change in arts policy now - some would say it is long overdue. In a small way this live hustings could be the beginning - lots of small changes often add up.

To book your place at the event please contact karen.orawe@audiencesni.com or tel: 028 9043 6480.

For more Voluntary Arts Ireland news visit http://www.vaireland.org

Monday, 7 March 2011

Life is Organic

Its been a very interesting day attending first a breakfast meeting and then an all day session around creativity as part of Derry/Londonderry's Cracking the Code programme leading up to the 2013 City of Culture.

An impressive bank of speakers including Sir Ken Robinson and Phil Redmond were punctuated by some engaging local characters and idea generating sessions in smaller groups. On behalf of Voluntary Arts Ireland I played a strong part thinking about how participation in the arts and crafts stimulates creativity. However, I was struck most by a phrase that came from Ken Robinson's initial address - "life is organic not linear"

When we think of all of the structures and processes that seem to provide the framework for our activities on the ground - virtually none of them are organic - they are nearly all linear and top-down. And yet this is just the opposite of how we, as human beings, go about living and interacting with others.

Take the creative process, which was also talked about today. We get an idea or a kernel of an idea, we play with it, we refine it, we connect it to other ideas and sometimes it becomes something that we act upon - we create it. One of the key skills in this process is the suspension of critical judgement. I might also say that one of the key skills is critical judgement. However, we must be able to suspend it long enough for us to create a bank of possibilities that encourage us to take the kernel further.

Critical judgement seems to be at the heart of most of the structures and processes mentioned above - it is a fairly advanced form of compounded critical judgement that say creates the legal system, and the influence of critical judgement is very great throughout policy making.

But is this now to our best advantage? Is this focus the way in which we are going to create a wider bank of possibilities that we all now seem to be seeking? Life is clearly organic and critical judgement has a part to play but do we have the balance right?

Kevin Murphy
Chief Officer
Voluntary Arts Ireland