voluntary arts ireland

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

We Are More

The We Are More campaign is a Europe wide advocacy campaign that seeks to increase the EU budget for cultural activity in the next budget cycle. Talks for that start in July and at the moment the EU budget for cultural activity is 0.05%.

Its difficult to imagine how we could have collectively under-invested in cultural activity to such an extent. This perhaps reflects the pervading lack of understanding of policy makers of the value of culture, but it could just a likely reflect the cultural communities inability to lobby effectively.

After all people and communities get culture, otherwise why do they continue to form groups, put on performances and get their children involved? Despite the vagaries of government funding and stop start policy initiatives people continue to organise cultural activity for themselves and their communities.

Is it possible that those of us who professionally represent the arts and cultural sector have neglected our duty to translate that community interest into policy that makes sense and the investment required to create the maximum return for society?

If so, there is at least evidence that we are beginning to address this issue. There are National Campaigns for the Arts in Ireland and the UK which are encouraging the arts and cultural sector to engage with politicians on a range of platforms and policies. There is a sense too that politicians and arts workers need to work more effectively together. The traditional them and us stance is gradually being replaced by a more constructive relationship.

It is a striking story that in a recent campaign in Northern Ireland in response to a draft government budget which proposed a significant cut to the arts over 5000 people wrote letters opposing the cuts - the next biggest campaign numbered letters in the small hundreds.

People do support arts and culture, and politicians probably want to do so too. Its the job of the arts and culture sector to give them the reasons to say yes.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Virtual Word of Mouth

At a recent training event in Naas, Ireland Voluntary Arts Ireland in partnership with Artlands delivered a beginner's guide to social media. Increasingly we can see tools such as Facebook and Twitter being the first and best entry into an online presence for small arts groups looking to develop their audience and promote their events.

We can also see many groups struggle with the concept of the virtual world and how to begin to inhabit that space. Groups can see that there is potential there but are unsure of the rules of engagement and how much time and effort is required. During the training we came to the conclusion that in fact social media is simply a reworking of a very traditional and natural form of promotion, word of mouth.

This reworking is quite extensive of course with the added elements of images and videos through tools such as YouTube and Flickr but essentially it is digital show and tell.

Like all good word of mouth it takes the form of a conversation and this perhaps gives us a clue as to how to successfully navigate the social media world. The best conversationalists are good listeners and show a genuine interest in what those they are talking to are interested in. They are engaging and empathetic.

It is all too tempting when entering this virtual word of mouth world to broadcast noisily about what we do. Whilst "look at me" is important and we shouldn't hide our light under a bushel (just getting cliched up!) perhaps joining the online conversation using the well worn social skills learned from our mothers might be a better approach.

Is it possible too that in the online, binary landscape we currently wander through, these technological advances are finally beginning to be useful for our primary urge to lead more meaningful, creative and connected lives?