Future Arts Centres 2016 – What can we do together? Part II

Bringing over 60 arts centre CEOs and senior managers together in one place is no mean feat, but the desire for people to meet with other arts centre leaders was very apparent at the Future Arts Centres meeting at Rich Mix in April.

The day was deliberately described as a ‘meeting’ not a conference, as we wanted everyone attending to play an active part. The agenda was focussed on discussions rather than presentations –Katharine Horler from Adviza, Pippa Jones from Create Gloucestershire, Kajal Odedra from Change.org kicked the day off with short speeches sharing their experiences of collaboration before we moved to round table discussions. The morning discussion focussed on how we could better collaborate around the themes of leadership development, advocacy and PR and practical delivery.

The topics for the afternoon discussions had a more practical focus, chosen by Future Arts Centre members. They brought to life many of the generous exchanges of knowledge and experience we see regularly on the Future Arts Centres online Basecamp platform, and many a ‘top tip’ was shared.

This Future Arts Centres meeting was unfunded, with each attendee paying £30 + VAT to cover refreshments and lunch. The affordability of the event meant that a wide range of arts centres were able to attend, from venues with just one paid member of staff right up to the HOMEs and Southbanks of the arts centre world. We had representation from all nine regions of England and from both mid and south Wales, with a mix of regularly funded and unsubsidised venues.

Whilst there are always challenges of keeping discussions relevant when arts centres with such a range of characteristics sit round the same table, it was refreshing to hear colleagues holding discussions on their own terms. Too often venue gatherings are dominated by either discussions about the Arts Council or discussions about who isn’t in the room. Being ultra-clear about who this event was for, and running it out of our existing resources kept discussions positive and forward-looking, and for the most part, focussed away from public funding.

Some great ideas for collaboration came out of the day, which we will be following up over the next few months. In the meantime, if you are an arts centre leader not already connecting with Future Arts Centres, please do drop us a line.

Gavin Barlow & Annabel Turpin
Co-chairs, Future Arts Centres