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body for community and participatory dance
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ArtWorks Alliance

A new body for participatory arts has been formed. ArtWorks Alliance is the UK umbrella for organisations with strategic or developmental interests in any branch of participatory arts. This includes community arts, socially-engaged arts, voluntary arts, and arts in education and learning. Membership covers all artforms, geographic areas, ways of working and purposes of the work.

ArtWorks Alliance is needed because of the fragmentary nature of the participatory arts sector, which leaves the work undervalued by funders and policy-makers. Activity tends to be less well developed than it could be, with inefficient practice often reinventing the wheel.

By bringing together a wide range of organisations and activists to work collectively, the sector will have a more powerful voice – persistent and consistent in its messages. By sharing best practice, participatory arts work will be of better quality. Pooling knowledge will increase efficiency. And by collaborating on joint projects, drawing on members’ specialist expertise, the sector will grow stronger, bigger and faster.

ArtWorks Alliance will create these changes and improvements through a series of work packages, each championed, developed and brought to market by a group of members. Examples of work packages include: growing the market for participatory arts; promoting the use of quality frameworks and tools; finding better ways of influencing policymakers; sharing practice at a large-scale convention; and developing a useful community of practice online.

ArtWorks Alliance is a swift response to the recommendation from ArtWorks, a Paul Hamlyn Foundation initiative, that the participatory arts sector should “share and learn from one another’s experience” to better represent the interests of everyone working in this field. Seed-funding of £75,000 for 2015-17 has been provided by Paul Hamlyn Foundation. 

Founding members of ArtWorks Alliance are the leading strategic and development artform organisations for professional artists working in participatory settings: a-n, Artquest, engage [for visual artists]; NAWE (literature); People Dancing (formerly the Foundation for Community Dance); and Sound Sense (music) - who between them represent some 24,000 participatory artists - together with former “Pathfinders” of the ArtWorks Special Initiative (ArtWorks Cymru, ArtWorks London, ArtWorks Scotland and ArtWorks North-East). They will be joined by others covering arts and health, arts and criminal justice, music and older people, local government and arts for early years.

Other prospective members willing to devote time to working collaboratively on the development of participatory arts are very welcome to enquire about joining ArtWorks Alliance.

Examples of the type of activity ArtWorks Alliance intends to carry out in its first two years include:

  • Growing the market: Participatory arts is still a relatively small profession, and we know (eg dha, 2014, Consilium 2013) that both artists and employers would like to do more of it. This work package will carry out a small scoping study into the potential for and barriers to market growth and make recommendations.
  • Advocacy: A clear policy on advocacy and dissemination will help ArtWorks Alliance members coordinate their advocacy activities; react rapidly where necessary to announcements affecting participatory arts; and ensure dissemination of practice documentation, research and evaluation findings as well as of advocacy materials.
  • Quality tools: This work package will roll out the quality tools developed by the original ArtWorks Navigator: National Occupational Standards, Code of Practice and (depending on the results of current research) a Continuing Professional Development Credit System.
  • Research: We will build on the research activities which have been a powerful tool in ArtWorks by bringing researchers and ArtWorks Alliance members together in a research network to explore both policy (eg how can grass-roots practice best influence policymakers’ decisions? and delivery issues (eg what work is like for participatory artists, how it happens, and how it can happen more).
  • Conventions: The success of People Dancing’s recent international festival suggests that a combined-art participation conference might attract upwards of 500 delegates. This work package will seek funding to deliver the first participatory arts convention in 2016-17.
  • Web presence: For sharing information with and between Alliance members for onward cascading to front-line artists and organisations. A first stop shop for information about ArtWorks, on-going pathfinder activities, Alliance campaigns and other communications. And the home of existing and new ArtWorks assets and publications.

For further information or an informal discussion on the ambitions of ArtWorks Alliance, contact either: Chris Stenton, Executive Director, People Dancing on / 0116 253 3453 or Kathryn Deane, Director, Sound Sense on / 01449 737342

About ArtWorks

ArtWorks: Developing Practice in Participatory Settings began in 2011 as a Paul Hamlyn Foundation Special Initiative to support the continuing professional development of artists working in participatory settings. Funding and support came from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Creativity, Culture & Education (supported by Arts Council England) and the Cultural Leadership Programme.

It is a workforce scheme that seeks to meet the needs of artists at different stages in their careers - from the aspiring young artist embarking on training, to experienced practitioners who wish to progress their output. It looks to build on good practice to enhance the existing development infrastructure.

Special Initiative funding ended in March 2015, though partners remain committed to delivering ArtWorks legacy activity under the ArtWorks brand. Paul Hamlyn Foundation is supporting this transition of leadership of ArtWorks to the sector and funds a number of legacy projects.