A MANIFESTO FOR CHANGE
Across the UK, participatory arts organisations are working deeply embedded in their communities. This is long-term, rooted and socially relevant work. Sitting within (not alongside) our local communities, we have a vital role to play in supporting recovery from Covid-19.
This is not Arts as entertainment or luxury. This is Arts as a tool: for wellness, empathy, communication, for imagining and manifesting the future we want to live in. The Arts are necessary agents for change. They are integral to communities, inherently collective, potentially transformative. Now is not the time to return to ‘business as usual’. There is an opportunity now for a hopeful revolution of our creative industries – working from the margins inward, not from the centre outward. Listening, responding and acting in unison with what our communities voice and need.
As our economic, social and cultural models shift, we must imagine fiercely, drawing on alternative ways of working that can bring real benefit and hope to our communities. In this new landscape, participatory arts must be viewed as Key Work.
We advocate for:
Investment in grassroots & socially-engaged creative infrastructure.
Covid-19 recovery must escalate ambitions to build a more resilient, diverse, democratic and relevant cultural sector. Grassroots organisations have shown themselves to be highly agile over the crisis period. Already rooted in communities, they have been able to respond and adapt quickly, from a position of deep local knowledge and trusted networks. The demand for a sudden change has been a wake-up call for our sector. As a result, diverse-led organisations have been called upon for their knowledge and expertise - this needs to be recognised with investment.
A re-imagining of touring theatre and performance platforms.
Facing a difficult new reality for many of our theatre buildings, the value and potential of non-traditional venues needs to be recognised. Parks and green spaces, community halls, libraries and schools are part of our everyday. These can provide trusted entry-points for communities and help to redefine the relationship between audiences and performers.
Investment & advocacy for the role of the arts in public health.
We face an epidemic of mental health concerns, in particular amongst young people who have lost many of their social coping structures and Black, Asian & ethnically diverse communities who have been disproportionately affected. This is as urgent as the physical pandemic itself. Participatory arts can bring transformative outcomes for health and wellbeing. The Arts need to be part of public health planning and delivery, supporting recovery in communities.
Changing the narrative.
The codes of the cultural sector need to be punctured and redefined. Now we have the opportunity to reframe the cultural narratives we are used to. We must ensure that there is a representation of diverse voices across every platform; from leadership positions, to pathways into opportunities for artists and young people. Long-term change means embedding thinking across every aspect of our cultural sector, to ensure authenticity and renounce tokenism.
A commitment to equity of opportunity and experience.
Covid-19 has amplified economic, emotional and health challenges faced by disadvantaged communities. Systematic privileges and deep-rooted inequalities in our society cannot continue to be ignored. We must turn to those already rooted in communities of need and ‘cultural cold spots’, working across sectors to create opportunities to be heard, to learn, to work, to experience a quality of life. Their expertise and voices need to be amplified into, and for the benefit of, our wider arts ecology.
Environmentally-responsible and inclusive economic recovery.
We have seen how society can shift behaviour in a time of great need. We now have a choice to commit to a recovery that is both sustainable and equitable, embracing an intersectional approach, ensuring multiple narratives are heard. To meaningfully address Climate Change, we must imagine and establish new norms, create green jobs, change how cultural businesses operate, how we travel, live, create and share work. This will take brave, visionary leadership. It is both urgent and possible now.
Written by: Beyond Face & Doorstep