Monday, 30 March 2009

How do you de-merge a penguin?

On April 1 Creative Partnerships will be officially 'de-merged' (there's a lovely word, for you!) from Arts Council England and move over to the new organisation Creativity, Culture and Education. That means the CP teams across the country will all be in new situations working with a whole range of partners as most appropriate to the local situation, overseen by CCE, who will become the largest Regularly Funded Organisation of the Arts Council. (Interestingly enough CCE has split its national base between London Village and Newcastle. Their independence has, however, meant I've lost the entertainment and intellectual stimulus of having Paul Collard occasionally working just outside my office, which is a shame.)

There are whole books to be written about the Creative Partnerships, and no doubt when he retires Paul - who you can hear explaining the virtues of CP in the video above, albeit metamorphosed by a participant from Northumberland - will write one of them. I worked in arts education for many years, both as a writer in schools and then setting up the Teesside Arts Education Agency. Creative Partnerships has been, I think, helpfully challenging to my own orthodoxies about that work, as well as doing some of the kinds of things we dreamt of.

It has pushed creativity beyond the arts, though without (most of all the time) losing the arts. It has pushed teachers and schools to innovate, as much as it has pushed creative practitioners. It has done a huge amount of action research into what works in developing the creativity of schools and young people. It has reached a huge number of people. It has also pushed the Arts Council into thinking more creatively about how it engages with people and institutions.

Most significantly though, I think it has developed a model for how it thinks creativity makes change happen in a school context. That is something which seriously strengthens the case for government investment, and something we need for the arts more broadly. The model may not be exact, but it is better than simply saying change sometimes happens but we're not sure why. We need to think through - as a sector - what it is we talk about when we talk about the power of the arts, and how it works. (Though it's been criticised, I do think The Arts Debate got us going on that.) CP, I think, is built on the intrinsic merits of the arts and creative practice, but does not stop there. That's its ongoing challenge to us.

At the risk of seeming cheesy, I wish it and all the staff leaving Arts Council today the best for the future. We'll be watching!

1 comment:

Sally Luton said...

Cheesy is good sometimes so I would like to add my good wishes to the people formerly known as CP staff! Certainly in the West Midlands we - arts organisations and schools - have benefited enormously from the practice that they have developed and are continuing to support.