Building the cultural learning momentum

31 March 2011

More and more voices supporting and championing cultural learning are being heard in press conferences, symposia and meetings across the country. It seems that in this time of ever-shrinking resource, colleagues and partners are really starting to come together to create a collective movement for children and young people to access culture and the arts.

Last week Dame Vivien Duffield announced grants totalling £8.2 million to open up new creative learning spaces for children and young people in 11 cultural organisations across England.The recipients are: The Donmar Warehouse; The Holburne Museum, Bath; Kensington Palace; Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge; Museum of Liverpool; National Theatre; Porthcurno Telegraph Museum, Cornwall; Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon; Tate Britain; Turner Contemporary, Margate; Whitworth Gallery, Manchester.You can read the full press release here.During her announcement Dame Vivien said, “I believe passionately that children and young people deserve the very best opportunities to benefit from the transforming power of our world-class cultural organisations. I am delighted that we have been able to support such outstanding projects created by some of the best architects, in museums, galleries and theatres across the country – even in a royal palace. Now more than ever, I believe that culture should be at the heart of our children’s learning.”At the press conference it was extremely heartening to hear both Nicholas Hytner of the National Theatre and Dame Vivien talk about, and champion, the importance of cultural learning and their commitment to our agenda.This was echoed and repeated throughout the What Next Arts? Event which was held at the Young Vic Theatre last week, and at a recent JP Morgan Open Space Event encouraging ideas for collaboration in the arts.At What Next? a large number of organisations and individuals took to the stage to talk about the key current issues facing the arts world and to make plans for the future.Amongst them were young, inspiring artists from the South Bank Centre and Contact, Manchester, and Jude Kelly, who spoke about the cultural rights of children and young people and asked how we collectively influence education. Head teacher Elizabeth Phillips of St Marylebone School talked passionately about the ways that Specialist Status in the Performing Arts has been a ‘magic wand turning uninspired young people into transformed citizens’. St Marylebone devotes 20% of all curriculum time to the arts and this has resulted in exceptional GCSE results across the board.Christina Coker, Chief Executive of Youth Music, also spoke on behalf of the CLA and outlined the implications of wider government policy on children and young people. Amongst other things she called for recognition that we need our colleagues in youth services, libraries and children's centres to make effective arts work.Tony Graham of the Unicorn spoke of the need to think holistically about culture and education, and to resist any ideological cut between the two.The conference asked what the next steps for our sector should be, and we are keen to talk to our signatories about some of the concrete and tangible ways we can continue turning up the volume on cultural learning. There are a number of immediate steps that you can take, from responding to the Curriculum Review and joining the Cultural Learning Alliance, to developing new partners and consortia with the voluntary, public and private sector partners in your area. Let us know your thoughts and ideas at