Over 50 organisations were represented by around 70 delegates at Waveney & Blyth Arts first workshop-conference exploring how we can work together at grass-roots to promote, support and grow arts in this region.
We overcame adversity right from the start by battling through Storm Georgina to reach Halesworth and our venue, The Cut. Further adversity when we discovered there was no power but, as with all opportunities created by challenges, we held the meeting in the foyer which was more intimate and perhaps enabled more interaction than the theatre style seating in the auditorium.
So what was it all about? Waveney & Blyth Arts recognised that cutbacks in arts organisations and less available cash for our customers, create challenges for arts activities within the region. But, as an entirely volunteer led group, we have never turned away from challenge and resource constraints. We believe that by working together, sharing ideas, practice, knowledge of funding sources and audience reach, we can weather the storm.
We called first of all on key arts representatives to outline the current situation. Claudia West, from the Arts Council, reflected on the specific needs of rural and coastal arts provision. Jayne Knight, Suffolk County Council’s Arts Development Manager, explained the regional ‘Culture for Growth’ strategy. To end the keynote session, a double act of Genine Sumner, from StartEast and Mary Muir, from Norfolk County Council, talked about opportunities for regional collaboration.
Then it was over to the grassroots organisations for a full and lively discussion about what needs to change, what resources would help and how can we grow forward.
Sustained by the Cut’s hearty soup and chocolate cake, the meeting continued in a series of workshops designed to build bridges and reach new audiences. Three key themes focused the debate: The Role of Heritage – providing arts spaces and advancing heritage knowledge and participation; Tourism – how can the arts be used to grow tourism in this region, and Sense of Place – how we can create a cultural identity and explore, practically, the landscape in this micro-region.
Powered by the return of electricity, an energetic Ideas Buzz networked people from different backgrounds and localities and, hopefully, led to some synergies, new partnerships and ideas for action.
W&BA has been enormously encouraged by the response to the conference and will be looking at how we move forward. All participants will receive a report of the event.
Huge thanks to Arts in Adversity originator and compere, Simon Raven, to Nicky Stainton for all the organisation, and to Kasia Posen for the flyer graphics and of course to all who spoke, contributed or provided the excellent food.
18 January 2018, The Cut, Halesworth.
Photo: Simon Raven