Dr Edward Harcourt

Vice-Chair Culture Forum North, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Liverpool John Moores University

The theme of today’s event is the triangular relationship between culture, higher education and business; how we can mutualise and make for prosperous places.

Culture Forum North, formally launched a year ago, grew out of a knowledge sharing group, which first met in 2012.  We exist to share practice on making the arts more creative and resilient, and the places were art is made more accessible and relevant to the lives of people across the North of England. The North continues to make an outsized contribution to the cultural life of our country and we’re indeed a cultural powerhouse in the north – something worth supporting and celebrating.

Collaboration between universities and arts organisations is nothing new, but we should ask ourselves some key questions. Are we doing it well enough? How can we collaborate more effectively and ensure that everyone in the north has access to the arts? How can we engage better with public audiences, and ensure that policymakers and businesses recognise that the arts are a vital part of creating and sustaining healthy societies where people choose to live and invest their lives? How can we better ensure talent development within arts organisations? How can we evidence that arts and humanities research produced within universities is effectively translated into arts practice? How through formal partnerships can we assure the resilience of cultural organisations, large and small?

These are some of the questions that we’ve been exploring as a Forum, and this afternoon we’ll hear about three audits that we’ve commissioned. The first, which will be led by Professor Chris Bailey, Master of the York Guild of Media Arts, supports the Forum’s commitment to increasing access to knowledge and translating arts and humanities research into cultural practice. Our second theme is skills development, led by Dr Delia Jarrett-Macauley.  This supports the Forum’s commitment to supporting the development of the skills required to have a strong cultural sector. It looks at talent and career development and how cultural organisations and universities are working together to help build a stronger, more skilled and more diverse cultural workforce. Our third theme, led by Kerry Harker a post-graduate researcher in higher education, is on the theme of public engagement and how the collective perspectives and expertise of small scale cultural organisations across multiple art forms are vital to the northern arts ecology. We’ll conclude the day with a workshop on each of these three themes to invite you to engage with the work and to help us set our future programme.