Event Date: 24 May
Location: Howard Assembly Room, Leeds

Culture Forum North was launched with a symposium that brought together over 160 delegates from more than 120 cultural organisations and higher education institutions to share knowledge, ideas and ambitions. 

A welcome from Forum Chair Alistair Hudson was followed by keynote speeches from Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chair, Arts Council England; Professor Andrew Thompson, Chief Executive, Arts & Humanities Research Council; and Pat Connor, Head of Development and Events, BBC.  A lively panel discussion chaired by Arts Council Director of Resilience Jane Tarr had keynote speakers responding to delegate’s questions and challenges, and eighteen workshops and discussion groups allowed participants to share experience and ideas on relevant topics and issues on the themes of research, sector skills and public engagement.

CFN symposium 24 May 2016 - Sir Peter Bazalgette and Prof Andrew Thompson panel - COMPRESSED

Keynote speeches, panel discussion, plenary

CFN symposium 24 May 2016 - delegate discussion group - COMPRESSED

Workshops and conversations

Stand up poet Kate Fox captured the moment.

“Are you asking? I’m dancing and other questions”

Plenary poem for Cultural Forum North launch, Leeds. 24th May 2016

Written throughout the day by Kate Fox (www.katefox.co.uk. Twitter: @katefoxwriter)

Alistair Hudson says it’s like a dancehall

MIMA and Teesside University are already in a full on tango,

how will other organisations pick partners

outside a quango?

Who’s writing the script,

who is telling the future story?

Universities and cultural organisations could meet,

kickstart this process,

research, teaching, civic and cultural agendas

mixing in a giant Northern blender.

Peter Bazalgette says it’s like a dating bureau,

but with fewer potentially dodgy Sun headlines.

Partnership is what the Arts Council perpetually has to do,

now cultural orgs and Unis can work to increase

their economic and educational and economic revenue.

Placemaking in Sunderland, Teesside,

Liverpool John Moores Universities:

from helping turn venues around

to finding common ground.

Sheffield Hallam, Bradford, Leeds,

a call and response for partners’ needs.

Newcastle and Northumbria, festivals,

crossing the arts and higher ed line,

helping give their students jobs,

rich cultural experiences and- a good time.

Improving the national conversation.

Increasing choices

and taking up Baz’s challenge

to increase diversity of voices.

Then Mansfield Town shareholder-oh and-

Chief Exec of the AHRC Professor Andrew Thompson

is a man

with a riveting read of a research plan.

Partnerships can help the AHRC crystallise the case they’re making

for investment in creativity undertaking.

What place can research play?

How can in add to what cultural organisations do?

How can both teach and learn in return-

the research journey’s not one-way.

Can risk, serendipity, uncharted territory

be allowed a part to play?

Unblocking the skills pipeline,

recognising the opportunities

in diversity’s creative case,

using new partnerships to step up the pace.

The BBC’s Pat Connor

showcased the fruits of their programming partnerships.

Pleasing everyone loud and clear is hard,

but the Open University’s connecting with the Brontes

and everyone’s going Bottoms Up for the Bard.

From sport to the educational micro-bit

they’ve proved they’re fully in the market

for more partnerships and relationships.

Five years on from the Salford move,

truly embedding in a Northern place

with more live events,

meeting people face to face.

Deliberately high profile, listening to an authentic local voice,

from the Great North Passion to 6Music’s Fest,

building local pride

getting real live Northerners on side,

providing new pathways to employment,

opening up non traditional routes,

hoping to bloom beyond Salford University’s

firmly established partnership shoots.

Then ACE Jane Tarr hosts a panel,

asks “What is resilience?”

It’s not the same as success,

it looks to the future, to what’s to come.

It links up with new people in new ways,

becoming more than the parts of the sum.

Do the different sectors speak the same language,

can they crack each other’s codes?

Trust each other, to risk together

and meet at newly created nodes.

Can we really try out entirely new dances,

when there’s less money for taking chances?

Offend the Daily Mail! Make the new mainstream!

Even small organisations can welcome new romances.

How can we get business on board?

Articulate a new vision.

Get businesses to shout about why

they invest in their community,

to inspire with their sense of civic responsibility.

How can overlooked towns get a voice?

Will concentrated resources even out,

when bigger cities with bigger voices

are the ones with all the clout?

Then discussion groups:

a sort of speed dating,

though there’s no quick couplings,

this is just the start of the ruminating:

What is knowledge?

How do you work with Universities when they’re always in flux,

embodying change,

how do you get to grips with agendas and languages

which initially seem strange.

How do big organisations work with little ones

and vice versa?

How do we afford this stuff when the financial situation’s

getting ever worser.

How do you keep creative students

and the passion to collaborate

when you’re busy folk

with loads already on your plate?

How important are shared values?

How relevant is a Northern context

in which fewer students pursue creative careers?

How far is this both a challenge and an opportunity?

How can we diversify speaking voices

and listening ears?

Are our sectors aims actually the same?

How do you find the right people to speak to?

Could there be a University Partnerships Open Day?

Never mind retaining talent,

how did you identify it in the first place in communities or in schools?

Don’t we need to know what they are

before we start breaking all the rules?

Does all the talent have to flow to London

and can it even afford to get there?

Is access really fair?

How does anyone understand the dark arts

of University decision making?

Does framing some of these partnerships

as contributing to student experience, research and teaching

help show those who hold the pursestrings

the breadth of students you are reaching?

How do you find the right match?

Is open dialogue possible,

is it really the best way?

Are leaders up for it?

Has there been enough time to unpack it all

in just one day?

How do we find that open door?

Should we learn something about the North

from the plot of Game of Thrones?

Is it okay to let our worries out or will they be perceived

as pointless moans?

Is a Memorandum of Understanding official enough

or do you need agreements which are more robust and tough.

Can’t a University partner with a cultural consortium to access Euro cash?

How do you embed a University in a gallery

beyond short lived studentships?

How does the cultural sector get a voice in the Northern Powerhouse?

Does it require us to use the language of the economic agenda?

Could artists voices be added productively into the Babel’s blender?

Should practitioners be bigger self starters?

Can there be too many networks in a city?

Are we more homogenous than we look-

and if we’re not isn’t that a pity?

Overall, when it comes to this stuff,

who will take responsibility?

How do we widen these initial conversations,

scale up and scale down the collaborations?

Can we be a Northern row of terraced houses,

who is not here and how’s this

affecting the conversation?

Councils and businesses need engaging in some way

to be part of the talking some future day.

So, in summary:

Let’s start dancing,

take our backs from off the wall,

learn new steps,

risk a boogie in the Cultural Forum North dancehall.

Form communities of interest, research, take a punt

and not be too concerned that government policies

can sometimes be…


It’s scary out on the dating market,

you don’t know if you’re meeting the right folk

but if you’re here you’re in the right place-

you need each other like an egg and a yolk,

like bacon needs eggs,

like a pasty needs Greggs.

Though sometimes it’s about breaking up

the expected binary and duet,

bravely pooling resources in collaborations

which haven’t been thought of yet.

Strawberries and beans,

space suits and jeans.

Retaining talent

and sparking it off,

offering more, not less, when the climate is tough.

Helping places tell themselves,

queering geography,

willing to give time and power

to this new choreography.

There’s opportunities here,

there’s a shared glory

in writing the North’s future scripts,

telling the future story.


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