DevoCulture in the North
DevoCulture in the North aims to provide a critical space for civic, cultural and academic partners. It allows them to discuss plans and ambitions for arts and culture in times of changing governance, funding and accountability.
Devolved policy making and promises of growth and rebalancing proposed by the Northern Powerhouse raise questions for the role of the arts and creative industries. Also questioned are the matters of culture and heritage at local and regional levels.
Many of the arguments put forward for the continuing importance of arts and creative industries concern their role in Northern economies. Most noteworthy are the issues around attracting and retaining investment in places through tourism and talent development.
However, the values of creativity and culture to health, social care and wellbeing are also relevant. Consequently, the everyday lives of communities are also being recognised and incorporated into commissioning.
The DevoCulture in the North programme involves three interrelated strands of activity:
The cultural engagement programme was launched by the Art of Devolution half-day conference on 14 June 2016 at the Old Granada Studios. The event explored devolution, rebalancing and the Northern Powerhouse, and their implications for the arts, creative and heritage sectors across the North.
The 120 delegates ranged from academics, creative and cultural practitioners and policy makers. We heard presentations from 15 guest speakers (including a keynote by the Director of Culture for Manchester, Dr. Maria Balshaw, and the CEO of Arts Council England, Darren Henley). There were case studies from collaborative research led by University of Manchester, and a performance and group exhibition by artist collective the Manchester Left Writers Group. The exhibition spoke to the themes and issues of devolution and the Northern Powerhouse.
The conference was funded in partnership with the North West Consortium Doctoral Training Partnership, the Social Responsibility team at the Faculty of Humanities, and the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures at the University of Manchester. It was also part of a programme of DevoManc activities led by Policy@Manchester and Cities@Manchester, with the support of the ESRC Impact Accelerator Account.
The event has stimulated debate and interest from a range of different stakeholders in culture, creative industries and policy. One outcome is a storify of the Culture and the North event by Susan Oman of Understanding Everyday Participation project. Another is a blog post: Devo meets culture at OGS by Kaspar de Graaf of Design Manchester.
The programme of policy engagement and exchange activities involves postgraduate researchers whose work and interests coincide with those relevant to local cultural policy and development in the North of England under devolution.
Policy correspondents are engaged in a 12 month long programme which involves skills training, knowledge exchange and creative communications. They will report on the policy challenges for the arts, culture and creative industries within the geographies of the Northern Powerhouse.
The programme was launched in October 2016. We welcomed current PGR students who are supervised by NWCDTP institutions to apply to be policy correspondents.
The aim of this strand of programming is to examine the debates and discourses of the devolution agenda as it rolls out across the northern regions. It sets out to discuss the implications for academic research, public engagement and knowledge exchange. These are all topics which sit within the broad interdisciplinary arena of cultural policy (and related) studies.
This includes the development of a research network of academic scholars from the following institutions:
- University of Manchester
- Manchester Metropolitan University
- University of Liverpool
- University of Leeds
- Leeds Beckett University
- University of Sheffield
- University of Leicester
- University of Bristol
- Loughborough University
- Queen Mary University
The first half-day academic workshop was hosted at Elizabeth Gaskell House on 13 September 2016.
DevoCulture In the North Blog
If a cultural vision for the North does not build on the radical history of the North, it will be built on sand. If it does not concern itself with vigorously promoting cultural democracy and meaningful inclusion, it will be hollow. And if it does not aim to pay serious attention to the needs and aspirations of small and medium scale cultural organisations, independent and ‘emerging’ artists and of a wide variety of different kinds of communities, it will fail.Gerri Moriarty