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The Democracy Box Update – this is just the beginning


Democratic rights and freedoms without the skills and knowledge to
use them are like owning a car without being able to drive

– Titus Alexander Practical Politics


   

I would like to say an enormous

THANK YOU

to all The Democracy Box collaborators, supporters & funders of this
research & development work since March 2020 funded by Clwstwr
and now in the interim by Youth Cymru, The Pears Foundation &
The Guardian Appeal.

BUT

This is only just the beginning.

Scroll down for updates on all 4 Democracy Box prototypes.   


“You don’t really learn about the system. The only time it gets
talked about is when there’s a general election. It’s something
you’re supposed to know but you never get taught it
Democracy Box podcast young guest  


The Four Democracy Box Prototypes.

1.The Democracy Box Public Information Campaign

prototype©

2.The Democracy Box Creative Cascade Model© Pilot

Schools Programme

3.The Democracy Box Toolkit© for working with young people

as co-creators prototype

4.The Talking Shop© A signposting/navigational

democracy hub

Below is a detailed updated on each prototype.
The Democracy Box website is in development and in the
meantime you can find more info here

I would love to hear your thoughts.

All best wishes,
Yvonne

   

1.The Democracy Box Public Information
Campaign prototype©   – Now across multiple media platforms
& growing all the time.

The Democracy Box Podcast Series
4 Democracy Box raps commissioned by BBC Bitesize
The Democracy Box on Instagram
The Democracy Box on TikTok
The Democracy Box YouTube Channel
The Democracy Box on Twitter  

Please click the links above & have a look at &
Like, Follow & Share all the young co-creators work.
 
Omidaze is also exploring a Democracy Box Music Festival
with Youth Cymru & RecRock which will be trialled in 2022.


We are currently up to 32 young co-creators from all across Wales
and are recruiting more young co-creators. The call out is here
Please share this paid opportunity with any 16-26 year olds
born or based in Wales.  

The Clwstwr funding for The Democracy Box has now come
to an end and Omidaze are delighted that Youth Cymru
(The Pears Foundation & The Guardian Appeal) awarded
us a small grant to keep developing this vital public information
work until October 2021.

Please get in touch if you would like to collaborate, partner
or help fund this strand of work beyond October 2021.
y.murphy1@ntlworld.com

   

“Surely the best way to ensure young people understand and engage
in our democracy is to make sure young people are paid to be front
and centre of any information campaigns about our Welsh and UK
democracy.”
Yvonne Murphy  

2. The Democracy Box Creative Cascade Model© Pilot
Schools Programme 


A module of three 2 hour sessions with 15 Primary and Secondary
Central South Teachers taking place in autumn 2021 Culminating in
a sharing event in January 2022 of best practice and a roll out strategy
with Head Teachers, teachers and stakeholders from across, and beyond,
the consortium

The primary aim of The Democracy Box Creative Cascade Model© is
to meet the new Curriculum For Wales requirements and enable
The Story of our UK Democracy that Every Citizen Should Know©  
to be taught creatively and in inspiring and engaging ways so that
ALL students in schools in Wales finish Year 11 with:


1. A strong basic understanding of our UK democracy
2. Well developed and resilient Creative Habits of Mind
3. Increased curiosity, confidence, self-esteem and transferrable
creative skills

Yvonne (aka Omidaze) is developing the Creative Cascade Model with
15 teachers from across the CSC region to work out how to equip
and prepare teachers to share
The Story of Our UK Democracy That Every Citizen Should Know
and meet new curriculum goals by replicating the Democracy Box
young co-creator process with students aged 7 -16 in schools across
Wales.

90-100% of young people Omidaze has surveyed want this stuff taught
in primary and secondary schools.  

Sophie Howe, Future Generations
Commissioner for Wales & Democracy Box Collaborator said:

“Across the world young people are realising that democracies have
failed them and future generations to come on issue like climate change,
jobs and skills and wellbeing. Part of this problem may be that our
education system does not provide enough support to young people
to help them understand and engage with democratic systems or processes.
The holistic nature of the new curriculum provides an opportunity to
address this but teachers and learners must be supported to find
creative ways to.  This programme is a way of doing exactly that”    

3. The Democracy Box Toolkit© for working with young people as
co-creators prototype 


Omidaze/Yvonne Murphy has created a Democracy Box best practice
guide or framework for co-creating and collaborating with young people.
The toolkit draws together Yvonne’s body of participatory work and artistic
practice from over thirty years,  her knowledge and experience of working
with young people across the UK and Internationally and 18 months of
intensive Research & Development funded by Clwstwr.

This toolkit will enable organisations to place young people at the
heart of work which is created to reach their age range and help
organisations and individuals in both the democracy sector and
beyond to engage inclusively, meaningfully and creatively with young people.

The draft toolkit was tested for the first time in mid-July 2021 with
potential end users at Blaenau Gwent County Council and again with
a second draft in September 2021 and received 100% excellent feedback.

Example use: 90% of young people surveyed by Omidaze do not
know what their Local Council does, who their councillors are or
how to get in touch with them. And yet the majority are interested
and concerned about things happening locally where they live.

The Democracy Box Toolkit will help Councils to inform, engage,
recruit, train and co-create with young people in their local area
and increase democratic knowledge, interest and participation
both in the short-term for upcoming Local Elections and for the
sustainable longer-term.

The seed phase R&D confirmed that many Welsh and UK citizens,
including teachers and educators do not have a sound basic
understanding of the UK democracy and how local, devolved
and Westminster Governments all fit together and why.

There should be No Shame & No Blame in not knowing this stuff.  

#BeBraveBeBoldBeEducated
#NoShameNoBlame


   
4. The Talking Shop© A signposting/navigational democracy hub

The Talking Shop is where this all began & now I need to return
and work out how to place The Democracy Box inside The Talking Shop.

As I researched democracy signposting the same thing came
up time and time again which young people, old people and everyone
in between say they want – face to face interaction. There’s nothing q
uite like stopping a stranger in the street and asking for directions
when all else has failed.

Which took me right back to where I had begun and what I already
knew when I began my Clwstwr research. We need a combination of
the two. Live and digital. One without the other is not enough.
 
The Talking Shop which was piloted in 2019 in Cardiff and is due t
o reopen in early 2022. Inside the Talking Shop people asked if
there was something people could just show me on their phone
and inside the digital democracy box young people said over and
over again that they would like to find this stuff out face to face.

We need both.

We need A Talking Shop in each of the five lowest voter
turn-out constituencies in Wales creating face to face voter
engagement & a shop window for The Democracy Box.

I have already secured the first 10k grant towards this from
The Cares Family and UnLtd and confirmed partners now include Cardiff Council,
NTW and the Riverfront in Newport. Omidaze is part of the
first Cares Family Multiplier Programme and have been awarded a
small grant towards reopening & developing The Talking Shop in
early 2022 and we delighted to be now working with academics at
Aberystwyth and Swansea Universities led by Professor Anwen Elias
(of Aberystwyth)  exploring creative approaches to a Conversation
with the Nation using The Democracy Box & Talking Shop models.

I am seeking partners and funding which will allow me to keep the
Cardiff shop open for at least a year to give me time to create a
blueprint so that the Talking Shop can be replicated in those 5 l
owest voter turn-out constituencies & then across Wales and
eventually the UK because as one visitor said in 2019
 
“Every Town needs a Talking Shop”
 
Please get in touch if you would like to collaborate, partner or
help fund this strand of work. y.murphy1@ntlworld.com  

“..to deny people opportunities to learn how the system works
and how to exercise power as citizens, is to deny democracy.”
Titus Alexander Practical Politics  

 

The Democracy Box is a non-partisan research and development
project funded by Clwstwr until summer 2021 and created by
Yvonne Murphy aka Omidaze Productions.

The Democracy Box involves young people from all around
Wales being paid as co-creators to explore and develop new
ways to explain the basics of our democracy for other young
people, old people and everyone in between all year round and
not just in the run up to an election.

The Democracy Box© and The Talking Shop© and all associated
content is copyright Yvonne Murphy/Omidaze Productions 2020. 

The economic imperative for teaching creativity systematically
in school has never been greater….curiosity is the engine of achievement
Sir Ken Robinson

     
Copyright © 2021 OMIDAZE PRODUCTIONS All rights reserved.
The Democracy Box and all associated content is copyright
Yvonne Murphy/Omidaze Productions.

For more information click here
Contact Yvonne Murphy y.murphy1@ntlworld.com

Oh My Days! A colloquial expression of amazement and disbelief originating in schools at the turn of the last century. A small theatre company with BIG ideas. Using theatre to empower, inform, entertain new audiences, shake stuff up and inspire change

Website  www.omidaze.co.uk

 

The World Has Changed Response#1

OPEN CALL OUT

PAID TRAINING/MENTORING OPPORTUNITY FOR FREELANCERS

A Remote Thinking, Learning & Development Pilot Programme for Freelancers in the Live Performance Sector in Wales

Who is it for?

This pilot programme is for freelancers working in the live performance sector in Wales who intend to continue, or begin, creating and producing their own work in the future. It is a paid opportunity to develop your learning and expertise, be mentored and for freelancers to engage in dialogue with core funded organisations.

This programme is for those who believe they would benefit from knowledge and skills sharing AND who are keen to join others in thinking about how freelancers could/should be part of the thinking, programming and strategy of organisations and the wider sector going forward.

All freelancers who take part will be paid to invest the time in their own learning, development, upskilling and thinking.

We welcome applications from those who have just graduated to those who have had a long career in the arts and cultural sector.

We want to hear from freelancers who seek learning and development opportunities to progress on their self-producing/creating journey and want to be part of wider sector thinking and for whom the lack of access to sharing of knowledge, skills and experience within the sector has been/ is a barrier.

What is the fee?

This pilot has funding for an initial 16 freelancers.

All 16 freelancers will be paid a day’s fee of £250 for eight hours of their time.

When is it?

The time will be broken up into one and two hour slots and conducted remotely over zoom from 3rd November – 8th December 2020.

How accessible will it be?

An access budget is available for disabled/Deaf freelancers.

A Welsh/English simultaneous translation service will be available.

Please get in touch if you wish to discuss your disability/Deaf access requirements

How will people be selected?

This programme is specifically targeted at Freelancers who can demonstrate they meet ALL the following criteria:

  • You work in the live performance sector in Wales
  • You have past and/or future plans to create and produce your own and/or others work within the live performance sector in Wales
  • You can explain how this programme could support and enable those plans
  • You have identified knowledge and skills gaps which this programme could help address
  • You have met barriers previously to investing in your own learning, development, upskilling and thinking.
  • You have a strong desire to join others in thinking about how freelancers could/should be part of the thinking, programming and strategy of organisations and the wider sector going forward.
  • You live and work in any region of Wales
  • You are available for all the specified dates below
  • You are registered as self-employed

We are particularly interested in receiving applications from freelancers who

  • were unsuccessful or who did not feel able to apply for Arts Council of Wales Individual Stabilisation Funding
  • identify as having protected characteristics/from group(s) currently under-represented in the sector. This includes freelancers who identify as black and non-black people of colour, disabled, working class and female.

This programme is specifically created for self-producing freelancers and freelancers running small project funded organisations in the live performance sector. You may be a director, designer, performer, technician, stage manager, producer, musician or all or more. You may have already made your own work. You may just be about to begin. You may have been running a project funded company for years or just be getting together with other freelancers to create a collective or organisation.

Nb.This is not a top-down programme. A key feature of the programme is shared learning and an open two-way dialogue between the freelance participants and those salaried professionals gifting their time. There is also space for the programme to respond and be shaped to meet the needs of the freelance participants

PROGRAMME CONTENT

  1. Welcome and introductory session (1 hour)
  2. Choice of one four hour blocks. All participants get to choose four modules from a menu of topics. See below.
  3. Final two hour deep thinking session exploring together how freelancers could/should contribute to the thinking, programming and strategy of organisations and the wider sector going forward. 
  4. Mentoring (1 hour). Every freelance participant will be matched with a mentor of their choosing from the list of supporting partners and will agree a mutually suitable time for a one hour mentoring session before December 18.

ONE HOUR BLOCKS MENU

Everything I know/I wish someone had told me about….

  1. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE MONEY – Where is it and how do we get it? -Fundraising, Project Funding, Grant Application Writing, Trusts & Charitable Foundations, Crowd Funding, Match Funding, In-Kind Funding, Arts Councils, Funding sources in Wales & beyond, Commercial Models.
  2. PRODUCING – venue producers, producing companies, self-producing, budgets (setting and managing), legal stuff, risk, insurance, contracts, contingencies, catastrophes & when things go wrong as well as right
  3. BUSINESS STRUCTURES & MANAGEMENT – What is the difference between a Managing Director, CEO, Artistic Director, Executive Director? Which business model is right for me? Charitable status. Tax Returns. Legal Responsibilities. Governance. Planning. Resilience. Policies
  4. NETWORKING & INFLUENCING Plugging into networks in Wales or not? Getting inside the tent to grow it or rebuild it from the ground up. Restart, Reset, Rethink, Revolt?
  5. COLLABORATION & PARTNERSHIPS– seeking partners within and beyond the cultural sector. Unlikely alliances. Co-producing. Intellectual Property.
  6. ACCESS, INCLUSION & EQUALITY – Best Practice. Audio description. Captioning. Integrated access models. Interpretation and Translation. From policy to practice.
  7. To be decided – to meet the specific needs of the cohort
  8. To be decided – to meet the specific needs of the cohort

TIMELINE & SCHEDULE

MON 9 NOV       Welcome and introductory session    5-6PM

TUES 10 NOV     Choice of one hour blocks.                   4-5pm or 5.30-6.30pm

TUES 17 NOV     Choice of one hour blocks.                   4-5pm or 5.30-6.30pm

TUES 24 NOV     Choice of one hour blocks.                   4-5pm or 5.30-6.30pm

TUES 1 DEC        Choice of one hour blocks.                   4-5pm or 5.30-6.30pm

TUES 8 DEC        Shared Thinking Session                      4-6pm

Plus a one hour mentoring session during or after the programme

WHO IS RUNNING THIS PROGRAMME?

Yvonne Murphy, a freelancer theatre director, producer and consultant (www.omidaze.co.uk ) has used an individual ACW stabilisation grant to create this programme and pay for access costs and sixteen freelancers time.  The programme has been made possible with the support of partners (individuals and organisations) across the live performance sector giving their time for free.

Partners including Arts Council of Wales will help select the freelance participants based on the criteria above.

The plan is to shape and share this initial programme and the subsequent feedback and learning in the form of a prototype framework or example of best practice of systematic knowledge and skills sharing in the sector. This prototype will include paying freelancers to upskill AND look at how freelancers could/should contribute to the thinking, programming and strategy of organisations and the wider sector going forward.

HOW TO APPLY

Please answer all the following questions in any order in one of the formats described below

  • Tell us about you and your work in the live performance sector in Wales
  • What are your past and/or future plans to create and produce your own and/or others work within the live performance sector in Wales and how could this programme help support those plans?
  • What knowledge and skills gaps have you identified that you would like this programme to address?
  • Why do you want to invest this time in your own learning, development, upskilling and thinking and what barriers to this have you previously experienced?
  • Why do you want to join others in thinking about how freelancers could/should be part of the thinking, programming and strategy of organisations and the wider sector going forward?
  • What part(s) of Wales do you live and work in?
  • Are you available for all the specified dates?
  • Did you apply for Arts Council of Wales Individual Stabilisation Funding and if so were you successful?
  • Do you identify as having protected characteristics and/or as being from a group(s) which you believe is currently under-represented in the sector?

Responses can be in submitted in English, Welsh or BSL in written or recorded audio or video formats via WeTransfer.

Written responses 500 – 1500 words

Audio/Video responses 7 minute limit.

Please email y.murphy1@ntlworld.com

  • your responses
  • your CV  
  • confirmation of your availability for all the above dates
  • information on access & language requirements
  • permission for us to keep your contact details for future programme developments

If you have any questions or would like to get in touch with to discuss any disability/Deaf access requirements that are needed in order to take on the work before applying please email the same address above

Deadline 9am Monday 26 October 2020

Successful Applicants will be notified by Monday 2 November 2020.

GALWAD AGORED

CYFLE HYFFORDDI/MENTORA Â THÂL I WEITHWYR LLAWRYDD

Rhaglen Beilot Meddwl o Bell a Dysgu a Datblygu ar gyfer Gweithwyr Llawrydd yn y Sector Perfformio Byw yng Nghymru

Beth yw e?

Mae’r rhaglen beilot hon ar gyfer gweithwyr llawrydd sy’n gweithio yn y sector perfformio byw yng Nghymru sy’n bwriadu parhau, neu ddechrau, creu a chynhyrchu eu gwaith eu hunain yn y dyfodol. Mae’n gyfle â thâl i ddatblygu’ch dysgu a’ch arbenigedd, i gael eich mentora ac i weithwyr llawrydd gyfathrebu gyda sefydliadau â chyllid craidd. Ymhlith pynciau’r sesiynau mae Codi Arian, Cyllidebu, Cynhyrchu, Teithio, Strwythurau Busnes a Rheoli Busnes, Rhwydweithio, Dylanwadu, Cydweithio, Partneriaethau, Mynediad, Cydraddoldeb a Chynhwysiant a Brandio, Marchnata a mwy.

Mae’r rhaglen hon ar gyfer pobl sy’n credu y byddent yn elwa o rannu gwybodaeth a sgiliau AC sy’n awyddus i ymuno ag eraill i feddwl am sut y gallai / y dylai gweithwyr llawrydd fod yn rhan o’r meddwl, y rhaglennu a’r strategaethu o fewn sefydliadau a’r sector ehangach wrth symud ymlaen.

Bydd pob gweithiwr llawrydd sy’n cymryd rhan yn cael ei dalu i fuddsoddi’r amser yn ei ddysgu, ei ddatblygiad, ei uwchsgilio a’i feddwl ei hun.

Rydym yn croesawu ceisiadau gan bobl sydd newydd raddio i’r rhai sydd wedi cael gyrfa hir yn y sector celfyddydau a diwylliannol.

Rydym ni eisiau clywed gan weithwyr llawrydd sy’n chwilio am gyfleoedd dysgu a datblygu i symud ymlaen ar eu taith hunan-gynhyrchu  / creu ac sydd eisiau bod yn rhan o feddwl ehangach y sector lle y mae diffyg mynediad at rannu gwybodaeth, sgiliau a phrofiad yn y sector wedi bod / yn rhwystr.

Beth yw’r ffi?

Mae gan y peilot hwn gyllid ar gyfer 16 o weithwyr llawrydd yn y lle cyntaf.

Telir ffi diwrnod o £250 i bob un o’r 16 gweithiwr llawrydd am wyth awr o’u hamser.

Pryd mae e?

Bydd yr amser yn cael ei rannu’n slotiau o awr neu ddwy awr ac yn cael ei gynnal o bell gan ddefnyddio Zoom rhwng 3 Tachwedd – 8 Rhagfyr 2020.

Pa mor hygyrch fydd hi?

Mae cyllideb mynediad ar gael i weithwyr llawrydd anabl / byddar.

Bydd gwasanaeth cyfieithu ar y pryd o’r Gymraeg i’r Saesneg ar gael.

Cysylltwch â ni os ydych am drafod eich gofynion mynediad i’r anabl / byddar

Sut bydd pobl yn cael eu dewis?

Mae’r rhaglen hon wedi’i thargedu’n benodol at weithwyr llawrydd sy’n gallu dangos eu bod yn cwrdd â’r HOLL feini prawf canlynol:

  • Rydych chi’n gweithio yn y sector perfformio byw yng Nghymru
  • Eich bod wedi cael a /neu fod gennych gynlluniau i greu a chynhyrchu eich gwaith eich hun a / neu eraill yn y sector perfformio byw yng Nghymru
  • Gallwch egluro sut y gallai’r rhaglen hon gefnogi a galluogi’r cynlluniau hynny
  • Rydych wedi nodi bylchau mewn gwybodaeth a sgiliau y gallai’r rhaglen hon helpu i fynd i’r afael â hwy
  • Rydych wedi cwrdd â rhwystrau o’r blaen wrth fuddsoddi yn eich dysgu, datblygu, uwchsgilio a meddwl eich hun.
  • Mae gennych awydd cryf i ymuno ag eraill i feddwl am sut y gallai / y dylai gweithwyr llawrydd fod yn rhan o feddwl, rhaglennu a strategaethu o fewn sefydliadau a’r sector ehangach wrth symud ymlaen.
  • Rydych chi’n byw ac yn gweithio mewn unrhyw ran o Gymru
  • Rydych ar gael ar gyfer yr holl ddyddiadau penodedig isod

Rydych wedi’ch cofrestru yn hunangyflogedig

Mae gennym ddiddordeb arbennig mewn derbyn ceisiadau gan weithwyr llawrydd

  • oedd yn aflwyddiannus neu nad oeddent yn teimlo y gallant wneud cais am Gyllid Sefydlogi Unigol Cyngor Celfyddydau Cymru
  • sy’n nodi bod ganddynt nodweddion gwarchodedig / sydd o grŵp(iau) sydd heb gynrychiolaeth ddigonol ar hyn o bryd yn y sector. Mae hyn yn cynnwys gweithwyr llawrydd sy’n adnabod eu hunain fel pobl dduon a phobl groenliw nad ydynt yn ddu, pobl anabl, pobl o’r dosbarth gweithiol a menywod.

Mae’r rhaglen hon wedi’i chreu’n benodol ar gyfer gweithwyr llawrydd a gweithwyr llawrydd sy’n cynhyrchu eu hunain sy’n rhedeg sefydliadau bach a ariennir gan brosiectau yn y sector perfformio byw. Efallai eich bod yn gyfarwyddwr, dylunydd, perfformiwr, technegydd, rheolwr llwyfan, cynhyrchydd, cerddor neu’r rhain i gyd neu fwy. Efallai eich bod eisoes wedi gwneud eich gwaith eich hun. Efallai eich bod ar fin dechrau. Efallai eich bod wedi bod yn rhedeg cwmni a ariennir gan brosiect ers blynyddoedd neu’n dod at ei gilydd gyda gweithwyr llawrydd eraill i greu sefydliad cyfunol.

D.S.. Nid rhaglen o’r brig i lawr yw hon. Un o nodweddion allweddol y rhaglen yw dysgu ar y cyd a deialog ddwy ffordd agored rhwng y cyfranogwyr llawrydd a’r gweithwyr proffesiynol cyflogedig hynny sy’n rhannu eu gwybodaeth, eu sgiliau a’u profiad. Mae lle hefyd i’r rhaglen ymateb a chael ei llunio i ddiwallu anghenion y cyfranogwyr llawrydd.

CYNNWYS Y RHAGLEN

  1. Sesiwn groeso a chyflwyno (1 awr)
  2. Dewis o un bloc pedair awr. Mae’r holl gyfranogwyr yn cael dewis pedwar modiwl o amrywiaeth o bynciau. Gweler isod.
  3. Sesiwn meddwl dwys dwy awr yn gweithio gyda’i gilydd i weld sut y gallai / y dylai gweithwyr llawrydd gyfrannu at feddylfryd, rhaglennu a strategaethu o fewn sefydliadau a’r sector ehangach wrth symud ymlaen. 

Mentora (1 awr). Bydd pob cyfranogwr llawrydd yn cael ei baru â mentor o’i ddewis o’r rhestr o bartneriaid a bydd yn cytuno ar amser sy’n addas i’r ddwy ochr ar gyfer sesiwn fentora awr cyn 18 Rhagfyr.

DEWISIADAU BLOCIAU AWR

Popeth rwy’n ei wybod / rwy’n dymuno i rywun ddweud wrthyf am….

  1. POPETH AM ARIAN – Ble mae e a sut rydyn ni’n ei gael? Codi arian, Ariannu Prosiectau, Ysgrifennu Ceisiadau Grant, Ymddiriedolaethau a Sylfeini Elusennol, Arian Torfol, Arian Cyfatebol, Cyfraniadau o Fath Arall, Cynghorau Celfyddydau, Ffynonellau ariannu yng Nghymru, Modelau Masnachol.
  2. CYNHYRCHU – cynhyrchwyr lleoliadau, cwmnïau cynhyrchu, hunan-gynhyrchu, cyllidebau (gosod a rheoli), pethau cyfreithiol, risg, yswiriant, contractau, argyfyngau, trychinebau a chwynion
  3. STRWYTHURAU BUSNES A RHEOLI – Beth yw’r gwahaniaeth rhwng Rheolwr Gyfarwyddwr, Prif Swyddog Gweithredol, Cyfarwyddwr Artistig, Cyfarwyddwr Gweithredol? Pa fodel busnes sy’n iawn i mi? Statws elusennol. Ffurflenni Treth. Cyfrifoldebau Cyfreithiol. Llywodraethu. Cynllunio. Cydnerthedd. Polisïau.
  4. RHWYDWEITHIO A DYLANWADU – Plygio i mewn i rwydweithiau yng Nghymru ai peidio? Mynd i mewn i’r babell i’w dyfu neu ei ailadeiladu
  5. CYDWEITHREDU A PHARTNERIAETHAU – chwilio am bartneriaid y tu hwnt i’r sector diwylliannol. Cynghreiriau annhebygol. Cyd-gynhyrchu. Eiddo Deallusol.
  6. MYNEDIAD, CYNHWYSIANT A CHYDRADDOLDEB – Arfer Gorau. Sain Ddisgrifio. Sgrindeitlo. Modelau mynediad integredig. Dehongli a Chyfieithu. O bolisi i ymarfer.
  7. I’w benderfynu
  8. I’w benderfynu – i ddiwallu anghenion penodol y garfan

LLINELL AMSER AC AMSERLEN

DYDD LLUN 9 Tachwedd      Sesiwn Groeso a Chyflwyno 5-6YH

DYDD MAWRTH 10 Tachwedd         Dewis o flociau awr             4-5yh neu 5.30-6.30yh

DYDD MAWRTH 17 Tachwedd         Dewis o flociau awr              4-5yh neu 5.30-6.30yh

DYDD MAWRTH 24 Tachwedd         Dewis o flociau awr              4-5yh neu 5.30-6.30yh

DYDD Mawrth 1 Rhagfyr      Dewis o flociau awr              4-5yh neu 5.30-6.30yh

DYDD MAWRTH 8 Rhagfyr    Sesiwn meddwl ar y cyd                4-6pm

Ynghyd â sesiwn fentora awr yn ystod neu ar ôl i’r rhaglen orffen

PWY SY’N RHEDEG Y RHAGLEN HON?

Mae Yvonne Murphy, cyfarwyddwr theatr lawrydd, cynhyrchydd ac ymgynghorydd (www.omidaze.co.uk ) wedi defnyddio grant sefydlogi unigol ACW i greu’r rhaglen hon ac i dalu am ei hamser, ei chostau mynediad ac un ar bymtheg o weithwyr llawrydd.  Mae hi wedi bod yn bosib rhedeg y rhaglen gyda chefnogaeth partneriaid (unigolion a sefydliadau) ar draws y sector perfformio byw yn rhoi o’u hamser am ddim.

Bydd partneriaid gan gynnwys Cyngor Celfyddydau Cymru yn helpu i ddewis y cyfranogwyr llawrydd yn seiliedig ar y meini prawf uchod.

Y bwriad yw llunio a rhannu’r rhaglen gychwynnol hon a’r adborth, dysgu a gwerthuso dilynol ar ffurf fframwaith prototeip neu enghraifft o arfer gorau o rannu gwybodaeth systematig a rhannu sgiliau yn y sector. Mae’r prototeip hwn yn cynnwys talu gweithwyr llawrydd i uwchsgilio ac edrych ar sut y gallai / y dylai gweithwyr llawrydd gyfrannu at feddwl, rhaglennu a strategaethu o fewn sefydliadau a’r sector ehangach wrth symud ymlaen.

SUT I YMGEISIO

Atebwch yr holl gwestiynau canlynol mewn unrhyw drefn yn un o’r fformatau a ddisgrifir isod

  • Soniwch amdanoch chi a’ch gwaith yn y sector perfformio byw yng Nghymru
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  • Pa fylchau mewn gwybodaeth a sgiliau yr hoffech i’r rhaglen hon fynd i’r afael â hwy?
  • Pam ydych chi am fuddsoddi’r amser hwn ar yn dysgu, datblygu, uwchsgilio a meddwl a pha rwystrau ydych chi wedi’u profi o’r blaen?
  • Pam ydych chi am ymuno ag eraill i feddwl am sut y gallai / dylai gweithwyr llawrydd fod yn rhan o feddwl, rhaglennu a strategaethu o fewn sefydliadau a’r sector ehangach wrth symud ymlaen?
  • Pa ran(au) o Gymru ydych chi’n byw ac yn gweithio ynddi?
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Gellir cyflwyno ymatebion yn Gymraeg, Saesneg neu BSL mewn fformatau sain neu fideo ysgrifenedig neu wedi’u recordio.

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at  y.murphy1@ntlworld.com

Os oes gennych unrhyw gwestiynau neu os hoffech gysylltu i drafod unrhyw ofynion anabledd / mynediad i bobl fyddar sydd eu hangen er mwyn ymgymryd â’r gwaith cyn gwneud cais anfonwch e-bost at yr un cyfeiriad

Dyddiad cau 9am Dydd Llun 26 Hydref 2020

Bydd ymgeiswyr llwyddiannus yn cael gwybod erbyn dydd Llun 2 Tachwedd 2020.

The Democracy Box Phase 1 Report & Proof of Concept

We have lost our collective story

The majority of Welsh and UK citizens do not have a sound basic understanding of the UK democracy and how local, devolved and Westminster Governments all fit together and why.

How do we captivate and engage an audience of millions and include young co-creators/curators and intrigue everyone enough to want to engage with and participate in our democracy all year round and not simply at the ballot box.

Because if we get that right, we think low voter turnout will simply not be an issue.

Contents

What were we researching that has led to this proof of concept?. 2

What is needed and Why?. 2

How did we come to understand this & Survey Results. 6

What will the solution look like?. 8

Timelines & Structure. 10

Who are the stakeholders?. 11

Research Highlights. 12

Feedback comments from survey. 15

Relevant Links to sample feedback and content created. 22

Links to Existing Content which explains our Democracy which contributed to research. 23

 

What were we researching that has led to this proof of concept?

We began to R&D over a three month period –how to create or curate three things

  1. Existing Content – which communicates knowledge of our democracy and its history and how it works and all fits together & current actors in the democracy sector doing this work
  2. An Experience/engagement tool that drive people towards that content
  3. A best practice Co-creation model of working with young people

By knowledge of our democracy we do not mean party politics (although the need for neutral factual information about the main political parties which is not linked to election campaigning came up regularly)

We mean informing and educating people about the nuts and bolts. The difference between local government, devolved and Westminster. The difference between the First Minister and the Prime Minister and between an AM, MP and a councillor and what they are each responsible for. Understanding First Past the Post vs Proportional Representation and what a constituency is and what things are devolved in Wales and how laws are made and by whom and what our taxes pay for and who decides and what even the word democracy itself means and how we can get involved and have our say all year round and not just on election days.

Our seed research confirms that the majority of Welsh and UK citizens do not have, but do want, a sound basic understanding of the UK democracy and how local, devolved and Westminster Governments all fit together and why.

What is needed and Why?

A better understanding of the UK democratic systems and structures by a wider percentage of the population is required.

Our seed R&D confirms that the majority of Welsh and UK citizens do not have a sound basic understanding of the UK democracy and how local, devolved and Westminster Governments all fit together and why.

How do we Captivate and engage an audience of millions and include young co-creators/curators and intrigue everyone enough to want to engage with our democracy? Our preliminary seed funding research shows.

Two things are needed

  • A Public Information Campaign
  • An educational information campaign.

What might they look like? Well that is what the second stage of our R&D might be exploring but roughly speaking we think it could be:

A public information hub

A content toolkit for teachers and teacher training programme

We are ultimately seeking to influence policy change at Welsh and UK Government level on how our democratic systems and structures are taught within formal education.

We would argue that this work, to educate all citizens about our democracy is fundamentally the responsibility of government and that the platforms needed for this wide dissemination of public information already exist. In the form of our education system and British Broadcasters. We are not alone in making this argument.

“Instead we have found that citizenship education, which should be the first great opportunity for instilling and developing our values, encouraging social cohesion, and creating active citizens has been neglected. Often it is subsumed into individual development which, whilst undoubtedly important, is not the same as learning about the political and social structure of the country, how it is governed, how laws are made and how they are enforced by an independent judiciary. Nor does it offer an opportunity of practising civic engagement in schools, local communities and beyond. The decline in citizenship education has a number of causes: the revision of the national curriculum in 2013, the fact that academies are in any case not required to follow it, the low esteem in which the subject appears to be held, the decrease in the numbers of trained teachers and the corresponding fall in the numbers taking Citizenship GCSE. The Government must re-prioritise the subject, creating a statutory entitlement to citizenship education from primary to the end of secondary education, and set a target which will allow
every secondary school to have at least one trained teacher.”
The Ties that Bind: Citizenship and Civic Engagement in the 21st Century

In our survey with 150 respondents over 60% wanted more information on our democratic systems and structures and how local, devolved and UK government fit together and why. Some of that 60% classed themselves as having a little or quite a bit of knowledge already but needing/wanting more. 10% said they did not understand our different levels of government at all and who was responsible for what. And that is from 150 already engaged enough to take the survey.

With the voting age now lowered to 16 in Wales and a Welsh Election coming up in 2021 it is more important than ever to ensure as many people as possible understand how our democracy works and fits together before they are asked to cast their vote.

How do we tell that story of our democracy? Captivate and engage an audience of millions and include young co-creators/curators in the creation and telling of that story?

Much content already exists of varying levels of quality. Many brilliant people, organisations and departments are already doing this work.

What is missing is the curation, signposting and joining up of that content.

Why would someone who is not engaged even internet search it in the first place?

If people do engage, Finding and then navigating your way through the information is currently time consuming and difficult.

For example we found that whilst it is relatively easy to search which constituency you live in and therefore find your MP thanks to BBC tools it is much harder to find your Assembly Member and to understand why we have Regional Assembly Members and what their role is.

MySociety.org has developed an excellent tool for this under their ‘Write to Them’ function which also lists the areas which are devolved in all the nations. However this did not come up in multiple key word searches. It is therefore impossible to do a quick internet search to find a simple guide to which areas of law and responsibility are devolved in Wales.

There is also a large gap in the existing content. 

No existing content, that we could find, explains the whole democratic system. Welsh Assembly explains Wales. Westminster explains Westminster. The BBC interestingly mainly explains Northern Ireland via Bitesize. And all this separate information is usually event based. Or as one of my interviewees explained it is wrapped around the flagpoles of certain events whether that be 20 years of devolution or an election.

In between elections or events it is much harder to find the information but surely we should be informing the public, and each new generation all year round?

Most people we spoke to, including young people, see the BBC as the most trusted source of factual information in this area. However The BBC’s politics section where this information perhaps is thought to sit is predicated around rolling news and party political news and political news stories. Therefore an ongoing factual non newsworthy information about our democratic systems and structures becomes incredibly difficult to locate.

Key stakeholders interviewed, told us that their research tells them that people want one thing. A one-stop shop for information. This aligns with all our focus group conversations, survey results and work with our young co-creators. Most of the people we spoke to said the same thing – make it relevant to people’s lives. Make it be in one place and Make it simple.

Almost everyone we spoke to, interviewed, collaborated with and surveyed said this information needed to be taught in schools. Primary and secondary. Over 91% of those surveyed said that young people should be taught about our democracy in school. When asked at the end of the survey if they had anything to add the majority talked about educating our young people about our democratic systems and structures in school being of paramount importance.

The Covid19 Global Pandemic has highlighted the need for a greater understanding of UK and devolved governments and lines of responsibility. We believe that this is key and will allow all UK citizens to fully understand UK wide democracy.

We have lost our collective story. The story of our democracy belongs to us all and we cannot fully participate if we don’t know and understand the story so far. It is our story. We need to share it and own it and understand so we can write the next chapter together.

Most news stories are told as episodic stories. Episodic stories make the individual responsible and therefore deflect the responsibility from society. We need thematic stories which encourage societal responsibility. We need to reframe the story from the individual to the collective.

There is a breakdown in trust of democracy which is significant in the UK and is believed to lead to a decline in democratic participation.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-51281722

Dissatisfaction with democracy ‘at record high’

Several factors are cited for this decline from the MPs expenses scandal to the EU Referendum to the referendum for devolution in Wales. Managed Democracy has come up time and time again throughout this research from governments led by Margaret Thatcher to Tony Blair to the present day and all parties have been cited as responsible for historically not making knowledge of our democratic systems and structures shared by the majority of the UK population.as top priority for multiple reasons and agendas.

This research strongly points to the urgent and pressing need for that to now change and for the knowledge of our own democracy to be widely disseminated and shared with the entire population aged seven plus via formal education institutions and a mass public information campaign.

The words democracy, politics and government all have negative associations and come with baggage and create barriers in themselves as cited in The Frameworks Institute research who provide examples of the Values and Models shown through their research to effectively improve the public’s thinking about government.

Below arethree key findings from the Frameworks Institutes’s research in the USA around repositioning Government and increasing democratic participation.. We believe the word Government, Democracy and Politics are seen as interchangeable in the UK and in relation to the points below.

1. The word “government” poses an obstacle to productive thinking. 

2.  People’s immediate reactions to the topic of government are limited to two narrow default frames: The first frame considers government to be elected leadership and its decision-making functions; the second regards government as a large, bureaucratic mass. 

3.  People want to see a role for themselves as engaged citizens. 

 And four Key Communications Challenges Based on Insights from that Research

Emphasizing the mission of government as distinct from, but not antithetical to, business.

Reinforcing the notion of shared fate, in the form of the common good or quality of life, which gives rise to government in the first place.

Offering a persona for government more in keeping with democratic ideals: responsible manager, protector, long-term planner, the people’s voice, etc.

Connecting the role of government to values that the country as a whole embraces such as planning for a prosperous and healthy future for all, stewardship, and the building and preservation of community.

 

How did we come to understand this & Survey Results

https://www.surveymonkey.com/results/SM-P2VZX3TF7/

Our research prior to the Clwstwr Seed funding was via

  • Doorstep research
  • Workshops in schools
  • Conversations with a wide cross section of adults whilst developing our 2016 ‘Democracy Explained’ Interactive Workshop for schools
  • The Talking Shop Pilot and 550 visitors and recorded feedback

Our Clwstwr seed funding R&D project (March-June 2020) researched the current level of understanding of our democratic systems and existing content which explains it. We did this by

  • experimenting with an online Talking Shop for members of the public
  • focus groups with diverse young people aged 16-31
  • a survey with over 100 respondents
  • feedback via social media call outs and questions
  • desk research and reading (list attached)
  • fifteen one hour interviews with key stakeholders.
  • Explored the BBC and its current content re explaining Democracy and mapped this against its charter and five public purposes.
  • Recruited ten young co-creators aged 16-31. Each of this conducted their own research amongst family and friends. We reached around five hundred young people this way
  • Recruited a community consultant from the Somali Muslim community in Cardiff Butetown area
  • Contracted professional creatives – an animator and a cut through content creator to work with the young co-creators and contribute to the research and content creation

Our desk research (further detail and relevant links and bibliography below) can roughly be divided into five areas: –

  1. Researching existing content, organisations, events which tackle explaining our democracy
  2. Political structures, ideologies and philosophies which have created opportunities & obstacles past and present
  3. Story structure and story-telling and engagement tools for disseminating public information and how we consume and are communicated with via multi digital media platforms
  4. Frameworks, systems change and design for policy
  5. Generational divide and digital/social media platforms and the public Information Film.

We contracted 10 16-31 year old for the equivalent of 1 day. We took six of their ideas forward for another day and then finally narrowed it down to working on three ideas with four of them for one day more.

We had hoped for the germ of one idea from this process. Instead we were blown away by the creative energy and plethora of ideas and approaches to engaging people from a board game to an interactive game show to content for Instagram TV to spoken word.

We have trialed a framework process for collaborating with young people which can be replicated.

We have now generated ten ideas for content and engagement which can be developed

Let’s think about Dickens and soap opera. The serialization of story. Let’s compare that to binge watching and consumer choice and streaming & the archaic nature of programme scheduling.

Now let’s connect into both. The availability of information when and how people want and need it combined with a collective national storytelling when information, the next instalment is released the same time every week. It is often cited that young people or ‘people nowadays’ do not have long attention spans and yet people binge watch entire series/box sets and there has been huge growth in people listening to long podcasts and favoring long reads across digital media. We need both.

You tubers came up again and again. As did celebrities and how to look at current formats which gather huge viewing numbers and followers and utilise this to tell the story of our democracy.

Going back to basics was a recurring theme of the research. One element of this was via an interview with someone who had made ‘trigger tapes’ in the seventies. Short films/community campaigning videos to raise awareness around issues effecting local communities. That person has now gone back to basics and now publishes community newspapers. He raised the interesting idea that sometimes the only way to reach people is via their letterboxes which is why all the main political parties still spend the main part of their campaign budgets on leaflets and mailshots and why our Prime Minister at the start of lockdown felt it necessary to send a letter to every household in the UK. Should there therefore be a ‘letterbox’ element of any future communications/engagement strategy?

Finding a balance between entertainment/keeping it light and still being responsible/factual and informative came up again and again in our seed R&D with reference to humour, sarcasm, music and animation being key.

What will the solution look like?

We have confirmed that two things are needed

  • A Public Information Campaign
  • An educational information campaign.

What might they look like? Well they need to be sustainable and ongoing and all year round and what and how is exactly what this second stage of our R&D is exploring in four ways

  1. How to get this embedded into the Welsh Curriculum from year 5 – 11 and create training and toolkits for teachers
  2. The old style Public Information Films and how to create a version for now which would be broken up into different lengths and formats and sit on multiple media formats from broadcast to social media platforms.
  3. How to create a public facing hub or one stop shop which can also be that teacher toolkit and be where the Public Information Films sit and can also signpost to all the already brilliant existing content AND enable people to navigate their way through the ever growing democracy sector. 
  4. How to launch and then support all this with live and ongoing public events.
  • A public information hub A one stop shop for content and engagement with our democratic systems and structures which will both create new content and signpost to existing quality content and link to partners and key stakeholders such as parliament engagement teams, Electoral society, Democratic Society, MySociety, ShoutOut etc. Curate existing content so that it is simple and digestible.

It could include content for broadcast and multi-media platforms including social media. It could host for example work that has already begun with our young creators from the seed funding stage including

An educational rap series

Picking Brains Podcast – No shame. No blame Peer to peer information sharing.

Ask an MP podcast series – Be Brave, Be Bold, Be Educated

Public Information Film Campaigns Rolled out via broadcast and multi-media platforms

  • A content toolkit and teacher training programme. This will utilise the content created above. We will tailor it for teachers, linking it with the new Welsh curriculum requirements and breaking it into age/key stage components and link to existing providers. It will be divided into schemes of work for both primary and secondary students and will include SEN differentiation. This will be accompanied with a teacher training package. We will seek to make this mandatory and be provided by the four consortia across Wales.
  • A framework for working with young co-creators. A best practice toolkit from recruitment to all stages of co-creation, wrap up, feedback and evaluation based on previous 30 years’ experience of working with young people and this successful co-creation model.

What we also know is that a large scale marketing/PR campaign or ‘public intervention(s) will be required to draw attention and introduce and support the ongoing telling of this story. This may be in the form of large screens in public places (e.g. Cardiff Central Square), roadshows or public ‘happenings’ or ‘live interventions’. Provotypes rather than prototypes may be the way forward to provoke conversation and creative debate to influence policy (such as Education policy) and broadcast strategy rather than a product(s).

A three stage future output could look like this:

  1. An expectation. Curiosity is aroused /A build up. The Countdown & the wait (PR/Comms/Marketing/Advertising/Teasers)
  2. A shared event. Shared knowledge. (Live Intervention/Experience/Roadshow/Public Event(s)/Screenings/Projection(e.g. Led By Donkeys) or Introductory Broadcast Public Information Films on TV, Cinema and in open Public Spaces
  3. The long game. Collective shared knowledge existing and content being curated and created and accessed all year round  (Public Information Hub and primary and secondary school curriculum)

Timelines & Structure

The seed funding research took three months. The next stage will be a twelve month project. The prototypes for both the above could be ready by April 2021 in time for the next Welsh Assembly Elections.

The seed funding R&D was structured as follows

  • STAGE 1 – open investigation, desk research, initial interviews, survey starts to be drafted, co-creation designed, co-creator call out & recruitment
  • STAGE 2 – ongoing interviews & desk research & targeted background reading following initial research and interviews in stage one. Focus groups recruited and facilitated. Co-Creation stage with twelve freelancers. Survey redrafted with consultation with focus groups and co-creators.
  • STAGE 3 – Final presentation from final four co-creators. Evaluation and drawing together of different strands of research. Final Report written. Presentation prepared. Next stage application.

The structure of the next stage will follow a similar structure with all partners being brought on board in stage one and creation of prototypes sitting within stage two, creation phase and dissemination and testing in stage three.

At the core of this work are the young co-creators and the professional creatives. This is key to content creation and future engagement.

Schools and colleges/universities are also key to the reach, testing and success of future prototypes

Who are the stakeholders?

Please note this is a live list and is being added to. There are many key actors already doing superb work in this area and the second phase of research will aim to identify further collaborators and partners.

This research focuses on England and Wales and the UK Government and the Welsh Government. It does not take into account the other two UK devolved governments of Scotland and Northern Ireland however we would strongly recommend that any future research does so.

  1. Welsh Government. (first stage)
  2. UK and devolved governments (2nd stage)
  3. BBC “The BBC should provide duly accurate and impartial…. factual programming to build people’s understanding of all parts of the United Kingdom ….It should offer a range and depth of analysis and content not widely available from other United Kingdom news providers, ….so that all audiences can engage fully with ….and participate in the democratic process, at all levels, as active and informed citizens.” BBC Charter Public Values
  4. ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 who all have Public Service Broadcasting obligations which this work falls under
  5. Parliament Engagement Team in Wales first followed by counterparts in Westminster and other devolved nations s
  6. Departments of Education. Wales and then England.
  7. Education Consortia in Wales & Arts & Education Networks
  8. National Agencies – Art Councils and Creative Wales
  9. The Electoral Commission
  10. The Democratic Society
  11. MySociety
  12. Citizens UK
  13. Arts Council Wales and The Creative Learning Team
  14. Democracy Club
  15. Shout Out
  16. The Electoral Reform Society

Research Highlights

A few of the most salient research points can be summarised as follows:

The Ties that Bind: Citizenship and Civic Engagement in the 21st Century. Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement
The Select Committee on Citizenship and Civic Engagement was appointed by the House of Lords on 29 June 2017 with the remit “to consider citizenship and civic engagement”.

Story structure and story-telling and engagement tools for disseminating public information

“communications is storytelling; but the stories we tell must have all the elements in place: Values, that orient the audience to the big idea, or to “what this is about;” Simplifying Models, that concretize and simplify complex scientific explanations of how things work; reasonable tone; reinforcing visuals; effective messengers; and thematic stories that include causal sequences, or stories that explain the link between cause and effect.”

So:-

Values

Simplifying Models

Reasonable Tone

Visuals

Effective Messengers

Thematic Stories

Stories which and explain Cause & Effect

“We are meaning-seeking creatures.” Karen Armstrong: Myths and the Modern World

“…the most prevalent news stories on social issues are what’s known in framing research as “episodic.” They take a highly personal, individualized view of a situation. You could think of this as focusing a telephoto lens on an issue. While these stories may be highly compelling, telling them through this tightly focused lens leaves a lot of important aspects out of the picture: what factors and conditions are responsible for the problem; what are the opportunities for public engagement; what is the impact on the larger society; and is there a need to change systems, laws, policies and programs. In contrast, what we call “thematic stories” take in the big picture, including environment, context, trends, and solutions. Thematic stories open the door to a better understanding of both the causes of social problems as well as potential solutions to them. “http://www.frameworksinstitute.org/workshops/wideanglelens/children/part1-4.html

10 questions to make a story John Yorke

“This is a field-guide about how to use story and narrative to change systems. It’s themed into three areas: story as light, story as glue and story as web….

Story as light: Using the illuminating power of story to show the lay of the land (past, present and future)

Story as glue: Using story to build and cohere communities of change makers

Story as web: Using story to change the nest of narratives in which we live. A key tension running through all this is that between orchestration and openness.

We no longer live in a broadcast era where we must passively receive our stories en masse. Instead, growing numbers of people have the means to be storytellers as well as story-listeners. As systems changers, we should seek to enable others to use story to illuminate the lay of their land, to cohere communities, and to reauthor the nest of narratives they live in. How can we enable more people to use this most ancient technology to change systems for the better?” Ella Saltemarshe https://content.gulbenkian.pt/wp-content/uploads/sites/18/2018/02/08122506/TELLING-THE-DIFFERENCE_Digital_.pdf

People and communities continually learn how to democratically express themselves, and the firms, governments and other organisations that make up societies learn how to develop appropriate mechanisms to facilitate and co-ordinate this input. Central to these learning processes is the ability for people to inform themselves of the relevant issues, and to interact with one-another in debating, forming and evolving their (individual and collective) views. This is where the broadcasting industry plays an especially critical role in the economy.” Transmitting Democracy: A Strategic Failure Analysis of Broadcasting and the BBC

“There is a tolerance of untidiness in the UK around UK Local Government but the whole system (of democracy) is so complicated that people stop trying to understand. For democracy to work the stories have to work. People don’t all want to write the ending but they want to help curate it.” Sarah Tanburn Interview.

The Frameworks Institute research

1. The word “government” poses an obstacle to productive thinking. 

 Can this be interchanged with Democracy and Politics? “Deep-seated ridicule learned and conditioned over time, remains a major impediment to engaging citizens in a discussion about government as us, and government as problem-solver.” 

2.  People’s immediate reactions to the topic of government are limited to two narrow default frames: The first frame considers government to be elected leadership and its decision-making functions; the second regards government as a large, bureaucratic mass. 

“…two frames as “Government as Them,” and “Government as It.” Importantly, both of these frames render invisible that which government truly is and does, and discourage citizen engagement in government. Government as “Them”: The conflation of government with politics. Among the most damaging misperceptions of government is a chronically available “default frame” that equates government with elected officials, the current Administration and politics as usual, and suffers from parallel associations with corruption, partisanship, and elitism.” 

“Government as ”It”: Government as a mission less, bureaucratic, paper-pushing thing. When reasoning in this frame, there is an exaggeration of government waste and inefficiency. “

3.  People want to see a role for themselves as engaged citizens. 

 They want to engage in long-term problem solving, but see the domain of government (confused with politics) as being about short-term or shortsighted decision-making that systematically excludes them. However, when people are reminded of the goals of government and given vivid pictures to reinforce its mission, they readily engage in the discussion and in reasonable, problem-solving approaches to public issues. Working on behalf of the public good, advancing the common interest, protecting public safety, planning for the future – these are the core functions of the public sector that serve to engage people. This way of thinking about government is, however, so rarely evoked by opportunities in their daily lives that it remains vague and difficult to conjure …Clearly, we must find more effective ways to trigger a “we the people” experience.

 Key Communications Challenges Based on Insights from Research

 There are many missing ingredients in the discussion about government, namely:

Emphasizing the mission of government as distinct from, but not antithetical to, business.

Reinforcing the notion of shared fate, in the form of the common good or quality of life, which gives rise to government in the first place.

Offering a persona for government more in keeping with democratic ideals: responsible manager, protector, long-term planner, the people’s voice, etc.

• Connecting the role of government to values that the country as a whole embraces such as planning for a prosperous and healthy future for all, stewardship, and the building and preservation of community.

As the above factors emerged, they began to draw a distinction between two coherent and opposed views of government held by the public.

The Consumerist view, while widely held, does little to move people to appreciate, protect and preserve a vigorous role for government in public life. Rather, it substitutes a “buyer beware” individualist mindset in the place of collective action, from its focus on getting the most for one’s money to small picture thinking about available products and point-of-purchase decisions.

By contrast, the Citizen view promotes engagement with the common good and recognizes the shared public purposes of government.

 Translating the Challenges into Successful Practice: Essential Elements for Reframing Government

“As FrameWorks has written elsewhere, the Strategic Frame AnalysisTM approach teaches that communications is storytelling; but the stories we tell must have all the elements in place: Values, that orient the audience to the big idea, or to “what this is about;” Simplifying Models, that concretize and simplify complex scientific explanations of how things work; reasonable tone; reinforcing visuals; effective messengers; and thematic stories that include causal sequences, or stories that explain the link between cause and effect. We provide, below, examples of the Vaes and Models shown through our research to effectively improve the public’s thinking about government. “

“Our nation’s success is based on the power of people working together. Whether it is revitalizing a crumbling downtown, restoring parkland, or determining health and safety regulations, our nation’s quality of life now and into the future depends upon citizens working together.”https://www.frameworksinstitute.org/ Social Change

Feedback comments from survey

Q:Do you think government funded public information films should return & be used to explain our democratic systems & structures?

Depends who makes them, they need to be good and appealing to watch. Not dry! Not formal and boring. Not

On which platforms and how to ensure they are consumed?

As we have seen recently, a government with mal intent can use this tool to further their own agenda – An independent regulating body should be used to either fact-check/audit the content to make sure it is in the best interest of the public.

To be used in educational context and environment, yes. General release – no…public are politics/ campaign weary

Needs to be fronted by national figures not politicians and screened in cinemas and gigs or used on social media not TV. Few young people watch scheduled TV with adds etc

Funding is scarce :(; I would consider it worth it to explain why democracy is important and why voting matters etc.

They should be impartial and fact checked

They need to feel relevant, inspiring, truthful, not feel condescending, encourage people to feel like they have genuine agency

it would need to be clear they weren’t politically motivated and specific to any current government. Independence would be crucial.

I feel like most people may ignore them and find them boring. They would have to make them fun and diverse

Any type of propaganda can be harmful or untrue

They would have to be created while being neutral on explaining keys facts (not too far right wing and not too far left wing)

maybe but in the past these have been extremely biased- I don’t know how they would be able to overcome that.

They must be impartial and cover each basis (not be all roses and sunshine)

People have little faith in government so might not engage. Ironic as knowing more might give more faith…

Concern about political bias

Done in a far more engaging way

With independent checks on accuracy and balance

The government is a government complicit in colonialism and the prison industrial complex. I do not trust British state funded information films to be free of their white supremacist capitalist bias to explore democratic systems and structures given racial, ethnic and gender disparity in government institutions such as the Senedd. I think it is, well intentioned, naive, and internal bias would be replicated in these films to suggest e.g. democracy is able to exist unproblematically under capitalism without being reliant on e.g. exploitation of third world labour, legacies of colonialism etc. Maybe the creation of these films could happen in innovative manners, and my disenfranchisement from democratic structures owing to colonialism and slave trade etc. These films could be valuable for wanting to seek change within these structures, most certainly, but the epistemological view is absolutely integral not to replicate disenfranchisement and formulaic pit stops and tick boxes for a perception of ontologically discourses of governance.

I feel they’d only be viewed by people who are already engaged. It’s the people who don’t engage who need to be reached AND LISTENED TO

The short covid 19 information films that have been circulating recently have largely been ignored

Government is not impartial – should be overseen by an independent body

By an objective committee / company

Social media bitesized

They would need to be made differently to aim towards certain audiences. For example; could pop one on before Eastenders which is relatively serious, but that wouldn’t hit everyone. You could also pop one on Tiktok, but it would need to involve an influencer and some jokes.

depends on distribution

But they need to be good (entertaining, compelling) and probably independent and fact checked!

Well it would be biased towards the current government m

There should be a complete unbiased approach to it

Depends if the government will influence what is in them in exchange for funding them!

Depends on how they are funded and if there is sponsorship ‘interference’

without bias

I’d like them to also explain alternatives

My concern is that if these were government funded then they would be intrinsically biased.

at low expense

Provided it can be guaranteed to be non-party political

Would have to be really good and targeted to the different audiences

I would worry about whether there would be bias in the delivery

Don’t really remember them

They should be independently made to allow for free thought to allow viewers to think of other possibilities outside our current system

I think people don’t trust the authorities

Q10 Please tell us any other ideas or thoughts about Q8 & how we better inform people about our democracy and how it all works and fits together.

(Q8 How would you make sure everyone had a better understanding of everything to do with government, politics and democracy? How it all works and how to have their say?)

Children’s books/ stories is always a good way to educate about complex ideas- finding ways to simplify it for children (and their adults)

introduction of people’s assemblies would give people more stake and investment in issues

But they need to be more engaging and think more about who they are engaging with and where that engagement takes place.

I believe that children will always follow their parents. If the information was broadcasted through social media and text messages this would get adults reading. Provided the information was about all parties pros and cons. Not one sided information like we see today. If adults are given all information required equally to make an informed decision this would pave the way for the next generation. I believe children maintain what they hear somewhere, so if a parent was to rant and rave about certain parties etc., in the future they could potentially sway from the party they heard was bad from parent and not use their own choice. If pros and cons (of each party) were to be delivered to each person of voting age, everyone would potentially have the facts to make a decision for themselves. (Not everyone will choose for themselves) but a majority is a start.

Via education, social media and some live events and celebrity involvement.

Informal education in community settings delivered in an accessible way. Politics used to be discussed in pubs and the work place (unions) discovering a new way of engagement that it’s authentic is key

To create a way where it can be explained to different age ranges in a way in which it is fully understood by them and it is enjoyable

They should begin introducing it at schools and start teaching children from a younger age.

Spread it Accor social media as in it should be shown to people more often. Or make a special day that talks about it or week

meetings of MPs with local groups

Teach it from a young age to students

Maybe organise an event so everyone can come and benefit something from it.

Part of the curriculum. Teach children that politics affects everything – from the price of food to the opportunities they will have in life.

Many people learn skills on social media, it seems a good place to teach politics

Interactive live TV debates on more often

Theatre should be used somehow. I think there should be an emphasis on taking theatre to the people through different forms. For example, street theatre that respects the 2 meter rule, performance art installations that conform to the new rules but are accessible to people who are self-isolating or shielding. But we will need to think of ways in which to prevent people from ‘gathering’.

I think the most effective way of informing people is to teach it from a young age, informing older people about it could be easier by showing them how it affects us all

I believe it is vital to teach it in schools and help kids understand from a young age the basic principles of politics.

Mail drops. School / college events. Drama / quiz engagement activities for youth / podcasts

have to be careful public information firms & teachers aren’t biased

People need to be taught philosophy and critical thinking before being presented with biased information from govenments about how well they are doing

Greater equality through a more equal educational system will instill in people a sense of shared ownership and responsibility. This will give better understanding of democracy.

Probably need to start with explaining that democracy is a myth. The media decides who runs the country through their propaganda and refusal to scrutinise those in power. Labour sabotage proves that the interests of the common people are not considered. Democracy is dead.

People in the UK predominantly think that the politics are for parties, while politics are the backbone of democracy and people need to get involved beyond making a cross on a ballot once in a few years. Democratic participation should be taught from school and reinforced by civic society organisations in form of events and media campaigns

Education

Personally think it’s a bigger structural change than merely informing people. Change needed throughout education system. Start as young as possible so that young people feel they have a stake in how democracy functions. Should be properly modelled in school, so that as well as being better informed, young people can see/feel it in action and why it matters to their lives. School councils are not enough, and do not give children a real say in the school. They quickly learn that what they say in these forums holds no real sway and rarely leads to action or meaningful change. Teachers and local authorities have all the power in their experience.

Include it in Welsh Bac.

school talks and such might be a good idea, the key thing with schools is that teachers have to remain apolitical so if it can be done in an apolitical way I think it would be beneficial!

Run participatory projects that encourage people to use their voices and to make decisions

I’m just concerned whatever you do will be biased, especially if you’re trying to make it fun.

probably more widespread content on social media + collaborating with celebrities/influencers that are more accessible and relatable to young people

Public online talks (Tedx style); Work with University student unions for student focused campaigns; Competition for social media campaigns for different platforms (Instagram, tiktoc etc).

More reliable and easily accessible information

Fundamentally I think people should learn about this in school. From there future adults will have more knowledge to pass on to children. I believe info should be given impartially, only facts on how democracy and the processes involved with government work without trying to influence people toward one party or another. People should be taught how to check if a source is credible and how to research an issue so they can make their own informed decision.

I’d reiterate the notion of agency. To feel like you as an individual genuinely can make a difference. To not feel like ‘party political broadcasts’ which are exhausting.

Teach philosophy to everyone especially children and young people to promote critical thinking and more understanding of where ideas and ideologies come from.

Get people educated, we’re lurching towards fascism!!#

Make government websites more accessible if someone wants to find out more about democracy.

Local involvement is vital

I believe introducing politics and democracy at a young age is the best way to have young people engaged.

teach it from an early age

nb. Further Feedback attached to Final Report and next stage R&D application

Relevant Links to sample feedback and content created

Omidaze Productions The Box Clwstwr Seed Funding R&D sharing June 11 2020.

Clwstwr R&D the Box Survey Results

Clwstwr Seed R&D Project The Box

Clwstwr R&D The Box young creator’s feedback video

Yvonne talking about Omidaze/Clwstwr seed R&D project and online Talking Shop

TheBoxMINIPOD
The Box is a Clwstwr seed-funded R&D Project which gives young people around Wales the chance to co-create content aimed at explaining the democratic process in Wales, and in the UK.
soundcloud.com

Talking Shop Pilot Film

Talking Shop Report – The Story So Far

Links to Existing Content which explains our Democracy which contributed to research

  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RAMbIz3Y2JA Westminster Resource Intro to Parliament
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GbLTwQwXqWc How Parliament Works in nearly 60 seconds (Westminster resource)
  3. Who’s in charge of Britain Horrible Histories https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rMXJOKhf_AA
  4. University of Leeds https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qs-9B3FRXCA

5.      Houses of History – Explore the story of Parliament and democracy Westminster Resource

8.      National Assembly for Wales – Who we are and what we do (assembly resource)

9.      Wales 2016 – How your vote works (Assembly resource)

  1. Democracy in the UK today University of Leeds https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VKCd0pTCLfM

11.  What is democracy? – with Danny Wallace Westminster Resource

  1. https://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20121003074658/http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Governmentcitizensandrights/UKgovernment/Centralgovernmentandthemonarchy/DG_073438

13.  AFP News Agency following 2015 General Election Britain’s political system explained

  1. Channel 4 News Is Britain really Democratic? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARnQmrLxjBk

15.  Learn English with Gill. Learn about the UK political system & elections

16.  The Daily Show – Democracy in the U.K. – Road To…Wait That’s Where the Prime Minister Lives

15.  A brief history of representation, from monarchy to democracy

 This video is from https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/i… ‘Introduction to the UK Parliament: People, Processes and Public Participation’ is a free online course created by the Houses of Parliament on FutureLearn.com https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JYYq1yDSfqc

16.  Elections and voting explained (primary) Westminster Resource

17.  Brexit explained: what happens when the UK leaves the EU? Channel 4 News

  1. https://www.instagram.com/welshyouthparliament/
  2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uVf12YBUKxU – joe.co.uk Register to vote: do you know there’s an election coming?
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xB2rF8sZfjE – wales online How young rugby players feel about the General Election
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlLmWpT2Pes -YMCA BRIEF
  5. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bTFt5PnB95k – YMCA collection
  6. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmbRa0T_jzo – electoral reform service
  7. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cRxUhGetEPQ – BBC new voting system explained
  8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dEPs9Ob0Oag – American based but about millennials 

30. Democracy Is Dead. What Now? | Russell Brand & Prof. David Runciman

 31. Institute of Economic Affairs Realignment: The future of British politics

32. The Difference between the United Kingdom, Great Britain and England Explained GCP Grey This should be played in every class in every school over and over and then interrogated!

  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7eoDwvl0QGk  “I’ve come across the YouTube channel TLDR News, (TLDR meaning: too long, didn’t read)  I think the name is a great start because it’s direct and a lot of people don’t watch the news because the content isn’t always easy to follow. Likewise, in reading news articles. Their introductory video is so punchy, encouraging you to want to stay in the loop without feeling out of your depth with information.” Young Creator
  • “TLDR News has a parliament explained section as well as current news affairs that are discussed and broken down simply. They also post articles about the topics they discuss in their videos. “https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCSMqateX8OA2s1wsOR2EgJA
  • Who sits where in the house of commons  TLDR https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3P3THUM62MY

Young Co-Creator – “Some of the episodes I’ve watched are”:

43. John Cleese: we need Proportional Representation to #MakeVotesMatter

“This is an article on how celebrities were using their platforms to engage voters during the last general election” Young Co-Creator:

Dear Phil George, The World Has Changed & So Should We

Dear Phil George

Chair Arts Council of Wales

You asked us to tell you our ideas for the future of the arts and cultural sector in Wales. This is something I have been thinking about for some time. Roughly thirty-five years.

“When arts policies are premised on ‘trickle down’ from funded institutions to artists.. Detrimental impacts on artists’ livelihoods are inevitable. In such a hierarchy, artists are.. human resource positioned at the bottom…what many artists…offer to society is unrecognised.” Dr Susan Jones

You will know that I along with some of my peers started a conversation The World has Changed – How Should We? You can find my proposal for a Wales Wide Learning, Development & Radical Thinking Programme for Freelance Creatives and Artists here and a drawing together of some of the ripples from this conversation at the end of this letter. This work has been the thinking behind and stimulus for this correspondence.

I say everything below in full recognition of the excellent work being done at the most difficult of times by many, including at ACW, and conscious of many years of support and funding from ACW which has made my career as a freelance artist possible and conscious of my own position of privilege and power.

Before we rush to restart, reopen and continue as we were let’s ask ‘what was wrong with yesterday?’ And ‘what do we want tomorrow to look like?’ What kind of society do we want and where does art and culture fit in to the building and shaping of that society.

There is a friction between different speeds of response at the moment. I am caught between needing to react quickly and decisively, to own and influence the narrative as it speeds past me. There is a feeling of needing to create a dam or a wedge in the door of time. To create a pause and thereby ensure a rethink rather than a restart. The dam, the wedge are symbols of resistance to the pressure to restart as we were before only slightly altered or adapted. To simply pat ourselves on the back for now using digital technology better than we did before and finally fully and meaningfully  incorporating it into our making, creating, reaching and engaging and thinking is not enough. Nor where near enough. Basically tinkering around the edges but still not grappling with the foundation, the cracks, the subsidence of the building that is the cultural sector that we have all acknowledged, written and read reports on, periodically and superficially attempted to deal with and routinely discussed and lamented.

Whether it be in the Warwick Commission, All Our Futures or Arts Council Strategies remembered and forgotten, all said we must do better. A movement began in 2012 called What Next? in response to further cuts and questioned the ideology behind those cuts and sought to find ways to encourage all the public to  find new ways of engaging with our audience and visitors: the ever-expanding millions who value and take part in the cultural work that happens day-in, day-out up and down this country. And encourage the people of this country, as individuals and as communities, to see connections between the many different ways art and culture affect and enhance our lives; to urge everyone to register their endorsement of – and pleasure in – their art and culture, especially where these are under threat.

 

And yet we have failed. Because a sector which still contains gender inequality and race and disability inequality at all levels across the whole cultural sector will never be a cultural sector which represents, reaches and inspires the whole of society and therefore remains irrelevant and invisible to many.

When I stood as a Parliamentary Candidate in the 2019 election I received a barrage of emails asking me to pledge my support for many things from constituents. Not one asked me to pledge my support to art and culture. When I and my campaign team knocked on thousands of doors not one person questioned us on the party’s line regarding art and culture.

I propose that until the arts and cultural sector puts its own house in order that arts and culture will never be a doorstep issue, it will never demand the levels of state investment that are required or punch at the weight we all so desire. And furthermore nor should it.

I propose that more than putting our house in order it should be radically redesigned and rebuilt from the ground up and that racially diverse and independent freelance artists and creatives of all physical abilities should be at the very centre of that rethinking and reimagining.

I am inspired by the possibilities that this tragic and frightening time has presented us with.

Let us pause and create space to do the deep and necessary thinking which we have put off for too long.

Wales is in a unique position with the potential to be world leading. Professor Justin Lewis Clwstwr director says his vision for Clwstwr “is for Wales to become the clever little country that shows how a creative cluster based on SME’s, micro-businesses and freelancers can become world leader in creativity. “

I like that vision. A lot. I like it because it is one which recognises the agility and ability of a small nation to have BIG ideas. I like it because it recognises and elevates SME’s, micro-businesses and freelancers. It places them centre stage. I like it because it turns things upside down. And I like it because it joins stuff up. It puts together the arts and cultural sector and the creative industries and recognises and celebrates that it is all one big ecology and in a small nation artists and creatives do not see the boundaries between these things. They enjoy mingling and a theatre director/producer put in a group with an author, a musician, an animator and a cut through content creator and paid to be together for two days with no outcome required other than a choice to apply for a grant becomes a special kind of alchemy that changes things forever.

Sometimes you just need to put people together. Pay them. Give them purpose and leave. This is what I see. This is what I am dreaming of. Artists and Creatives at the centre. From the beginning. Being asked to dream and re-imagine and given the resources to do just that.

“We won’t all make it through – arts organisations, venues, collectives, artists – however much our governments, arts funders, or our local communities, chip in. It’s not going to be enough. Not now. Not in the years it’ll take to recover…..We can’t save everyone. And here’s the rub – nor should we. We have built an arts sector on privilege. Favouring some over others…allowing artists to become marginal; systemically excluded those who are different, difficult or diverse. We have moaned for the last 30 years, things should change. Now is our chance. It will take leadership and courage.” Jo Verrent

During the lockdown ACW put out an invitation to tender document asking for people/organisations to articulate how they would deliver a series of stakeholder conversations about widening creative and cultural engagement with communities across Wales. I know because I took two days out to tender for that work at a time of high emotional and personal stress only to be told that “We are writing to inform you that after much consideration we have taken the decision to no longer proceed with this piece of work, and will therefore not be considering the tenders we received.” But that is a whole other story about understanding the pressures on freelance creatives and the cost (emotional, physical, intellectual) of writing applications and processes which can and should be part of the re-imagining and re-thinking.

I bring it up because in the invitation document, just like in the ACW strategy, the wording inspires me and makes me want to be part of your vision and I thought I do not need to find new words for what I want. We want the same. Which then begs the question of why this isn’t a reality and why anecdotal, empirical evidence and your own research shows that we are collectively failing to make this vision a reality.

Our vision is of an arts sector in Wales that is naturally inclusive and diverse, and more vibrant, exciting and relevant because of this. Public funding for the arts has many purposes: to increase choice, to subsidise costs for audiences and participants, to encourage innovation and risk-taking, to invest in those activities that the commercial sector either won’t, or isn’t able to, support. But it also recognises a whole society’s right to share and participate in its cultural achievements, especially when they’re largely funded by the taxpayer.

We know that the arts in Wales will be stronger, more exciting and more relevant if they embrace more people, and we recognise the dynamic force of art that is truly inclusive and makes use of the talents of all members of our society. Yet in spite of our efforts over many years, the simple fact is that the benefits of public investment in the arts remain stubbornly limited to a small proportion of the population (usually the wealthiest, better educated and least ethnically diverse). This is what we want to try and change. 

We want to be part of a society in Wales that embraces equality and celebrates difference, wherever it’s found in race, gender, sexuality, age, language, disability or affluence:  because a generous, fair-minded and tolerant society is instinctively inclusive and values and respects the creativity of all its citizens. 

We’re committed to the principle of cultural democracy, and for the communities we engage with to have ownership of arts projects from beginning to end. We’re committed to deep and meaningful engagement with communities, particularly those who feel separated or disconnected from arts activity for a number of reasons – including, but not restricted to, economic, social and geographical considerations. 

Research has shown us that, despite targeted initiatives, we are not reaching as deeply into disengaged and disadvantaged communities as we would wish. We have more to do to ensure equality of opportunity across our communities. ACW Invitation to Tender Document 2020

I would therefore respectively challenge not what we want but how we have been trying to achieve it. Or to put it more simply, let’s not return to what we had. Let us think about what was wrong with yesterday.

From the lack of diversity on our boards, in leadership and senior levels of management positions. The gender inequality throughout the sector, perhaps most vivid in the performing arts both on and off stage. The gender pay gap. The lack of transparent career pathways and progression.  Recruitment and appointment processes which are archaic and alienate and are conducted with both conscious and unconscious bias. Poor governance which lacks scrutiny, accountability and due diligence and which covers and protects poor leadership, poor business management and bullying and harassment and maintains the status quo whilst paying lip service to the vision above.

Let us no longer accept or defend non-diverse cultural boards. Let us no longer accept cultural buildings barely used or empty for any period of time. Let us no longer accept a board that pushes back on the call for diversity to be able to say behind closed doors ‘it’s not a priority’ or ‘there is no one of colour in this part of Wales therefore it is irrelevant’. Let’s stop giving responsibility for diversity in our organisations to the (poorly paid and poorly funded) outreach and engagement teams whilst making no systemic change to those appointed to privileged positions of power.

Let us not miss out on generations of artists and creatives who do not even know where to begin to be heard and seen and understood. And let us not accept CEO’s, Artistic Directors and managing Directors of Cultural organisations drawing 50k plus salaries whilst the freelance artists and creatives of Wales are hanging by an economic thread.

We will never achieve cultural democracy and truly engage everyone and ensure the arts and culture is really for everyone unless we radically change the structures, processes, systems and models that our sector is built on. From how we advertise, recruit and train to the lists we hold of freelance artist and creatives, to our expectation of what art and culture looks and sounds like.

Let us, in Wales, lead the way towards equality and social justice. A “naturally inclusive and diverse” arts and cultural sector is impossible until those leading, in positions of power and decision making, articulating the vision, programming and creating are inclusive and diverse. Succession planning is key. The white male will, in the main, always remain ‘the best person for the job’ until we proactively and consistently recruit others and allow them gain the experience and knowledge that they will become the ‘best person for the job’ by gaining those skills and experience on the job. Not through mentoring and shadowing programmes but by being appointed to salaried positions of power and influence. I guarantee that the unexpected positives will outweigh the risk. So I challenge everyone recruiting and appointing board members, leaders and senior managers to cultural organisations in Wales to change the sector through your appointments. Anyone in a position of power, and that includes me, has a huge responsibility and vast opportunity. We must widen and radically change the lens through which we see the world and arts and culture and use our privilege to give power to others.

This will mean some giving up the power we have. This will mean some stepping aside. This will mean uncomfortable and difficult conversations and listening on a scale that has not yet been achieved by those who dominant the conversation. Including myself. This will mean accountability. Perhaps quotas. Doing things very differently. Challenging the networks which exist.

We will need systematic sharing of knowledge, experience and skills. We will require spaces to be and to think and cross-fertilise. We will require the taking back of percentages of salaries and resources that have been earmarked for leaders and creative content and instead use it to create the tomorrow, the future when content we have not even dreamed of can then be created by people we have not even yet met.

Don’t make things tidy. The mess is important. The lack of planning is key. Speed is also key. The slowness of response and change is both unacceptable and indefensible. The openness to invention, collision, collusion, connection is paramount. Begin to use our buildings differently. Turn others into laboratories where creatives are paid to be and to think and to learn and share and rebuild.

We have a responsibility to use our creativity to help build the society we want. A responsibility to our planet and to each other in regards to social justice. There is brilliant work already being done which requires support and highlighting. From The Privilege Café to grassroots companies leading the charge and the Wales Race and Culture group. The dreaming and thinking is already taking place and must be supported financially.

All this thinking needs to be joined up. And freelance artists and creatives need to be paid to be doing it. That includes the thinking from across the bridge too because Culture does not recognise borders and artists by their very nature seek to cross them. So from Fuel’s Freelance Task Force to David Jubb’s Blog to the many radical outpourings on Twitter we need to hold this thinking in space and time, build the dam, resist the commercial and capitalist imperative and do the deep work that we have been putting off for decades. Forty years to be precise.

There needs to now pay with purpose for the freelance artists and creatives to do that joining up and thinking.. And by joining it up I mean really JOIN it up so for a small nation does it make sense to have an Arts Council AND Creative Wales? Why is it not one thing? Speaking one language? With one goal? With artists and creatives at its heart.

I promised I would finish with some of the ripples that The World Has Changed- How Should We? conversation caused but actually that is not the point and not my story to tell.  Multiple freelancers from all over Wales and all different disciplines are leading initiatives and want to help and support and be part of it the work that is needed going forward.

I therefore urge you Arts Council Wales to

  • Bring all this thinking together
  • Create an urgent task force where freelancers are paid to be ‘at the table’ and feed into thinking at an Arts Council and Welsh and UK Government level
  • Take on board, commit to and implement the Wales Race 6 point action plan
  • Build the dam, put the wedge in the door of time and ensure freelance artists/creatives are paid to learn, develop, think and lead the change that is so desperately needed now more than ever before.

 

Yours sincerely,

Yvonne

Yvonne Murphy

Freelance Thinker, Theatre Director, Producer and Arts Consultant who also runs Omidaze Productions a non-core funded partnership organisation

www.omidaze.co.uk

 

 

A Sector Revolution. The World Has Changed. How should we?

Opening from today’s 4pm Zoom Room on Friday 3 April 2020

(Please scroll down to the end for the Asks which came after the second sector conversation on April 17 2020)

Thank you all so much for joining us. I am overwhelmed by the response. A huge thank you also to Catherine, Leo and Michelle for agreeing to join me on this journey thus far and for putting their names to this conversation.

Before I begin, I need to acknowledge that all that I say is within the context that we are in the most terrible of times and a prolonged state of grief and fear. Too many lives have already been lost, too many more will be before this even begins to turn a corner and health and life is of the paramount importance at this time. I cannot offer my help as key worker or beyond my four walls and therefore have tried to help in some small way in the sector I know and love.

I concur with the statement that one does not need to be at one’s most productive during a global pandemic. However I personally felt the need to step up and give back if only in terms of time and thinking. And it has allowed me to feel of use and takes down the levels of anxiety about friends, loved ones and all those at risk. My contribution may go no further than today and the offering of mine and our thinking thus far to ACW and other sector leaders.

On March 16 I contacted ACW to offer my help and propose a programme of remote learning, development and radical thinking where participants get paid so they bodies and souls are nourished and we spend this time investing in our people, upskilling, knowledge sharing, networking, mentoring and thinking so when we re-emerge to make the work we are stronger, more connected; more resilient & ready.

I emailed Nick Capaldi and Sian Tomos who is here with us today, to offer my help and the idea. They were just entering the eye of the storm but both found time to reply. I was encouraged to sound out my peers.

I should make clear that I am not an Arts council associate or work for the Arts Council. I have not been paid or commissioned to do this thinking.

My original idea was for myself and others to for small grants to design a learning & development & radical re-thinking programme. Once the grants had been closed I rethought and began to sound out some peers at Producers Place and the UK wide What Next Chapter chairs meeting. Then I asked Catherine, Leo and Michelle if they would join me to help me think about it all some more. We met in a zoom room and following our first meeting I began to draft a very rough sketch of what remote learning and development programme could look like. I contacted Nick and Sian again and let them know what I was doing and that I would do this in case they could use it and strategically fund something of this sort. I understood then and do now that this work may never be used. I understand there is a need for immediate and emergency responses to those in urgent financial need. I understand that perhaps there should and could be more than one stage or level or response. I wanted to offer some thoughts, some possibilities which may aid that thinking which is where you all come in.  I pledge to gather the responses in this conversation and any that come afterwards by email before the end of Monday and pass them on to ACW. That much I pledge to do.

I will pass it onto ACW whose plans are almost already formed and they may or may not be able to strategically invest in something like this. However I also want to make clear that in this zoom room today and beyond there are people who can take this forward. There are many people who are in privileged and salaried leadership positions who can invest in this kind of work or similar. The responsibility to invest in freelance artists and creatives must not lie with ACW alone and freelance artists and creatives must be at the heart of any radical thinking and paid to be there.

So my idea is simple and responds to the following identified needs

Income for Freelancers (pay and purpose)

Shared Knowledge

Networking

Mentoring & Peer to Peer mentoring

Space & Time to think differently and re-imagine/re-design how we work, who we are creating for and why. Radical change to achieve Equality of access, provision & power

 

Identified Needs

Income for Freelancers – After the first stage of emergency financial help I believe the next stage should be Pay with Purpose. I personally know what it is like to have someone invest in me. I know the transformational effect of being paid to think, learn and develop. I also know as a freelancer for nearly 30 years and married to a freelance actor and writer what it is like to be locked outside of training and development due to a lack of financial means. Sometimes because that training or those rooms with key speakers have a price ticket and sometimes because even though the training itself is free I cannot afford to take a day out unpaid. I cannot afford the travel, the accommodation or quite simply the time. In this programme every participant gets paid to take part.

Let us invest in our artists and creatives. Let us pay them to participate in training. In learning and development. Because I guarantee and I am living proof that if you invest in people the rewards and dividends will be rich and long and far reaching.

Shared Knowledge I have been thinking about this for a while. It was an identified need behind the Talking Shop. So many people ask me for advice and I always think about the many who do not. I think about the knowledge, experience and skills people have in our sector and how little structure there is to systematically share that. So much time is then wasted by everyone having to learn in isolation. I know because I did. And I was ballsy and asked quite a bit. And I also didn’t because I didn’t want to appear stupid and naïve. And it took me to go on a year-long leadership course to understand that I was neither stupid nor naïve and that many dots and people needed joining up. I am thinking about the next generation of cultural leaders in Wales. I have some skills and knowledge. I know others who have lots more. Let’s use this time to share that and come out the other side a sector more joined up, connected, skilled, informed and resilient. Let’s create a Hive Mind. A Skills and Knowledge Bank. Let’s create themed zoomed rooms with experienced hosts on everything from business planning; strategy; leadership; networking; branding; mission; vision & values work; resilience; policy; governance; influencing; fundraising; producing; touring; budgets; new writing; setting up a small business, access best practice; new thinking etc. etc.

And let’s pay everyone to take part.

Networking, Mentoring & Peer to Peer mentoring comes up time and time again as an identified need. Only because of the Clore and being given mentors and told to find myself a peer mentor did I begin to understand the power of mentoring and the lack and urgent need for it across our sector. Sometimes the need for a mentor which is articulated is actually a need for access to gatekeepers and power sharing and career pathways. Let’s call that networking.

Space & Time to think differently and re-imagine/re-design how we work, who we are creating for and why. Radical change to achieve Equality of access, provision & power This is the big one. This is what we need time for and now we have it. Let’s not simply work out how to do what we have always done but digitally and remotely. Now we have time and space to reflect and influence and shape the society we want to be part of. We have been failing to reach new and diverse audiences. We continue to lack gender, racial, class and disability equality in our sector both in our audiences and participants and visitors and those who govern and lead our organisations and those who create the work. I would strongly argue that our structures and ways of working are not fit for purpose for 2020 and beyond.

Many were disenfranchised. Many were not included and involved and were not heard in our cultural sector. Much was amiss. Now is a time to think about how we address that and begin to do things differently. That means those who hold power, however large or small and in whatever shape listening and responding and investing in those without power.

My basic idea is a programme of remote learning and development and think-ins where we upskill, share knowledge and experience, we join up people AND the dots. We match mentors and mentees and peer mentors. And we pool ideas and thinking and brainstorm stuff together for the future. Jude Kelly my Clore mentor used to run something called ‘think-ins’ at the start of each new festival at the Southbank where she brought together diverse and interesting people who learnt from each other. I don’t just mean all the existing cultural leaders  teach a load of other people stuff (although I do think what’s in our combined minds and professional experience is of huge value and worth sharing). It is about everyone listening and learning too and bringing in unlikely alliances from beyond the cultural sector to enable us to think differently. And most importantly we pay people to take part and to host.

So imagine this

Imagine we create a strategically invested Wales wide  programme of learning and development, mentoring and networking and brave radical blue sky thinking that can be rolled out fast as well as financially and professionally support as many freelance creatives as possible?

Imagine the cultural sector Zoom Room Learning, Development & Radical Thinking Module Programme

Nb Paying Participants and Room Hosts is key for which ACW strategic investment is required

Each room host gets a fee for every 7.5 hours unless they are in a salaried position in an APW organisation.

Each participant gets the equivalent of a day’s fee and a day’s training (7.5 hours) spread over several days

The training module could be made up of for instance:

4 one hour group sessions

Two 1-2-1’s

Two think-in sessions

Participants could choose from

  • 4 one hour group sessions from a selection of ‘themed rooms’. Each ‘themed room will be hosted by leaders with experience and knowledge in those areas which between them will cover business planning; strategy; leadership; networking; branding; mission; vision & values work; resilience; policy; governance; influencing; fundraising; producing; touring; budgets; new writing; setting up a small business, access best practice; audience engagement, new thinking etc. etc.
  • 2 x one hour 1-2-1’s with people/hosts of their choice
  • Two 45 minute facilitated think-in conversation sessions bringing ideas for radical change and restructure underpinned by knowledge, facts and experience.

These can then be joined to and/or lead to Mentoring and Peer Mentoring matching, Open Spaces, Action Learning Sets and Organisation led Project working groups

 

Say we start with

  • Self-Producing Artists
  • Producers
  • Non-Core Funded companies

The Criteria for participants would, of course, have to be worked out. How often they can take part etc etc. perhaps we start with those who have received minimum of two project grants (however large or small) and produced a minimum of two projects in last five years.

But maybe we also start with those who have never even applied for ACW funding but meet another piece of criteria entirely? Perhaps every APW organisation pays an agreed number of their regular freelancers to take part.

However we do it, the key is that each participant gets the equivalent of a day’s fee and each room host gets a fee for every 7.5 hours. Unless they are salaried within an organisation.

So that is my basic idea.

That is what I am offering up. I wanted and needed you all to be part of that thinking and this offering. So I have three questions

What is your response to this sketch, this starter for 10?

What is your response to the identified needs? What has been missed?

What do you need and how do we together as a sector make that happen?

Ends….

Yvonne Murphy

3rd April 2020

Note beyond the meeting.

 

My apologies if you missed the meeting and we didn’t get your request for a link in time.

The Ask
A message from Yvonne following 17 April follow up #TheWorldHasChanged zoom room conversation.

This thinking began when there were still small grants available and I thought what I could do with one 10k grant or even better what could 10 people do with 10 10k grants.
Then the grants disappeared so I carried on thinking about it anyway and involved Catherine Paskell, Leonora Thomson and Michelle Carwardine-Palmer and we held two zoom conversations to think about it some more with over sixty of our peers. I thought well maybe ACW could strategically invest in something like this. They could not. They used everthing to emergency fund and stabilise quite rightly. Their pot of money was shockingly small to start with.

Now we know that stabilising grants cannot cover this kind of programme. We know things are incredibly tough and not all organisations may survive. How we use money as a sector is really important. Because some real change is needed and therefore some really radical big thinking and digging down is needed. The World Has Changed – How Should we? Is, we believe a question which needs some serious thought and investment of time, energy and money. My fear is that freelancers will not be ‘at the table’ when this thinking is done and that the fundamental changes to how we work, what we create and for whom and why will not be addressed. We cannot and must not return to how things were. We must listen carefully and act wisely and thoughtfully together.
Other thinking has been done around this. Fuel and David Jubb in England spring to mind. Others are being nudged into my inbox. Letters have been signed and sent to the Stage and the UK Government. All of this is good.

And so I now ask can a programme with this scale of ambition be realised if all Arts Council Core Funded Organisations pledge to invest in such a programme and then our two Governments do too?

So now my Ask is twofold.
1. If you are a core funded organisation will you partner with us? Will you pledge to invest in such a programme? We know funds are limited. They may be only a few who can actually invest financially. Some do have training budgets, outreach budgets, sector development budgets that could be used for this. If you can pledge this level of support that is amazing. And/or can you pledge to invest time? All those on salaries can you/will you pledge to invest your time in such a programme. To host/facilitate themed zoomed rooms? To mentor? To participate, lead, curate think-ins with multiple participants where we can dream and imagine the future of a sector and even possibly a society with art and culture at the very heart? To help create a programme where Organisations and Freelance artists and creatives are valued equally and collaborate for the greater good of all. Will you pledge to be involved in that today?
2. Are you a non-funded organisation or individual who wants to be part of such a programme?  A programme which could pay a lot of freelancers to learn, develop and think together with a lot of organisations and create a stronger, more equal more resilient sector.

DM me @YvonneMurphy111 on twitter or email me at y.murphy1@ntlworld.com

Take care & stay safe and well.

All best wishes,

Yvonne

 

 

 

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The Talking Shop Report

Executive Summary20190417_113515

 

“Talking shop is beautiful today. It’s a beautiful thing. It’s just a beautiful thing. We’re having beautiful conversations.” Talking Shop Visitor & Ex-Offender

Click here for a A short video about 2019 The Talking Shop Pilot

The Omidaze Production’s Talking Shop pilot took place between March 25 and April 20 2019 in 33 High Street Arcade Cardiff and was an Omidaze Productions R&D project made possible through the support of National Theatre Wales with additional support from Dirty Protest, Creative Cardiff and The National Assembly of Wales.

This report was written in the summer of 2019. I have edited it slightly now in the summer of 2020. The edits can be found in blue. The response to this pilot was overwhelmingly positive. The Talking Shop pilot received over 550 visitors aged from two to ninety-two, reaching across all social, ethnic and economic backgrounds.  A strong and urgent need to have a ‘shop window’ for arts and culture combined with public information on our political and democratic systems and structures in the very heart of our capital city was identified.

Those shop windows already exist. They are our cultural buildings. And yet they are not doing what they should. If they were there would have been no need to make a Talking Shop. When the pandemic hit I was in the process of securing funding to open a Talking Shop for a full year in the centre of Cardiff. Arts Council Wales had agreed to anchor fund it and we were in conversation with Creative Cardiff and I was about to meet the leader of Cardiff Council re match funding. I knew all along that we shouldn’t need a permanent Talking Shop as I write in the report. It was a provocation. My dream then and now is that every cultural building is a Talking Shop. 

There has now been a chorus of voices calling for us to rethink, reform, reshape our cultural sector in response to the Covid19 Global Pandemic. I am sharing this in the hope that it may help. Much has been written, talked and thought about since March 2020. It is both complex and very simple simultaneously. Here is the simple bit. 

  1. Open your doors. Actually physically open them and prop them open even when it is bloody freezing. Keep your doors open. I have worked in the sector for 30 years and still find it hard to walk through some doors. Even into buildings where I have worked. I can not overplay the importance of this. And do not lock any of your doors. If you try a locked door you may never bother to find the open one or ever come back. I heard in a zoom room recently about a theatre which has three main front doors. Two of which are always locked. You only know which one is the open one if you work there.  I have tried to get into theatres through the beautiful front door only to find it locked, feel embarrassed and stupid and then have to work out how to get in though a weird side door or given up and left. Spend less money on marketing. Open your doors. Literally and metaphorically.
  2. Put signs up. Not too many cos that is scary too but just one which says ‘come in’ or ‘welcome’. The two we had which most people commented on and said brought them in were ‘Free Tea‘ (see number 4) and ‘We are not selling anything. Ideas and Conversation are free‘.
  3. Create a welcomer role. Rotate it between your staff so that there is always someone near the door to welcome people in. Your staff should be meeting the people who walk through the door. Every single day. Explain what you do. Introduce people to the building, what it contains, it’s vision, mission and values and introduce them to other people. Connect artists with the public. No more closed doors remember. TELL people they are welcome. Give them permission to enter, to stay to just be. Explain to them that the space is theirs. It belongs to them. Their taxes pay for it so it is theirs to just be in. To sit. To Think. To talk. To read. To watch. Tell young people they can use this building to do their homework, meet their friends, shelter from the rain. Tell people they do not have to spend money to be here. They can stay as long as they like. And keep telling them. And tell them to tell their friends that every one is welcome in this building.
  4. Give people a cup of tea. FOR FREE. Have free tea on tap all day long. It is the cheapest thing you can do. It will not harm your cafe profits. It will increase them. People will still pay for overpriced fancy coffee and posh pricey cakes. But those who cant. They will feel welcome, watered and wanted. GIVE PEOPLE A CUP OF TEA! and then talk to them. It’s that simple. There is more complex stuff. But we can think and talk about all that over a cup of tea.
  5. Start a Conversation. Inside the building and outside. Don’t send a digital survey or an email. Switch your computer off and go and sit in the foyer and ask people open questions then shut up and listen to the answer. Really listen and then ask them to tell you more about that. Spend a minimum of one hour of every day in the public part of your building in conversation with people. Not in meetings. Random open conversations. Then go further than the front door. Into the city or town centre. Take some actors in costume or some objects from your collection. In 2013 I took actors onto the streets of Cardiff for two days. We asked people if they went to the theatre. What enticed them or  what stopped them. Their answers helped me work out where and how to make that show and confirmed my worst fears. The majority could only name one theatre in Cardiff if they could name one at all and the majority of people we spoke to had not been inside it. The main barriers were – cost, unknown quality, times of performance, shortness of run, uncomfortable & restrictive seating and knowledge of its existence. No one had talked to them about it.
  6. Get MessyWhen I had my first child I apologised to the health visitor about the mess, she said we worry about the homes where nothing is out of place because if you are spending time with your child you will prioritise that and not the housework. I think the same about cultural buildings. If all the staff are busy in the back office and the public spaces are tidy and empty then the very thing which should be your priority is being neglected. Creativity is messy and if your building is not buzzing with the messiness of the full spectrum people in all their beauty and wonder from morning until night then you are failing in your public duty as a publicly funded resource.

If you run a cultural building or organisation of any shape or size in the UK I would ask you to read this report. Every where you read ‘Talking Shop’ throughout the report simply replace with the words ‘cultural building’.

Thank you & with best wishes, Yvonne

“What an intriguing concept. An idea whose time has come”

Please note all quotes in bold are taken from the Talking Shop Visitor books unless otherwise accredited. Each quote is from a different visitor.

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Identified Needs:

Which I would argue are all needs which all of our cultural buildings should be meeting every single day

  • A dedicated public space for artists and creatives to meet the public and each other. To share and test ideas and concepts
  • A dedicated physical cultural information centre. A physical What’s On/listings hub
  • A physical information point for our democratic services, systems and processes allowing a fuller and deeper understanding of Local, Welsh and UK Government and thereby facilitating wider public engagement and more inclusive approach to democracy
  • A public forum for democratic discourse and debate
  • A space for artists and creatives to share their intellectual and physical resources and work in a smarter and more collective and collaborative fashion
  • A joining up of the Creative Industries/Arts wide ecology and industry entry points
  • A physical knowledge bank for the arts and Creative Industries where information, skills, knowledge and experience can be shared and promoted
  • A physical, open, inclusive, welcoming and non-commercial space in the centre of the city for all arts, cultural & creative industries to celebrate with the public the importance and value of arts and culture for us all in society.

 “Good Idea. Needs to be here full time”

The potential Return on Investment of a permanent Talking Shop, both in actual monetary terms and in social and cultural value is immeasurable. Investment in Arts and Culture has long been proven to be one of the most cost effective and successful and long term impact approaches to urban and economic redevelopment.

The impact of The Talking Shop Pilot on health, well-being, loneliness and social isolation, rehabilitation, reintegration and Cardiff’s homeless community was overwhelming in the short time it was open.

A permanent Talking Shop (or properly functioning cultural organisations) will therefore positively impact

  • Health,
  • Well-being
  • Loneliness & Social Isolation
  • Rehabilitation
  • Reintegration
  • Social services
  • Cardiff’s homeless crisis
  • Economics
  • Social Empathy
  • Cultural Capital & Value
  • Local Artists and Creatives & the wider Creative Industry and ecology
  • Cardiff and Wales’ Soft Power, Reputation and Brand

 

There is a clear and urgent need for all the things The Talking Shop offered during its short existence.  The question is why? Why do we need a permanent Talking Shop? Why now and why are these needs not already being met?

Where are our forums for debate and conversation? Where are the spaces where people can go for cultural and political information and collide, connect, collude, create and debate with people from different walks of life? Where can strangers meet and discuss big questions about life, art and politics? This came up time and time again in The Talking Shop. Why did people need and want the Talking Shop so much? What had we lost? Why were we being so overwhelmed by the response to what we had created? People named the pub and religious institutions as the lost forums along with social clubs and working men’s clubs attached to working class centres of employment.

 “My vision has been fed by this space. To kindly engage in social, political and environmental debate.” Josephine Green Talking Shop Visitor

The pub was once the stronghold of political and cultural discourse. However pubs are dying out like the high street. Economics and Health concerns have driven people away from the public houses. Similarly the patronage of traditional working men’s clubs and work affiliated social clubs has declined in accordance with the destruction and demise of many working class centres of employment. The modern factory – the call centre – does not have the same community feel and alcohol related loyalty surrounding it. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Alcohol was never a good mixer with calm and rational debate, good listening skills and balanced judgement. Alcohol would also prohibit the conversation from being inclusive to all. However the loss of the pub and club is felt and grieved nonetheless.

 “I love this space. Everyone is so friendly and engaging”

Another main forum used to be provided by religious establishments. The chapel, the church, the church hall, the synagogue, the temple or mosque and in many places and for many people this continues to be the case. However for many religion has ceased to offer a place and a meaning. Like alcohol, religion can sometimes be problematic when it comes to calm and rational debate, good listening skills, open-mindedness and inclusivity.  The retail location has become the new place of worship on a Saturday and Sunday for many. There has been no replacement for the lost sense of community, belonging, and forum for strangers to come together under one roof and share a common purpose.

And yet surely this is what our cultural institutions are for? We asked this over and over again in The Talking Shop? Why do we need a Talking Shop when we have theatres, Arts Centres, Libraries, Museums, Concert Halls? Why can we not gather there?

The answers came fast and furious each time we asked.

  • I would never go up to a stranger in the café of an arts centre and start a conversation
  • They are all too busy trying to survive and to survive they have to sell you stuff
  • I don’t feel welcome in them. No one looks like me
  • The Talking Shop would get lost in there
  • Each one is a brand. One vision. The Talking Shop is open to all and to all ideas
  • The library is too quiet
  • You have to buy something to sit down

Now Omidaze has a vision where all cultural institutions are welcoming and inclusive. Where all individuals in society feel and know that those publicly funded buildings belong to them, their families and friends. That they are theirs.  That no money needs to exchange hands. That the young and the old and everything in between feel welcome to walk in, sit down and own the space. To collide, connect and collude with artists on a daily basis. We know there are libraries which are already busy bustling buildings bursting with creative energy and arts centres full of people welcomed individually and actively brought together. However we also know from our own previous research and from speaking to over 550 visitors to The Talking Shop that many will not cross the threshold of our existing cultural institutions. That they do not feel that they belong or that they are relevant to them and theirs. We also know some things which will encourage the general public and non-traditional arts attendees to engage. If the venue is in the centre of the shops. If it is visible. If it is genuinely open to all. Non-judgemental. Welcoming. If it asks questions. If it shares the power. And is clearly not trying to sell you anything. If there is a host to greet you as you enter and introduce you to the space, its aims and its opportunities it offers and to put you at your ease. Oh and if you can get a cup of tea.

“Great to have a friendly venue where anyone can talk/meet. Great idea. Would be good to have more of these.”

This report examines what The Talking Shop aimed to do, who came and what we learnt and invites you to imagine, as you read this report, the potential impact of a permanent and properly funded Talking Shop in our City Centre.

20190416_143003

 

Introduction

 

Evocative and inspiring to a level I could not imagine.”

The Talking Shop pilot was a month long conversation with the public in Cardiff City Centre.

The Talking Shop was created by Yvonne Murphy / Omidaze Productions www.omidaze.co.uk in response to the fracturing of Britain following the 2016 Referendum. After many false starts Yvonne decided to bite the bullet and create a month long pilot version with just £5000 of Research & Development seed funding from National Theatre Wales and donations – £130.76 raised through Just Giving and £27.78 in cash donations inside the shop and an extra £500 from NTW  towards paying the actors for the sharing event on June 20 2019. The total of £5,658.54 paid for two writers, a production manager, a filmmaker, insurance, rent, print, materials, travel expenses for a student designer and a very small percentage of Omidaze time. Additional in-kind support came from Creative Cardiff, Dirty Protest, the outreach team of the Welsh Assembly and volunteers from the theatre industry.

 

“Just wanted to send you a message after Thursday’s Talking Shop event, to say how important I think your work is. I know the Talking Shop has all sorts of amazing benefits but the key on for me is the social side of things – not only finding people through networking which allows us to take steps toward leading the life we want, as well as helping others do the same – but also just simply finding people to talk to… There’s such a feeling of importance to this whole project. I hope something can come out of it.”

Lucy – Talking Shop Visitor and Rehearsed Readings Audience Member

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Chapter One. The Idea

 

“Love this space. Very Welcoming and Open”

The Talking Shop is a Cultural and Political Information & Creation Centre – a public R&D space which encourages and promotes cultural and political engagement.

Inside the pilot version Omidaze were researching and developing two things. Omidaze’s next production(s) and the concept of The Talking Shop itself.

 To do both these things we knew we had to seek out voices which are currently under-represented in our theatres, our live performances and our audiences. We decided to listen carefully to what excites, angers, engages and inspires people in Wales and Britain today. We wanted to hear people’s views and thoughts on politics, culture and society. Those views and opinions have helped to form three writers’ responses to The Talking Shop. This report is concerned with visitors’ responses to the concept of The Talking Shop itself.

We are living in turbulent and uncertain political times.

We know that we want to focus on political and cultural engagement.

We knew that we needed to not be behind closed doors to develop our next piece of theatre. We also thought the Talking Shop was a concept that might be needed and wanted and we decided to test that theory. We wanted and needed to get outside our bubble and talk and listen to people who did not look and sound like us and who had different views to our own to find out the answers.

We knew we needed to stop doing the talking and listen. Really listen. And perhaps have some difficult conversations.

And we did.

And now we would like to share with you what we might like to do next.

This in genuinely inspirational – mind opening. Society cohesion. Meeting others and learning different viewpoints. Getting challenged/educated. Thanks. I can grow as a person. Focussing on important issues. Free Conversation. This is an amazing idea. Thanks for starting this. I really appreciate this.” Talking Shop Visitor

The Talking Shop writers in residence were

Tracy Harris, Kyle Lima and Dick Johns

All writers received dramaturgical support from our partners National Theatre Wales and Dirty Protest.

A sample of their work which was written in response to their week long residencies in The Talking Shop, was presented as Public Rehearsed Readings on June 20th in Cardiff.

“One of the performed pieces from the writers’ work on Thursday really filled me with hope. It was the one about loneliness. I’ve always thought acknowledging loneliness and talking about it can really help to crush it, and it was overwhelming to sit in a room of people acknowledging the feeling. I really loved the piece. “

 Rehearsed Readings Audience Member

We are currently developing Kyle Lima’s piece with National Theatre Wales and separately developing Dick Johns script., which is now in its third draft.

This report is about what Omidaze Productions, led by Yvonne Murphy, found out during The Talking Shop Pilot and explains why we believe there is an identified need for a permanent Talking Shop in Cardiff City Centre and possibly beyond.

 

 

 

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Chapter Two. The Talking Shop Concept

The Talking Shop is a space for the public and artists to talk, and for artists to create in response. The Talking Shop encourages and facilitates public engagement with arts and culture, and political systems and structures. It is a public space in which to articulate, champion and strengthen the role of culture and democracy in society and empower through a sharing of information and knowledge.

The Talking Shop invites all artists & creatives and the public to use the space to work, to think, to talk, to find stuff out, to share, to be. Together.

 “I came here not knowing what to expect but I’ve met some lovely new people from different places and cultures and walks of life. It’s a positive vibe to come to a place and actively engage with people- chat, have an open mind and share some food….it feels like a good example of opening your door and people will come and engage on their own terms. Diverse Cardiff.”

The Talking Shop – A Cultural Information Centre
In The Talking Shop you can find out things. What’s on in theatres and performance spaces in Cardiff and beyond? What shows are on in galleries, what exhibitions are happening, concerts and workshops? You can find out about creative learning and participation projects and how to book an artist to deliver work in your school or business. It is a physical listings hub. A place to drop in and find stuff out. To add to. To be part of. It is a physical ‘What’s On’ Space. It is a one-stop shop which everyone helped curate.

 “How lovely, a place to re-connect, share, brew ideas, troubleshoot and learn. Generous and informative – much needed. Will be back soon!”

The Talking Shop – A Political Information Centre
It is also a place to find out about and understand our political structures and systems. It has no political bias or party affiliation. Our political systems and structures are explained. The difference, for example, between local elections and general elections. You can pick up leaflets and information about the engagement team at the Welsh Assembly or book a workshop to come to your school. You can find out about our parliaments, how to start a petition and who holds the power. Who to speak to about what. Access, Engagement and Social Justice are key.

“A lack of communication is bad for communities. Interaction in politics is vital for young people. Da iawn. Love it here. “Talking Shop Visitor

 

The Talking Shop – A Creative Centre
Collide. Connect. Collude. Create. Debate.

The Talking Shop is for artists, creatives and the public to get together, share ideas, collaborate. It is a new way of working. We invite people to just pop in and sit on the sofa. Have a cup of tea and be inspired, challenged, informed.

Truly the best way to spend a Saturday. I cannot remember the last time I learnt this much or was with a varying amount of different professionals – Artists, Historians, Children’s Writers, Actors, Lecturers, Students. Without conversations we are nothing.” Talking Shop Visitor Jonathan Rowland

We invited artists and creatives and members of the public to just drop in and meet each other. To share information, ask questions, discuss. We positioned questions around the shop and invited the public to discuss a new question each day. We invited people to step inside. To think about this. Together.

Because as an old Japanese proverb says “None of us are as smart as all of us”

“What a great place for artists and non-artists to share the space for ideas and discussion. Love the vibe of just dropping in and having a chat over a cuppa. Hope you grow further. Every town needs such a space”

 

Chapter Three. The Talking Shop Pilot – Who came?

 

Even before the doors opened on Monday 25 March 2019 the interest in The Talking Shop was high. There was a buzz. An energy. A curiosity. As we painted the questions on the wall people stopped and looked in. Talked to their companion. Pointed. Stood and considered.

 “Love that art is getting thrusted into our vibrant city”

Sample Talking Shop Questions

What Kind of Society do you want?

Why do you/ why do you not vote?

What does culture mean to you?

100 years since the first women got the vote why have we still not achieved gender equality?

What do we need to do to truly achieve cultural democracy?

What do we need to do to ensure the next generation are empowered and engaged citizens?

What does political and cultural engagement mean to you?

How do we engage everyone in celebrating art and culture?

Have you ever been inside the Senedd or the House of Commons?

Health, Education & Arts/Culture – the three pillars of a civilised society – discuss

 

As we prepared the Talking Shop we thought we might have to work really hard to tempt people inside the door once we opened. This was not the case. People just came. They walked through the door and the more people who were in the shop the more people felt comfortable to enter. Many people told us they had returned because they simply couldn’t get in when they first came because it was so busy.

 

“I feel like I’ve just come home” Talking Shop Visitor

 

The visitors were the full range of diverse from age 2 to 92, all classes, races, physical abilities, all backgrounds. From carers and those for whom they cared to members of the homeless community and those recently released from prison desperate for somewhere interesting to be, something interesting to do to fill the long hours of the day.

 

“I think of the shop as a place if you want a chat and love talking about history and is a good option of a place to go” – Talking Shop visitor recently released from prison

 

Shoppers out for the day in Cardiff who were just passing by or sheltering in the arcade from the rain came in. Parents with their young, teenage and grown up children connecting over today’s conversation and a cup of tea. The lonely, the isolated and the vulnerable and those who simply fancied a look and a chat.

 

“As an individual I have a lot of anxiety about talking to people. This is a beautifully invested idea”

 

The politically engaged entered as did the politically disaffected and disenfranchised. Educators and those still in education came and talked with the retired, the unemployed, the employed, the self-employed, the homeless and the well off and everything in between. Tourists, visitors and locals. People from all over Cardiff, Wales, the UK, Europe and the World. Those who had fled war zones and conflict in their countries to those who had decided to leave Britain.

 

“I am a tourist and when I visited The Talking Shop I found hope in the people. Thanks Cardiff”

 

Some visitors had voted Leave. Some had voted Remain. Some would never vote again. Some had not yet had the opportunity to vote. They all came.

 

“Amazing shop which welcomes everyone. Brilliant idea. I hope it becomes permanent. Thank you.”

 

They sat and talked. Together. Some stayed for five minutes some stayed for hours. Many came back time and time again.

 

“Inspired by this …the idea of creating a apace where all are welcome. All ideas, creeds, persuasions and beings. The sign saying ‘we are not selling anything’ sold me on coming in!! ….In this virtual world where isolation is becoming our norm despite how much we rail against it, spaces that allow people to engage, in person are invaluable beyond measure. There could be one of these in every city…a space to be heard, to be seen, to engage and share our ideas, our fears and most importantly our solutions. From the grass roots up.” Talking Shop Visitor

 

All visitors, without exception, gave positive feedback about The Talking Shop. Expressed a need for it. A joy at finding it.

 

“This shop is a much needed permanent space within Cardiff. Enlightening.”

 

Every single visitor, without exception, listened to each other with kindness and respect. There was not one raised voice. Not one moment of anger or unkindness. All were equal within the walls of the Talking Shop. No one had higher status than anyone else. Only one visitor struggled with this when he entered and attempted to instil his status and hold court. He quickly accepted this was out of place when serenaded by a regular visitor who played his guitar and sang him ‘Fly Me To The Moon’. All were welcome. All were valued. All were listened to. All were offered a cup of tea.

 

“The Talking Shop is amazing because you don’t have to be privileged to be here”

Talking Shop Visitor & Asylum Refugee

 

“Inspiring space and a wonderful reminder that Wales remains a place of culture and diversity…An encouraging affirmation that open mindedness and imagination still prevail

 

The Talking Shop was ‘looked after’ by members of Cardiff’s homeless community who came daily to check we were safe and there were no drugs being dealt near the shop or brought inside. They moved the wheelie bins each day so that the windows were not obscured and brought the Talking Shop hosts and visitors gifts of food!

The homeless community sent the Cardiff Council outreach team to meet us and The Talking Shop became a listed place for people to safely visit and hang out and for the Outreach team to hold coffee mornings.

Recently released ex-offenders came regularly and the Talking Shop hosts began to understand the empty stretching hours that needed to be filled if you are still on probation. Still tagged and unable to be employed. Where do you go? What do you do? The Talking Shop became a place to go. To have a cup of tea and interesting conversations and to begin to reintegrate into society.

 

“Dialogue is the bedrock of expression of humanity. Let’s keep doing it.”

 

Some days it was really quiet for hours on end and we held the space for a small handful of people. Some of the most vulnerable and isolated in our city.

 

“Very interesting. This place caught my eye with its big thought provoking questions”

 

And then the shop would fill up and those isolated people from the edge of society were surrounded, on the sofas and chairs. by people from all walks of life, all having an animated conversation together. Sat with one of the writers or sat around the table with the host and a bunch of other visitors debating today’s question. It was impossible to predict who would come. But come they did and it was a privilege to host them in that tiny space brimming full of big ideas.

 

“The work you are doing here is absolutely essential” Talking Shop Visitor

 

 

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Chapter Four. The main reasons people visited the Talking Shop

People came, they said, because of the welcoming design and information on the walls and windows inviting them to step inside and discuss today’s question or pick up some information. The door was always propped open and a host was always there to welcome each new visitor.

 

“I love this place!!” You step in and there’s immediate opportunities, from the leaflets and posters- new ideas and new experiences are promised here…..”

 

They came because of two main signs in the window. One saying “We are not selling anything”

 

“So great to be able to come somewhere, connect with others and be in a space defined by conversation rather than materialism. A place that doesn’t monetise being, talking and connecting”

 

& one saying “Free Tea”

 

“What a great place to talk and connect with people. Thanks for the tea and conversation”

 

They came because they wanted/needed to have a conversation. They wanted or needed to talk.  And to be heard.

 

“At last a place to engage creatively and on a human level. Let’s celebrate and share arts and culture. Let’s keep it open permanently. There is a need for dialogue to take place. Thank you.”

 

“We need places to chat, have conversations, to listen to one another and be civil. We are losing the art of civil interaction so we need to invest in spaces where we can get together and share our social experiences.”

 

And lastly they came because they had heard about it. From a friend, colleague or relative.  Because someone else brought them or because they had heard about it on social media. In just over a week The Talking Shop became an established place. A place which art lecturers included on their gallery walking tour with students. A place people agreed to meet. A place which people could and did host events.

 

“This feel like the internet but live”

 

Hosting/holding the space was key. This was done mainly by the two Omidaze partners with the support of a small bank of volunteers from the theatre industry. Having a constant facilitator/host to welcome and explain the space was, we are sure, key to its success.

 

Sincere space that is sanctified by love is an invaluable escape for people who need it”

 

Everyone who entered was personally greeted and welcomed. They were told that others deep in conversation were strangers who had just met. The frequent response was “really?”

 

“Such a great idea promoting a comfortable, open, friendly, positive space to discuss not only political debate, but social – talked so much with people!

 

Each new visitor was invited to join in, browse, write in one of the visitor’s books or on the wall or pick up a leaflet or just sit. Read a book. Do their work. Think. Simply just be in the space.

 

“Thank you for providing a space to connect, talk and discuss or JUST BE!”

 

Many creatives and artists came. Photographers, poets, illustrators, film makers, playwrights, theatre makers, actors, musicians, composers, animators, journalists, dancers, choreographers, game designers, directors, producers, CEO’s of national Portfolio Companies and freelancers just starting out in their career. New creative collaborations began. Contact details were exchanged. Meeting arranged. Collaborations born.

 

“Great idea – we need a space for people to vent, debate, discuss, understand and engage. Our civic spaces are disappearing. Our cultural institutions are busy becoming Global Brands. Where is there a space? It is Here.”

 

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Chapter Five. Political & Cultural Engagement

First the cultural aspect –Omidaze have identified a need for a physical Arts & Cultural Information Space in Cardiff. There has been much conversation around a digital comprehensive ‘What’s On’ Site and this is something we support. However the digital cannot and will not replace the need and impact of human interaction and engagement.

 

“I think it is a great idea to get people talking and connecting. Spaces like this are invaluable. We need to break down walls and respect each other/increase tolerance in the world.” Talking Shop Visitor

 

Omidaze’s approach to all of our work is to make the invisible visible. To break open the artistic and creative process to encourage and deepen engagement. We are not interested in simply selling a product. We want to use theatre and the arts generally to inspire, inform, empower and challenge the existing status quo toward positive social change. That is why we want people to know what is on and where. That is why we want the public and artists to have a space within our city where they can collide, connect and collude on a daily basis. A space which does not have to worry about diversifying income streams, selling to everyone who comes through the door, its brand or its balance sheet.

 

“Fabulous that this space has been created. Really fascinating and thought provoking experiment in engagement. Bring on the permanent space.” Talking Shop Visitor

 

Omidaze and many cultural leaders and artists in Wales and across the UK seek to engage everyone in valuing and celebrating arts and culture and in shaping a future where these are fundamental to our society. However in many ways we are failing.

There is an identified problem within the arts and cultural sector not just in Cardiff and Wales but the UK generally. Much work has been done to try and create cultural democracy and facilitate an equal and diverse workforce within the industry and also to reach more diverse participants, visitors and audiences.

 

“I don’t like going in there. Even though I live round the corner. No one in there looks like me. It makes me feel uncomfortable. Like I don’t belong.” Talking Shop Visitor explaining why she doesn’t go inside a cultural building in Cardiff which is on her doorstep.

 

We know that many visitors who walked through the door of The Talking Shop had never walked into one of Cardiff’s many cultural institutions, our theatres, galleries, museums and concert halls. We know that because they told us.

 

We often tweeted the question of the day. The question ‘How do we collectively shape a future society where access to arts and culture is valued as a fundamental right of every citizen?’ received the following response via twitter –

 

“It starts with decolonising arts and cultural spaces as a priority. Something cannot be valued for and by every citizen until we unravel and destroy the white supremacist roots. Until then many will continue to see art as not for them, because it ultimately isn’t, Before we put forward any kind of argument to larger organisations (local government etc.) about the intrinsic worth of cultural activity to *every* citizen we need to acknowledge that it currently does not reach and include many marginalised communities. And that collective shaping has to come from those in power within the artistic community acknowledging their position (and that will mean giving up power) and actively creating space for those who are often barred from participating. I believe these actions and the change that needs to happen can, in itself, demonstrate the importance of arts and culture. Right now it’s not important to many people and no cleverly written funding application/manifesto can change that.”

 

Omidaze believe The Talking Shop could and should be a fundamental component in a cultural revolution and evolution towards cultural democracy in Wales and beyond.

 

Terrific idea – bringing the arts to literally the public square – encouraging people to engage, to connect, to learn, to inspire and be inspired. I am very impressed.”

 

The Talking Shop took conversations from movements such as What Next? Culture www.whatnextculture.co.uk and placed them smack bang in the centre of our Capital City . Writing statements and statistics on the shop walls as windows such as

Access to art and culture is proven to

  • Create informed and engaged citizens
  • Promotes better health and well-being
  • Increases community cohesion and regeneration
  • Improves the employability of our worksforce

All cultural organisations make a major contribution to the national and local economy.

Students from low income families who engage in the arts score better in standard academic tests compared to those who do not (NELS:88 survey Doing Well & Doing Good by Art 2009)

The CASE review found that taking part in structured arts activities could increase children’s cognitive abilities by an average of 16-19&

The arts and culture enhance every aspect of our lives in ways that are often unacknowledged: the vibrancy of our cities, the identity of our rural communities, the future prospects of our children, the quality of our democracy, the employability of our workforce, our ability to make sense of our own experience and to empathise with others.

 “Your windows brought me in. Your conversations made me think!”

“Arts should be accessible for all. Arts should allow people to express their views and opinions on the world. You have created a special place for me today. Together we can fight for the arts. “Carissa Talking Shop Visitor

 

How we follow up on the feedback and response is very important. And by ‘we’ we do not just mean Omidaze. We mean the cultural sector, the arts and cultural funders and investors, local and national government here in Cardiff and Wales and anyone with a vested interest in cultural and political and civic engagement because –

 

“Culture means Different. I want a strong, diverse, friendly society”

 “Great opportunity to start thinking about our social context and become more responsible and free. Would like the talking shop to stay open permanently”

 

 

And the political engagement aspect?

 

“We have a democratic deficit and civic disengagement because people have forgotten how to talk.” Talking Shop Visitor’s Book

 

Omidaze believe art and politics are inexplicably linked. The majority of visitors to The Talking Shop agreed.

 

“Really important to have a place where people can openly discuss issues no matter what perspective you come from. Politics and arts are entwined. Please keep things like this alive!!” Talking Shop Visitor

 

We want to provide not just information about arts and culture. We want to help inform citizens about our democratic processes, systems and structures. We believe part of the reason we are where we are in the UK politically is because many citizens lack a basic understanding of how the many levels of our governments and democracy actually work. How local government fits together with devolved government and then in turn with Westminster and the European Union levels of democracy. We identified a desperate need for better public information back in 2016 and created an interactive workshop which explains our democratic history and current system which we toured free to schools (primary and secondary) with our 2017 production of Romeo and Juliet. We wanted to extend this work and take this information to the public at large which is why we partnered once again with the Welsh Assembly and why we created The Talking Shop.

 

“So important to have a space which makes people THINK and ASK QUESTIONS.” Talking Shop Visitor

 

We have many ideas of how this could happen creatively and imaginatively within a future permanent Talking Shop space including short animated films which explain everything from the House of Commons, House of Lords and the Senedd to what your Assembly Member, Councillors and MP actually do and what the job and powers of parliaments and governments actually are and who is responsible for what. We would also want to run free public and school ‘understanding democracy’ workshops in partnership with the Assembly and Westminster.

 

“I think this place is a good idea. I live in Cardiff from 2007 but the information I have today I never know before that you can go to your Welsh Government for some of the information I had today” Gambian female working as adult carer

 

We know there is a need for citizens to be better informed. We talked to all our visitors. We asked them how much they knew and understood. We explained things and gave them leaflets and showed them how and where to get more information. They all said, without exception that it needs to be taught in schools. The majority wanted or needed to know more than they knew. All welcomed and embraced the offer being made and believed it to be of high importance and value.

 

“I think this place is wonderful and really helpful. I have been living in Cardiff for almost 12 years but I find myself I don’t know about lots of information about the law and am so happy with what I received from this place so far. Really amazing. Thank you. Adwa Farah. Sudanese refugee now British citizen working as Adult Care Worker in Cardiff

 

 

 

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Chapter Six. Art & Culture – the third pillar of a civilised society.

Omidaze believe that art and culture needs to be an unquestionable right of every Welsh and British citizen from the cradle to the grave along with the National Health Service and State Education. We fundamentally believe that those three things – Health, Education and Art/Culture are the three pillars of a civilised society. All three are not and must not be viewed as private luxuries. All three are public goods and free access to them is essential.

 “Art and culture are not just an enjoyable or challenging way of spending a few hours between work and sleep. They permeate our existence through architecture, industrial design, fashion, television, telecommunication, media, advertising and so on. We cannot choose not to have them. We can only choose what quality of art and culture we and future generations will experience.” David Lan Founder of The What Next? Cultural Movement

 In Wales we are leading the way with a new curriculum in response to the Donaldson Report which challenged our political leaders in Wales

to develop ambitious, capable learners, ready to learn throughout their lives, enterprising creative contributors, ready to play a full part in life and work; ethical informed citizens of Wales and the world; and healthy, confident indiviuals ready to live fulfilling lives as valued members of society. (Donaldson Report)

The Talking Shop shares and supports that vision We know that

Employability of students who study arts subjects is higher and they are more likely to stay in employment (DTZ Arts & Employability 2006)

and that

Students who engage in arts in school are twice as likely to volunteer and are 20% more likely to vote as adults (CASE research DCMS)

Omidaze agree with such leading modern day thinkers as Charles Leadbetter

Mass creativity will thrive in societies with education systems that are curiousity-led, create high levels of self-motivation and promote collaboration between learners. An inflexible, top down, standardized curriculum may be a good answer to industrial economy’s demand for puntual, literate, diligent workers capable of following rules and proceedures. An innovation economy requires more than that. “ Charles Leadbetter – The Ten Habits of Mass Innovation.

 

If we in Wales are to revolutionise the way we education the future generations and lead the way with the Well Being & Future Generations Act then we need to walk the talk in all areas of our society including our future vision for civic and community life.

 

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Chapter Seven.  Imagining a Future

“When one.. considers our intelligence, powers of communication, capacity for knowledge acquistion and sharing – along with magnificent works of art, architecture and music we create– humans genuinely do stand out as a a very different kind of animal. Our culture seems to seperate us from the rest of nature…Human accomplishments derive from our ability to aquire knowledge from others and to use that communal store of experience to devise novel solutions to life’s challenges….The emerging consensus is that humanity’s accomplishments derive from an ability to acquire knowledge and skills from other people….It was not our large brains, intelligence or language that gave us culture, but rather our culture that gave us large brains, intelligence and language.” Kevin Laland professor of Behavioural & Evolutionary Biology at the University of St Andrews in Scotland How Culture Made the Human Mind

Omidaze are not alone in thinking that art and culture could and should play a part in how we address some of our most pressing concerns and help us find imaginative and creative solutions to our modern day challenges and problems from social isolation to the climate emergency.

My dream is also that we fully establish the third pillar of a civilised and compassionate society. 1. Health and our NHS for our bodies. 2. State Education for our minds 3. State Arts and Culture accessible for all (Described so brilliantly by Tarek Iskander as a National Arts Service https://www.thestage.co.uk/features/theatre-2021-tarek-iskander-on-a-national-arts-service) but that is a separate blog post.

In a time when we are supposedly more connected than ever before at the touch of a button there is an epidemic of loneliness sweeping across our country and across all generations. The Talking Shop can help with that.

 

As we become more technologically advanced and have better methods of communication we’ve lost quality, emotional and purposeful connection. We need more spaces like this.”

 

Human beings need human contact. They need to see people. Real people. Every day. Talking is therapy. It is proven that talking heals. Talking allows us to process. Talking allows us to take part and form connections and relationships.

 

“This is an important space and should be permanent. It will be a brilliant way to bring the creative community together and to open up conversations with each other and the public. A permanent space would have untold benefits for the cultural life of the city,”

 

Art and culture extends this and allows us to become the people we have the potential to be.

 

“Enriching our aesthetic experience goes together with developing our powers of imagination and understanding. Art engages both the emotions and the intellect…If we develop our ability to respond to art we shall develop our potential as human beings” Anne Shepherd Aesthetics – An introduction to the philosophy of art. Professor of Philosophy & Classics at Oxford, Durham and Royal Holloway Universities.

 

The Talking Shop will provide a shop window for art and culture in the very centre of our city and a place where everyone can connect through culture and conversation.

 

“Arts and Culture is the connection between what we know and what we are to discover. Let’s keep this coming.”

 

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best

 

“This place is needed! –opportunities to connect and feel like you can take part in the world! “

 

A permanent Talking Shop will tackle many identified problems.

It will become, like the pilot, a destination for those in society who need to find new networks. Inside we can signpost to more specialised and established support networks which already exist in the city regarding for example mental health & addiction.

We had many visitors who disclosed they suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome. Here is a quote from one such young visitor-

 

“This place is nice, calming almost. A good atmosphere for debate. A place for discussion and conversation on the more important topics in the world. A place that’s needed for the propagation of ideas, ideals, reality, dreams. There needs to be more of this.”

 

The Talking Shop can and will provide a gateway. For those seeking to rehabilitate and re-engage. It will provide a safe space to meet new people and be exposed to creative art projects.

 

“Such a cool place. I loved meeting new people and hearing so many different perspectives.”

 

The important thing about the Talking Shop is that is does not target any one type of person or group. It does not target one specific group or demographic. It does not appeal to one social group more than the other. Its beauty is in its truly democratic nature. It welcomes everyone and then invites everyone to meet each other. You do not tackle loneliness by reaching out to a self-identifying group of socially isolated people. You do not help people reintegrate by inviting only people who need to reintegrate to the party. You open the doors to everyone. You provoke curiosity and generate generosity of spirit by demonstrating it. By leading the way. The Talking Shop is a melting magical pot which allows us to genuinely think about things TOGETHER.

 

“This has been fantastic. I am new to Cardiff and met sooooo many people from different areas and backgrounds. More please!”

 

The Talking Shop will allow artists in Cardiff to work collectively. This is something which has come up time and time again. The need for us to work better and smarter. To share both our intellectual and physical resources. To have a space in which to think things through. Not hot desk. To dream. To collide, connect, collude, collaborate and create. In that order.

And to do that in a space where the public can be part of that process is vital if we are to achieve cultural democracy.

 

 “A lovely 20 minutes talking about life, art, politics and peace. What a fab idea this Talking Shop is. Art(s) unite all of us, a common language that links every human on the planet.”

 

The British High Street is dying and needs to be re-imagined

UK Government Website: The UK government-appointed panel made up representatives from the retail, property and design sectors has published practical recommendations to reinvigorate town centres by creating a community hub which, alongside retail, includes leisure and social services and more residential property.

The report puts community involvement and local leadership at the centre of a plan to create the town centres of the future.

The panel was appointed by High Streets Minister Jake Berry MP earlier this year to diagnose issues affecting our high streets and town centres and advise on measures to keep them thriving.

In October, the panel provided interim recommendations, which the government responded to by announcing the creation of a £675 million Future High Streets Fund to help improve and restore high streets as well as a Town Centre Taskforce to give local leaders support in implementing local schemes. Today’s report sets out further advice of how to implement this funding

Retail industry experts have called for a community-focused approach to tackling the challenges facing high streets and town centres across the UK. Chair of the expert panel, Sir John Timpson said:

“When the panel was formed, we knew high streets would never be the same again, but we were delighted to discover places where imaginative developments have increased footfall and reduced the number of empty shops.

By helping our towns create their own individual community hub, I believe we will have vibrant town centres to provide a much-needed place for face to face contact in the digital age.

I have learnt, from my own business, that the best way to get things done is to give people on the front line the freedom to get on with the job in the way they know best. We are applying the same Upside Down Government principle to the development of our town centres, with our Town Centre Task Force there to mentor, encourage and clear any obstacles out of the way while giving the clear message to inspirational local leaders that they are free to turn their plans into reality.”

High Streets Minister Jake Berry MP said:

“High streets and town centres play an important role in the life of our communities.

I thank Sir John and the panel members who have worked extremely hard and proposed tangible ways to keep these treasured spaces alive and thriving for generations.

We have already taken action by announcing plans to set up a Future High Streets Fund and Task Force, alongside slashing business rates for up to a third of small retailers. We will carefully consider these recommendations.”

Recommendations

The panel’s recommendations include:

  • The creation of the Town Centre Task Force supporting local leaders to act as a single voice in finding unique solutions for communities.
  • The Future High Streets Fund to help local authorities with both finance and resource. In October’s Budget, the Chancellor announced a £675 million Future High Street Fund towards better spaces for communities in response to Sir John Timpson’s interim recommendations made earlier this year.
  • Immediate measures to help high streets and town centres including a ‘National High Street Perfect Day’ – one day a year where local communities would take ownerships of ensuring their town centre looked as good as possible.
  • The panel encourages local communities to think innovatively about empty properties and welcomes the government’s Open Doors scheme which opens empty shops to community groups.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/675-million-fund-to-transform-high-streets-and-town-centres-opens-to-communities

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/timpson-says-a-locally-driven-approach-needed-to-rejuvenate-high-streets

 

“Yes these spaces are important. Online discourse doesn’t encourage in-depth dialogue. The viral nature of virtual platforms leaves people chasing soundbites and controversial dialogue. We need physical spaces and face to face dialogue to rediscover how to communicate about difficult subjects. How to gracefully disagree. How to spend time with each other, learn, exchange and (God Forbid) change our mind and understand each other.” Talking Shop Visitor

 

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Chapter Eight. Vision for a large scale permanent version of The Talking Shop

 

“This is very much a need. Life today for many is lived in a vacuum of decision making at all levels, a lack of awareness, of entitlement, of stimulation. Culture, in its many forms, can change this.” Gareth Jones Talking Shop Visitor

Below is what I thought one year ago. The world has changed since then. There is no time for a permanent Talking Shop to to act as a provocation. Some of this chapter is still relevant but mainly we need to realise the ultimate vision NOW and not tomorrow. The most often heard quote in The Talking Shop was that ‘every town needs a Talking Shop’. Actually every town needs a cultural building and every cultural building could and should be a Talking Shop or what it represented. Every person who runs a cultural building has a duty to transform that building to ensure the full spectrum of humanity walk through its doors and feel welcome and that they belong, every single day.

To clarify, as was made clear in the Executive Summary, our ultimate vision is that there is no gap or identified need and that our existing cultural institutions can be all be Cultural and Political Information and Creation Centres and all that The Talking Shop was and aims to be. That there exists no barrier to access of the arts and democracy and that there exists a well-informed electorate and population who have a plethora of public forums to choose from in which to connect, collide, collude, collaborate, create and debate.

We are also open to the concept of a touring or mobile pop up Talking Shop which came up a lot in our pilot.

If we have learnt anything though it is that we must begin. We must start somewhere. We must model it. We must demonstrate what we mean and then let the public demand it.

Omidaze’s short-term immediate vision then is of a two – three floor shop unit. It will be located where there is good footfall and have a presence on the main street if in an arcade.

The ground floor will be the public space as per The Talking Shop pilot. This will have greater square foot that the pilot space and will therefore be able to provide quiet public space for reading, thinking, reflecting as well as welcoming the public visitors to join open conversations on the topic/question of the day.

Floor one would be a dedicated rehearsal and workshop space. This can be booked out by companies/individuals who are part of the collective and contribute to the overall running of the space. It will be booked on a first come first served basis with a maximum number of weeks per company/individual. It could be run on a token/members basis i.e. those contributing to the running/curation/upkeep of the space earn tokens which they can redeem to use to book the room. Floor one can also be used to host creative, arts, cultural events where arts/cultural organisations/artists want to meet the public about a specific theme, project, idea or R&D initiative.

Floor Two or basement if possible. A quiet flexible working space for creatives within the collective and shared admin, marketing, fundraising, accounts resources.

The collective would be formed of interested companies and individual artists with a bias towards those producing or creating live performance.

 

“The arts and cultural sector acts as the engine room and R&D department for the creative industries, the most rapidly growing sector of our economy.” David Lan What Next? Culture

 

The Talking Shop would be a non-commercial enterprise however it would potentially have the capacity to generate income.

 

“Great project. Great chat. Thank you very much, lots of food for thought.”

 

“Great to see this. Needs to be happening more….conversations in a safe space where we feel welcomed. Love to see this happening again.”

“A lot of thoughts now entering my mind and questions to continue asking myself.” Talking Shop Visitor.

We can sit endlessly behind closed doors discussing how we engage more people in arts and culture. Thinking about how we diversify and reach the ‘hard to reach’. Or we can begin to accept that perhaps the ‘hard to reach’ is the sector itself and begin to change what we do ourselves rather than just keep building the same thing in the same shape again and again and again and wondering why the same problems persist.

Four and a half years ago Yvonne Murphy was encouraging people to attend What Next meetings in Cardiff. “But isn’t it just another Talking Shop?” came one reply. This project is her response.

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Chapter Ten. And finally a response to The Talking Shop – Homeless Creative to Omidaze Talking Shop

May 2, 2019

Oh!!! My!!! Days!!!

What have you done? How, before you even opened, had you created something that any urban desert of concrete and glass commercialism can never now exist without?

I’m an artist. Creating things that are not known to be needed is my craft. I know when something has been birthed in only truth and love of truth. To see that there are others, and some who have given up trying to be artists, and with this have acquired an honorary PHD and a golden key in Humanity from the Universe City and have become Artiste, meaning, fully operationally creative Human Beings, restores a little faith.

This cultural gestational flowerpot in the urban desert of steel and glass consumerism is beyond an oasis. It is a sanctuary. A temple to the possibilities of humanity, and the fruits of open human communication.

A shop that sells nothing but offers you a little bit of you that you had forgotten about. You walk past and you can feel the energy here. A Talking Shop? Or is it a true head-space, soul-space, a little field of Daffodils in the heart of Cardiff for the spirit to enter and soar above. But it’s not just Cardiff, of course, as Cardiff is not just Wales, it’s a consulate of Humanity.

There might be a writer, or an artist, or a director , or an old lady whose words could save your soul or change the nature of your reality, or a homeless guy who realises that he has ‘power’ in his humanity. Conversation is always flowing. You listen for a moment because you have that appointment, but wait, didn’t that artist just agree with me about something nobody agrees about? You text your friend who is waiting on you and tell them to come and meet you. You tell them they’ll love the shop. When they get there the usual question arises ‘Why has this not always just ‘been’? Why is there not more? Why did we not know we needed this?

Is there a whole cultural and political universe of forums that we have not looked at yet? Of course. Of course, so, it feels beyond exciting. It feels expected, awaited, anticipated, and yet, it was an ideal that I had not considered yet now feel almost broken-hearted that it soon must close its doors. For whatever reason the opening and existence of the Talking Shop has brought an energy, a big Eureka, to the commercial district, and it has invigorated and shaken awake so many creatives, artists minds that one feels now humbled passing it by.

On the 20th of April The Talking Shop will hold its last day in its present form. There are hopes that conducted with the correct energy and intention this could become a permanent installation, a little reservoir of sanity in the centre of the city, and maybe the arising of a new political class if Yvonne Murphy of Omidaze is anything to go by. She and her husband Richard have produced a truly innovative, original, and beautiful concept that upon reflection harks back to some of the political and activist offices of San Francisco or New York back in the 70s, drop ins for artists, revolutionaries, politicians, little old ladies, where the idea for a new political party or ideal could arise, or where a musician might pen a hit record about Brexit and the Tories, or maybe a new form of government is discussed, thrashed out, and gestated in the hearts of a few.

The Talking Shop is one of the most human and beautiful contributions to any commercial area in a capital that I have ever seen. Even the layout is welcoming. There is nothing about the exterior or interior that could ward anyone off. If buildings, premises, shops and units were to be considered as food items of a commercial district, The Talking Shop would be the desert, a cake ,baked by cakeaholics and foodies who want to share their culinary joys and pleasures with us, because they may have actually figured out a more efficient recipe with more abundant ingredients, that could get the whole world eating cake, or even bread alone if it befit the man, but at least the choice should be permitted unilaterally, and never enforced.

Yours with deepest loyalty and respect,

– …well…+

The Writer – A Homeless Creative in Cardiff City Centre – was a regular visitor and supporter of The Talking Shop.

What a great idea. I hope you get to take this/something similar around Wales to capture the energy of future generations. How about a stand at the Royal Welsh? Eisteddfod?”

Omidaze would like to thank National Theatre Wales for making this Talking Shop pilot possible and to Dirty Protest, Creative Cardiff and the Outreach, Engagement team at The Welsh Assembly and Steve Bines for all their unwavering support in the idea over several years.

We would also like to thank the many creatives who gave their time for free and without whom we could not have done this pilot Talking Shop project. These include Catherine Paskell for her dramaturgical support and advice, our student designers Bethan Thomas and Ashley Phillips from UWTSD, our many student illustrators from Cardiff Met including Maria Elorza and our Talking Shop volunteers Ella Maxwell, George Soave, Jennifer Lunn, Shane Nickels and Lewis Gwyther.  Thank you.

Report compiled and written by Yvonne Murphy

23 June 2019

Copyright Omidaze Productions

www.omidaze.co.uk

y.murphy1@ntlworld.com

07949 626538

 

“Talk, exchange and celebrate humanity”

20190501_093009

The Talking Shop Response #2 – Homeless Creative to Omidaze Talking Shop

Oh!!! My!!! Days!!!

What have you done? How, before you even opened, had you created something that any urban desert of concrete and glass commercialism can never now exist without?

I’m an artist. Creating things that are not known to be needed is my craft. I know when something has been birthed in only truth and love of truth. To see that there are others, and some who have given up trying to be artists, an with this have acquired an honourary PHD and a golden key in Humanity from the Universe City and have become Artiste, meaning, fully operationally creative Human Beings, restores a little faith.

This cultural gestational flowerpot in the urban desert of steel and glass consumerism is beyond an oasis. It is a sanctuary. A temple to the possibilities of humanity, and the fruits of open human communication.

A shop that sells nothing but offers you a little bit of you that you had forgotten about. You walk past and you can feel the energy here. A Talking Shop? Or is it a true head-space, soul-space, a little field of Daffodils in the heart of Cardiff for the spirit to enter and soar above. But it’s not just Cardiff, of course, as Cardiff is not just Wales, it’s a consulate of Humanity.

There might be a writer, or an artist, or a director , or an old lady whose words could save your soul or change the nature of your reality, or a homeless guy who realises that he has ‘power’ in his humanity. Conversation is always flowing. You listen for a moment because you have that appointment, but wait, didn’t that artist just agree with me about something nobody agrees about? You text your friend who is waiting on you and tell them to come and meet you. You tell them they’ll love the shop. When they get there the usual question arises ‘Why has this not always just ‘been’? Why is there not more? Why did we not know we needed this?

Is there a whole cultural and political universe of forums that we have not looked at yet? Of course. Of course, so, it feels beyond exciting. It feels expected, awaited, anticipated, and yet, it was an ideal that I had not considered yet now feel almost brokenhearted that it soon must close its doors. For whatever reason the opening and existence of the Talking Shop has brought an energy,a big Eureka, to the commercial district, and it has invigorated and shaken awake so many creatives, artists minds that one feels now humbled passing it by.

On the 20th of April The Talking Shop will hold its last day in its present form. There are hopes that conducted with the correct energy and intention  this could become a permanent installation, a little reservoir of sanity in the centre of the city, and maybe the arising of a new political class if Yvonne Murphy of Omidaze is anything to go by. She and her husband Richard have produced a truly innovative, original, and beautiful concept that upon reflection harks back to some of the political and activist offices of San Francisco or New York back in the 70s, drop ins for artists, revolutionaries, politicians, little old ladies, where the idea for a new political party or ideal could arise, or where a musician might pen a hit record about Brexit and the Tories, or maybe a new form of government is discussed, thrashed out, and gestated in the hearts of a few.

The Talking Shop is one of the most human and beautiful contributions to any commercial area in a capital that I have ever seen. Even the layout is welcoming. There is nothing about the exterior or interior that could ward anyone off. If buildings, premises, shops and units were to be considered as food items of a commercial district, The Talking Shop would be the desert, a cake ,baked by cakeaholics and foodies who want to share their culinary joys and pleasures with us, because they may have actually figured out a more efficient recipe with more abundant ingredients, that could get the whole world eating cake, or even bread alone if it befit the man, but at least the choice should be permitted unilaterally, and never enforced.

Yours with deepest loyalty and respect,

– …well…+

The Writer – A Homeless Creative in Cardiff City Centre  – was a regular visitor and supporter of The Talking Shop.

The Talking Shop pilot was made possible by the support of National Theatre Wales and a small R&D seed commission and the additional support Dirty Protest, Creative Cardiff and the Engagement Team at the National Assembly for Wales.

There will be a public sharing of rehearsed readings and information which came from this month long Talking Shop pilot on June 20 in Cardiff. Follow @omidaze on twitter and Omidaze Productions on Facebook for further details & booking info.

The Talking Shop pilot – A Cultural & Political Information & Creation Centre R&D project 

The Talking Shop – Response #1

Not everything is a Metaphor

-What’s a metaphor, Dad?

-It’s when we say a thing is something it isn’t, son.

-Ok like ‘the sea is a big piece of wobbly jelly’?

-Exactly that

-Or ‘Daddy is a man who is happy but sometimes sad’

-No son, no.

-Why’s that different?

-Because not everything is a metaphor, son.

 

I make no apology for beginning with this entirely imaginary and yet I hope illustrative anecdote from a past that never really existed. I have three children, all teenagers, and even ten years ago I suspect that conversation this richly literary and philosophic never took place. We mainly discussed Match Attax and Pokémon.

I want to talk about talking. Specifically I want to talk about the Talking Shop. For the past four weeks, at the end of High Street arcade in Cardiff, there has existed a space where nothing is for sale. There are mannequins in the windows on which are pinned statistics like ‘every £1 spent on arts and culture produces £6 of economic growth’. The walls are covered with provoking questions like ‘what sort of society do you want?’ There is a timeline of the UK’s political history from 940 AD. There is also information about the Welsh government, which exists because the Welsh voted by 50.3 to 49.7 per cent to self-govern, back in optimistic old 1999. There are flyers for cultural events: plays, galleries and exhibitions. The Talking Shop is described by Omidaze, the company who put it there, as a political and cultural information and creation centre. I know that because I am part of Omidaze. I have spent some considerable time in the space in the last few weeks and guess what? People engage. People come in and talk, face to face. People of all ages, all classes. I have heard the full spectrum of opinion, and I have not seen any hatred or animosity, just respect for the other.

Do you drive? Statistics suggest you probably do. Most of us do. If you don’t you will have been in a car with someone you care about who does. And if you do drive, or if you have ever watched someone you love drive, what do you notice? Do you feel yourself becoming angry or judgemental at the behaviour of other drivers, or pedestrians? Or inanimate objects like road signs or traffic cones or lights? Do you sometimes look out of your metal safe box and judge what people are wearing, how fast they are moving? Do you ever give voice to these judgements, safe in the knowledge they will not be heard? Do you live and let live, from the defended safety of your insulated observation box? And when you see your loved ones drive do you see a transformation sometimes in even the most tolerant, liberal person?

I have thought a lot about this, and what it is. This phenomenon of anger expressed without consequence. And when I came to write this today, I grabbed at it as a convenient parallel with the way we often communicate in the world today, in our silos, our oft-cited social media bubbles. And then I thought more about it, and I realised that our shouting out of cars at strangers is really taking place. It is not a metaphor at all, it is actually happening, and poisoning our souls as it does so.

So whatever that is, that sitting in a metal box railing at the world and it’s ills, or that rapidly tweeted irritation at the perceived crass opinion of strangers, the Talking Shop is its opposite. Whatever the unhelpful and divisive and judgemental thing is that we do when we sit with no eye contact or facial clues or even the ability to hear our interlocutor, the Talking Shop is it’s opposite, Here people sit and talk, looking at each other, over cups of tea and coffee, on comfortable chairs, in multiples of two or three or four or more. They interact with strangers. I know. I know because I have seen it repeatedly take place. I am not making it up. People, given the space and opportunity to do so, willingly and positively interact with strangers. And thereby make them no longer strangers. They make the stranger familiar. And there can be no more clear model for us as humans going forward, can there, than for us to stop suspecting the strange, for us to start to make it familiar?

And like I say I have seen this. This has really been happening for the past four weeks in the Talking Shop. This is really taking place, this interaction, this coming together, this respect.

Because not everything is a metaphor.

Dick Johns 19/04/19

Dick Johns is a writer & actor https://www.dickjohns.co.uk/ and one half of the Omidaze Productions partnership  http://www.omidaze.co.uk

Silent No More…Dear Britain, you have spoken apparently?

Here is a little something I wrote back in Feb 2017. As I am quite busy at the moment slowly and quietly banging my head against the wall repeating to myself ‘Now? You get everyone together now???’ I thought rather than simply write the same blog many times I would simply republish the same few blogs many times until I got my point across.

So here it is. My blog from nearly two years ago when I first started banging my head against said wall….

I love Britain AND the British people. I have travelled the world and never found anywhere I would rather live. Last year that changed for the first time. I was told then maybe I should leave. I am not leaving. I am staying put and I am speaking out.

Because? Because then my work can make sense and my grandchildren will be clear that I did not want what I am being told Britain has asked for.

I have this theory that because we are now a full generation away from the last world war we are at a crucial tipping point, The end of WWII allowed us, as a nation to discuss and debate what our society should look like. After such devastation and loss our values and priorities were sharpened and clear. The Welfare State was born. Central to that was our NHS which remains a beacon of light within Britain and indeed the world. So much so we did indeed put it in lights as we opened our London Olympics and shared with the world our pride and joy in our state healthcare system, our state education system, our culture and our multi-cultural heritage. That opening ceremony was a perfect platform to discuss, as a nation, our successes and our future.

We missed that opportunity.

We missed another when Scotland voted on Independence.

Finally Scotland got everyone’s attention just before the vote and I so wanted them to seize the day. To have the courage to pause, to wait, to turn and say ‘right now we have your attention let’s really discuss the state of the UK. We will postpone the referendum so that as a nation we can discuss what Britain has been, what it is now and what it can be. Let’s imagine it together. Let’s have conversations up and down the land.’

That would have been something wouldn’t it? But the conversations had just got started and were then closed back down. It takes real leadership to do something like that. To stop, hold the moment. Allow an entire nation to reflect. There is a shocking absence of that . Reflection. AND great leadership.

Great leadership ensures a nation feels respected, listened to and understood even if they disagree. People will tolerate most things if they feel respected. If their fears, worries and concerns are given due weight and consideration. If they are allowed to maintain their dignity. Did we feel those things? Or was a scream building, slowly and steadily?

It is not a complete list but it is a start what people were screaming about….inequality of money, jobs, lack of access, ever widening gap between the rich and the poor, food banks an accepted norm in every town, welfare cuts, sanctions, bedroom tax, MPs expenses scandal (don’t be fooled if you think people don’t still care), immigration, jobs, security, austerity measures, fear of change (& things are changing fast) terrorist activity &  threats, working harder than ever before and for less and, fear of the future, fear for our  own, fear that you won’t make it round the supermarket and get enough food for the week for all the family with the £40 left in your wallet and then how do afford the kids school trip, trainers, uniform, books…or just the essentials, gas, electricity and water. Parents dreading the summer holidays because that means no free school meals which means something else has to go. This is Britain.

 

Today our parliament votes whether or not to trigger Article 50. I am interested in how we got here. To this place where I am a Remoaner. Where families and friends are divided. Where it is apparently now a ‘done deal’ and I am a sore loser if I still want to discuss it. You know just that tiny thing of leaving the European Union.

I am a storyteller by trade. Peddling my stories through the medium of theatre. My work is political because I fundamentally believe the personal is the political. I create work which I hope allows the audience to think about the world around them and their place and actions in it. Narrative is a powerful force and the EU referendum, the lead up, the result and the aftermath is compelling stuff. Narrative is constantly rewritten.The story of how we decided to leave the EU is now owned and shaped in a way I believe to be distorted and untrue and so on the historic day I write my narrative.

Democracy is something I hold dear. I do not believe last year’s referendum was democratically organised, campaigned for, called for or responded to. We get to vote on who leads the country every four years. There is a tried and tested system. Political parties must put forward manifestos for scrutiny. They can be held to account on these promises if they gain power. Clarity on what we are being asked to vote on is key.

Where was the clarity for the referendum? Where were the manifestos? How do we hold people to account? Why are broken promises not being discussed and accepted? Perhaps because it was not a General or Local Government Election? These are legally binding. Referendums are not. However 4 years after a General Election we get to vote again. We get to change our minds. We do not get to vote again in four years time to rejoin the EU.

Another thing created out of the destruction of WWII – the European Union. Created to ensure that such horrors of war never again swept across Europe. I didn’t hear that explained and discussed much in the run up to the Referendum. Did you?.

Referendums are advisory not legally binding. They are a sounding out. A temperature gauge. They are a process for government to assess the popular mood and appetite.

David Cameron promised in his party’s manifesto that if elected he would hold a referendum on our country’s membership of the EU. Because he didn’t for one second believe the country would vote to leave he pushed it further by promising he would honour whatever the majority of the public decided. Was that for him to decide?  As a supreme court has ruled a decision of such magnitude can only ever be decided by our elected parliament. False & Empty promise number one. And non–democratic.

And so the Remain & Leave Campaigns began. The Leave Campaign mainly promised that all the money currently spent on the EU would be given to our NHS instead. False & Empty promise number two. And non-democratic.

No other clarity, plan or thought was given to what leaving the EU would actually look like, how it would be done, how much it would cost. No impact analysis was done. No debate around single markets, customs, trade, borders, current EU citizenship, the list is endless and simply non-democratic.

Rather we were simply asked to vote on whether we liked what we already had or whether we wanted to leave what we had with absolutely no idea whatsoever what that would entail. Jump ship into the unknown.. What an exciting adventure! And how non democratic

And so Britain spoke. Or rather Britain screamed from the top of its lungs. On a binary choice it screamed on a multitude of issues. Rage was unleashed. Fear was given a pen. Uncertainty, disgruntled, frustrated irritation was given voice. And good. In many ways I loved it. Because the scream has been coming now for a while.

And then the man who had promised the country a referendum jumped ship too and left us all afloat and wondering what to do. A big aching chasm was left where an opposition should have been because the newly appointed leader is a long-term Euro sceptic and had created a radio silence and confusion where a Remain Campaign should have been.

So then his party self-imploded which allowed the Right to re-write the narrative once again. No analysis please of what our party has done to this country. No debate. Close the conversation down. Adopt a stance. Look like the grown-ups whilst the children on the left argue amongst themselves. Let nanny sort it out. The people of Britain have spoken and they want Brexit. What is that? No discussion around the fact that absolutely no one knows what this invented term Brexit actually means so therefore how could we know we want it. It is clear we all want something. So we will be told what we want. It is to become known as a ‘hard Brexit’. I don’t remember that being on the voting slip? The choice between soft and hard? That is what we want though. We have spoken. Haven’t we?

52% shouted Leave because …because…we don’t trust any politicians, they don’t represent us, it is meaningless, because I am angry, because I have never worked outside of the UK, because I don’t really get it, because I think we should have sovereignty, because I fear change and want Britain to look like Britain that I remember, imagine, crave, understand. Because I feel frightened, patronised, not listened to, forgotten, misunderstood, silenced, frustrated and bored…because money is wasted on bureaucracy, because I hate bureaucracy because because because….because……

We were given a binary choice, very little guidance and absolutely no actual information on what one of the choices actually entailed and very little explanation that this would be an irreversible decision and how much it would cost in any sense of the word. And we definitely weren’t told how much bureaucracy it would entail.

And now…. Well now we have a PM running around the world desperately trying to broker trade deals with any Tom, Dick or Harry, whatever their values, to make up for the ones we are disconnecting from and to make ‘Hard Brexit’ look a bit shinier and exciting and like the adventure we were promised and then we won’t need to put all that money we have saved into the NHS because chunks of that will have been sold off as part of the deal.

Ok got a bit carried away there but can we please just stop and discuss the fact that we have some very good free open markets already and maybe this all needs to be in that manifesto we never got before we voted?

We elect our MPs to act on our behalf. In our best interests and the best interests of the whole of Britain. That is key. Is it actually in our best interests to leave the EU? Not because we screamed about a multitude of things which all need listening to. Will leaving the EU fix them? If it will and if it really honestly is in our best interests then ok. But not because we told you to. Because we had no idea what it meant. And if that means you don’t get re-elected then that is what you are paid to do. Put us first. Not yourselves. Which is why Mr Corbyn this should be an individual’s conscience vote. Sometimes as you have to force people to be free. Sometimes you have to go against the popular vote because you know it to be right.

Great Leaders know that. They know they have to stand against a tide sometimes and hold, say pause, wait, let’s reflect. It may not make them popular but I would vote for authenticity, values, integrity and truth every time. That is true democracy.

Dedicated to Jo Cox & Jo Stevens.

 

The Future of Cultural Value

Hello. I wrote this piece in September 2014. I thought I would republish it to save me just writing the same thing over and over again. This way I will just republish it over and over again until someone listens and stops all this madness.

Original post.…Today Scotland votes on whether to stay as part of the UK. I hope they say No to Independence. Why? Because the conversation has only just begun and a YES vote will end it. The debate is necessary, vital, crucial. We are at a point in history where we must take stock and ask ourselves the question…what kind of society do we want to live in and how do we make that a reality? We must do this without the devastation of a World War. We must come together, if only to decide we must part. But come together we must to have the conversations. Not simply about how Britain is structured and where the boundaries are drawn but actually much more fundamental questions – what do we want our children and grandchildren to inherit? Want values do we want to pass down to them? What society do we want to create for them?

This is what I want to give mine.

I want a fair and equal society.

That will never be possible while a two tier education system exists. I would begin with removing private and public schools from this fair isle. Too radical for you? Stay with me. I do not judge any parent for making the best choice they can afford for their child. I judge the fact that 93% of the British population do not have that choice. I judge the fact that the majority of MPs children go to fee paying schools and therefore our political system is biased and undemocratic.

I want all children to have as excellent level of education as those who go to Eton.

That will never be possible while Eton exists.

I want us as a society to value art and culture as much, then more, than we do the pursuit of monetary gain.

That can only exist when we change the terms of debate we inherited 25 years ago from Margaret Thatcher.

I want us to remember the ideals of a welfare state, state education, the NHS, public transport and state investment that post-war Britain prioritised without the horror of war to make us remember.

I want a Great Britain which prioritises humanity over class and wealth. Which prioritises giving every child in Britain a high quality education with art and culture at its heart. Because art and culture helps us to understand and express our humanity.

Let us have this debate. It is a much wider debate than whether or not Scotland has Independence. I hope they stay for the debate. I personally would value their opinion.