Resilience through relevance

Resilience through relevance

Author: David Micklem 

There’s a quiet revolution happening in arts and culture. A shift from the notion of great art and culture for everyone, to art and culture (in all its diversity) made by, with, and forEVERYONE 


This revolution reflects shifts in our society towards active participation. We’re no longer content to passively consume. In lives lived in part online, we seek to be involved in everything. From managing our finances, to organising our holidays, to sharing our music or photos or ideas – we want to be actively engaged in shaping our own lives and those of the communities with whom we live and work 


Formal funded arts and culture has been playing catch-up. For too long it’s been defined as a narrow spectrum of practice – theatre, museums, music, opera, visual arts, heritage, libraries, dance – at the exclusion of more diverse and relevant forms. And for too long its largely been dictated by the few, not the many. And for all the great work of cultural producers to open up practice, and who it’s for, it’s still largely seen as the preserve of a tiny percentage of the whole. 


But there is change in the air – a quiet revolution – away from a purely top-down culture that can feel ‘done to us’ to a culture that recognises the qualities and power of the grassroots, the everyday. The four arts councils of the UK have begun to reflect this change, and many artists and companies are shifting their focus from creation, to co-creation – to engaging communities in what constitutes art, who gets to make it, where it happens, and for whom. 


As our cultural sector shifts to better engage our communities in decision-making, there are some who question the role of professional artists and producers. They fear that a greater commitment to access will somehow undermine quality. That specialisms will be trumped by mass opinionThat expertise has been devalued. That active participation is the enemy of a thriving arts and cultural sector. CULTURE RESET explores these themes and opens up approaches that celebrate democratic leadership.  


CULTURE RESET will generate new ideas and practical approaches to better and more actively engage ordinary citizens in the cultural life of this country. It will provide a structured environment to explore the space where top-down culture meets the grassroots, the bottom-up. It will explore new approaches to producing that draw on expertise and create strategies for relinquishing who holds the power in our cultural lives. It will provide a context that celebrates the professional artist, the producers that support them, and the communities who they seek to serve. Not at the expense of one over the other. But both together, at the same time, in powerful tension.  


CULTURE RESET provides a context to allow producers to let go to let come. But crucially not let go of everything. We welcome expertise and experience. And seek to twin this with strategies that enable producers to relinquish some of the power that comes with wisdom. In our quest for better answers we will encourage the development of better questions. We offer a safe space to have your say and, crucially, to listen.  

Image – Babel by WildWorks, Photo by Steve Tanner