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Initiative to boost grassroots participation in arts unveiled

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Arts umbrella organisations have joined forces to launch a creative manifesto, which they hope will boost grassroots participation in the arts.

Launched at the annual conference of the National Association for Local Government Arts Officers last week, the initiative aims to target people from “the most excluded socio-economic groups”, those with limited physical or learning disabilities or mental illness, black and minority ethnic groups and youngsters.

The manifesto has been led by the Voluntary Arts Network, with the help of the National Campaign for the Arts, the Foundation For Community Dance, Disability Cultural Projects, the National Culture Forum’s Leading Learning Programme and NALGAO, as well as input from 200 arts organisations.

It outlines the belief that active participation in the arts is a “fundamental aspect of human expression”, plays a valuable role in developing culture, identity and community, and produces personal, social and economic benefits.

Robin Simpson, chief executive of VAN, explained that the manifesto had been created because while the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and Arts Council England had done much to try to develop audiences, participation had not grown.

“By participation we mean people actually writing, singing, dancing, or playing, rather than people in an audience,” Simpson added. “Beyond that we decided we wanted the manifesto to be as broad as possible, so we have a broad coalition working together to increase participation.”

NCA director Louise de Winter believes the manifesto will encourage organisations to think about how they can increase involvement in the arts and make people aware about the activities that are on offer.

De Winter added: “Being able to point and show how important the arts and cultural sector is to everyday folk, and that it is part of the DNA to take part in some form of activity, is helpful for the NCA in terms of the lobbying and advocacy we need to do.”

A new website has been launched to complement the manifesto, to enable arts organisations to pledge their support for the initiative, contribute to its development and commit to increase participation.

For more information see www.participationinthearts.net

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