Help kickstart increased access to arts and gender equality in the UK theatre – All female Richard III production aims to change the conversation
Filed under: Arts and Society, Fellowship
Fellow Yvonne Murphy guest blogs about her all female production of Richard III. Read about her plans and find out how you can help make it happen.
I am a new RSA & Clore Fellow and I run Omidaze Productions. I am staging an all-female production of Shakespeare’s Richard III, supported by the Arts Council of Wales and Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff in February 2015 and I need your support. I have launched an RSA Kickstarter campaign because we literally cannot afford to pay everyone we want to be involved and make it happen as planned unless we reach our target and I need your support.
Filed under: Arts and Society, Social Economy
It’s about time we reconsidered what we mean by talent: how it is defined, who gets identified as talented, and how they are developed, recognised and rewarded. Is talent the product of 10,000 hours of devoted practice, or the reward of cultivating 10,000 followers?
Definitions of talent are diverse, and influenced by the company we keep and influences we subject ourselves too. For example, the expectations of our teachers have been shown to have a particularly strong influence on our future success. What we mean by ‘talent’ depends on the networks of information that we participate in.
Our expectations of what talent looks like matter ever more in an age of accelerating access to visual communication tools. In the last decade talent competitions became a new force on our TV screens. As contestants are driven towards established categories for their music product, ask yourself whether David Bowie or Prince would have made it through X-Factor open auditions. A new study from the RSA captures 8 distinct perspectives from the music industry. It is clear from looking deeper into the music industry that talent always has a social context.
Filed under: Arts and Society, Design and Society, Education Matters, Enterprise, Innovation, Uncategorized
Today is a big day.
Nine months ago on September 1st 2013, we launched our eight RSA Student Design Award briefs for the year and thousands of students across the UK, Europe and Asia began applying their design skills to a range of social, economic and environmental issues such as improving hygiene in low-income areas, managing water in urban areas, addressing changing work patterns, and many more. Over 600 students sent their work into the RSA and our judges began the arduous task of reviewing and scrutinising the work, looking for key insights and clever design thinking. Those 600+ entries became a short-list of around 80 and today, after interviews with all short-listed entrants, I am pleased to present the 18 winning projects and the designers behind them.
Today’s impressive list of emerging designers and innovators – some working in collaborative teams and some working individually – represent the best of what happens when good ideas meet good design (and good briefs too, I think!).
This year’s winners include proposals for new packaging made from beeswax, an alarm clock app to improve well-being amongst 18-25 year olds, an affordable sanitary towel for schoolgirls in low-income areas, and a frugally-designed hygiene pack for use in refugee camps. Read more
Starting up on your own is certainly no easy feat – in fact we often discuss the potential obstacles that lie ahead at the RSA’s monthly Social Entrepreneurs breakfast. However, one thing I have noticed is that the first barrier is not (as you might think) imagined lack of capital; it’s simply getting started.
Seemingly, a number of skilled, imaginative people are just unsure how or where to begin.
It wasn’t until I began working at the RSA that I fully appreciated the value of having a support structure. I thought breaking out on your own was something you should do…alone? I soon learnt that successful leaders do quite the opposite: they join a network, get training and tap into all the help that’s available.
A couple of weeks ago, we hosted an evening event at RSA House for thirty individuals currently undertaking the Clore Leadership Programme which focuses on those with experience working in the Arts, and the Clore Social Leadership Programme which is primarily for people with careers in the social sectors. We were privileged to have a mixture of current Clore Fellows join us for some drinks, networking and an historical tour of the building.
For those who don’t know, the Clore programmes are designed to develop strong leaders in the cultural and social sectors so that more individuals are better equipped to engender positive change in their communities, organisations and the world around them.
Given the electic mix of experience and knowledge in the room a number of interesting conversations were initiated – from discussing the trajectory of the Walt Disney corporation, to the role of art in school curriculums – Clore Leaders are inspiring and inspired company. For more information about the current cohort of Clore Cultural and Social Leaders you can view full profiles on the respective websites.
We were also joined by Asma Shah FRSA who spoke to the room about her social enterprise Ladies Who L-EARN. Asma demonstrates exactly how transformative the Clore programme can be. With a background in the Arts, Asma was a Clore Cultural Fellow though as she pointed out, you wouldn’t know it now as her current work sits firmly within the social sector.
Upon finishing the programme she joined the RSA Fellowship and by applying to RSA Catalyst, Asma was able to get her project off the ground. Since then she has been able to access further funding, attract more volunteers and ultimately, help more women.
Asma was keen to point out the combination of the Clore Fellowship and RSA Fellowship is a powerful one. This cannot be overemphasised. Asma began working with women in her community who had limited access to the kind of training or social capital that she had gained from joining influential, supportive networks like Clore and the RSA.
The RSA has partnered with Clore Leadership for nine years now and we continue to work together because of our mutual belief that investing in individuals is one of the fundamental ways to improve society.
Part of investing in people is offering them a framework to carry their ideas, so that getting started is never an obstacle.
Alexandra Barker is a Fellowship Development Coordiantor at the RSA
If you would like more infromation about RSA Fellowship or any of people or projects mentioned above, then contact email@example.com
One evening over the Christmas break, I found myself at the home of a friend and her partner, both of whom happen to be psychoanalysts. Over dinner, whilst attempting to steer the conversation away from work, we began discussing the role of storytelling in our lives; the social narratives we believe in, the stories we pass on to others and the ones that resonate at a personal level.
The conversation led us to conclude that whilst a good story will always have readers, a really powerful story, will inspire people to act. In the Fellowship department, we often discuss how to make this shift. When there is so much great material available, it can be difficult to know how to piece it all together and the power in a story can easily be lost.
At first glance, social change appears to lend itself well to narrative. For a start, there is natural beginning; if we are trying to solve a problem, first we have to understand it. The starting point has to be-
What exactly is happening here?
This is especially poignant when encountering subjects that people might be uncomfortable talking about. Rachel Clare FRSA is Assistant Director at the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) which deals with the issue of male suicide. According to recent government statistics on mortality rates, suicide is a bigger cause of death in young men than HIV, traffic accidents and assault combined, with 77% of all cases of suicide in the UK every year being male. CALM was born from a simple need to generate greater awareness of the problem.
Once a problem is defined, we have to figure out the best way to solve it – how do we improve the world around us?
Monday night’s Fellows event RSA Engage demonstrated that within the Fellowship there is a wealth of ideas about how we can transition from the beginning to the middle; problem to potential solution. Amongst the seven Fellows who pitched their project at the event, was Richard Blissett FRSA. Richard was recommended for Fellowship by a previous Catalyst winner and in turn decided to apply for funding for his own project. Through RSA Catalyst, his digital tool Edukit is well on the way to helping teachers find the appropriate resources to support disadvantaged students, quickly and easily. For Richard, the how lies in getting the right tools to the right people.
However, for a modest enterprise like Edukit to earn a place in the grander narrative of social change, it must also create a story around itself. Tools will not reach people if it’s not clear why they’re relevant, so creating a strong, individual narrative is critical – it is not enough to be heard, you have to be understood.
New RSA Fellow Emily Farnworth founded her social business Counter Culture on precisely the understanding that powerful stories are the key to changing indiviual behaviour, yet when tackling complex issues such as poverty or climate change, a simple beginning, middle and end doesn’t always cut it.
Emily believes that ‘the only way to solve the world’s biggest problems in a meaningful way is to see all sides of an argument.’ Counter Culture was established to help businesses and charities reach their audiences through a more agile form of storytelling that incorporates multiple and differing perspectives.
This can be achieved in many different ways. Even if you don’t recognise it immediately, brands, charities and individuals are communicating with us all the time without ever needing to put pen to paper. New Fellow David Pope, filmmaker, consultant and member of the British Council’s Creative Economy Pool of Experts, is interested in the storytelling possibilities offered by new technologies because this evolution is creating opportunities for a more diverse range of voices and stories to reach wider audiences.
New mediums can transform the way an issue is presented and the type of people who can tell the story. An example -
In December, Mark Leruste FRSA joined the Fellowship. As well as being an ICF Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC), he is a Country Manager for Movember, the infamous worldwide men’s health charity that invites men around the world to grow a moustache for 30 days in November to raise awareness and funds for men’s health. This in itself proves that a serious message can be communicated through the power of a moustache.
A story can still carry weight even if the chronology is disjointed or the medium unconventional.
Movember shows that a life-threatening disease affecting a particular demographic can gather mass support using humour and facial hair. If that isn’t re-writing the story, I don’t know what is.
If you would like to find out more about any of the projects or Fellows mentioned above, or would like to know more about joining the Fellowship please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Alexandra Barker is a Fellowship Development Coordinator at the RSA
‘Who Am I?’ is a RSA-linked project exploring, through art, photography and poetry, the thoughts of young people and their place in contemporary society. We have now received support via RSA Catalyst to crowdfund so we can produce a book showing their artwork.
We hope to capture what young people think about who they individually are in relation to those around them, to awaken a thoughtful approach and to unlock latent creative talent! Our aim seems to be working as the art works to be displayed at the touring exhibition which launches at the Library of Birmingham on Wednesday 22 January 2104 are of the highest quality (we were mainly funded by Arts Council England who we will not let down). The project aims to celebrate the many voices, languages and cultural influences alive in Birmingham and the Black Country.
One of our biggest achievements has been the wide range of young people involved. We have NEETs, those with special education needs, sixth formers and young people ‘off the street’; a wide ethnic and age range plus a good gender mix. Kathy, one of the students, really made it all worthwhile when she emailed me:
“I am really looking forward to the exhibition, I think it’ll be a great experience and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed being part of the project, it has really inspired me and taken me on a journey of self-discovery.”
I’m really happy about the number of regional Fellows that have got engaged in this exciting project. They have brought their skills and talents and they themselves have been surprised about how they have engaged with the young people and the effect it has had on them personally – summed up by one Fellow who said:
“I didn’t know I could relate to young people like this – they have been an inspiration!”
There is still time for Fellows to get involved! After the exhibition launch in Birmingham it goes on a six month tour around the Black Country before returning to the Drum in Birmingham in late June 2014 for its final showing. So do catch it and see for yourselves!
We would also like your help to spread the word by contributing to our crowdfunding campaign to produce a high quality publication which will permanently capture the remarkable art work and achievements from the young people involved. All you need to do is visit our Who Am I? project page on the RSA crowdfunding site and donate anything from £10 to £1000! You will be well rewarded – from a copy of the publication to having the exhibition come to your organisation.
If you’d like to find out more about the project, I’m more than happy to speak to you, so please do contact me on 07809 618742 or by email at email@example.com.
Keith Horsfall FRSA
Chair, RSA West Midlands region
Connect to Keith on LinkedIn
The Big Idea: The New Cross area of south London could gain a new arts space. A previously closed public library has re-opened as New Cross Learning, inspiring and uplifting thousands of local users. Catherine Shovlin FRSA has launched a crowdfunding campaign to develop a creative arts space working with the local community…
Over the last 10 years we, Artmongers, have been stirring things up in Deptford and New Cross, South London with thought-provoking public art that changes the way people relate to space. Now we want to create New Cross’s first public artspace: a giant 3D lightbox on the ceiling of New Cross Learning. We will work together with local groups, running workshops to create multimedia artworks that change every six months. Central to our aim, we will be collaborating with emerging artists in our local community as well as school children, community groups and Goldsmiths students. To do this, we need to raise nearly £5k.
This is where we need your help. Through RSA Catalyst we have launched a crowdfunding campaign, Looking up in New X, to raise the funds needed to bring a much needed art space to the New Cross area – and we have ten days left to go!
The story so far
Since it opened in 2011, New Cross Learning has quickly developed into a vibrant community hub. Locals go there for books of course, but also for computer access, street dance, poetry group, baby bounce, community meetings, training sessions, Chinese dragon making workshops and much more.
The front of the building got a great facelift in 2012 (thanks to RSA Catalyst and the Funding Network) with a participatory artwork that marked the beginning of community ownership and involvement. Now we want to do something about the inside. New Cross doesn’t have a public art space so we are raising money to make this happen.
Last year’s flash mob on the A2 (for those outside London, the A2 is a major road connecting London with Kent) highlighted the challenges pedestrians face getting from one side of New Cross to the other. We didn’t break any traffic rules but we definitely caused a stir. And this year’s campaign to plant 1000 sunflowers has involved hundreds of school children, Goldsmiths University, local businesses and community groups. It brightened up the place and more importantly it encouraged people to realise the possibility that it is our environment and we can choose how it is. Then recently we worked with another RSA supported project – Talk to Me London to create unexpected creative interventions at bus stops in New Cross including a disco.
Taking back ownership of public space encourages all sorts of social benefits – not least the improved sense of well-being while you’re taking part.
Taking back ownership of public space encourages all sorts of social benefits – not least the improved sense of well-being while you’re taking part. Enough downcast acquiescence, people in New Cross are ready to LOOK UP and improve their public spaces for themselves. Backers get to be part of the creative process, and some will even get a piece of art for their home. Most importantly, those who support this project will know that they are part of transforming an area and empowering local residents.
How you can get involved
Those living around New Cross will know how much community spirit there is in the area. We want to give something back and give local residents the chance to express themselves through art – and in a local space everyone can enjoy.
We need your help to make this happen. Please visit the RSA crowdfunding page and find our project - Looking up in New X – and help us to reach our target. If you would like to get involved in the project or would like to visit us in New Cross, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow us on Twitter.
Catherine Shovlin FRSA
New Cross Learning and Artmongers
The South Central Region of the RSA is holding a series of events aimed at sharing ideas about education. These events are run by and for RSA Fellows with the aims of:
- Sharing knowledge and ideas about education
- Meeting and networking with other Fellows
- Clarifying existing, and provoking new, ideas for potential projects
- Sharing information on Catalyst funding which could potentially support the growth of the ideas.
On Thursday 17 October, at the Jelly Arts Centre, former Headteacher of Chelsea Open Air Nursery School and Children’s Centre Kathryn Solly gave a presentation and led a discussion on ‘Conserving Creativity in the Early Years.’ This is a guest blog from Kathryn.
My talk for the RSA South Central Region’s Ideas in Education Series started from the premise that the earliest years of education are the crucial ‘seedbed’ of future learning and development, and hence that the highest quality provision is essential in order to retain and nurture creative future possibilities.
One of the key parts of the evening’s discussion centred upon, what Shirley Brice Heath calls, the choice to provide ‘the kind of learning that comes through direct experience, participation and collaboration’ versus ‘one prolonged stretch of spectatorship.’ Many attendees agreed that there is a need to prevent the narrowing of the Early Years curriculum too soon and to resist an earlier start to formal schooling in primary schools.
We need creativity, in its broadest sense, to permeate all Early Years educational provision. It is about the ability to innovate, and develop ‘possibilities thinking’, which is vital to nurturing future creativity in the work force, innovation and industrial development, as we prepare young children for a world we do not know and for jobs that do not yet exist.
It is about the ability to innovate, and develop ‘possibilities thinking’.
We need well-educated trainees entering industry and we need for our nation to retain its creative cutting edge.
The OECD states that early childhood learning is in the ‘public good’. Political pressures, and resultant conflicts, are leading to the creation of a premature formal curriculum stressing early literacy and numeracy versus a broader play-based learning approach (which includes developmentally appropriate literacy and numeracy). The latter focuses upon children’s interests and needs and is led by professionals working in close partnership with parents. There was a broad consensus that for many young children who are well supported at home achievement in literacy and numeracy is not an issue. However, for many summer-born children, and those with individual needs and disabilities, emergent literacy and numeracy are best achieved in contexts where they make sense to children as part of their self-chosen play.
I would be interested in discussing further, with attendees and Fellows, the critical importance of creative Early Years education– both facilitating it and the challenges faced by the professionals trying to support the appropriate development of our youngest citizens, whose voices are rarely heard.
Find out more about the campaign against developmentally inappropriate learning at: ‘Too Much, Too Soon’.
You can contact Kathryn Solly via email at email@example.com.
Book now for upcoming events in the Ideas Education series:
To find out more contact Fellowship Councillor for South Central Bethan Michael.
Filed under: Arts and Society, Education Matters, Fellowship
At the RSA Family of Academies we are working with four schools in the West Midlands who are about to embark on an arts audit. By reviewing what activities are already taking place across their schools they will be able to examine the ways that the arts and arts experiences could be woven through the curriculum and the school day.
One of the priorities for RSA Academies is ‘enabling learners to achieve a broad range of qualifications, skills and competences’ which poses some interesting thinking. How do you enable learners to achieve not just qualifications but also a broad range of skills and competences – and further still, confidence. And how do you get the disengaged interested in learning again?
A new report from the Arts Council of Wales explores arts and creativity in schools and the impact that arts experiences which take place in schools have. The headline figures are conclusive and striking. Of the 42 schools and colleges involved in the research, 99% said they felt that an involvement in arts activities had improved learner engagement. Dai Smith, Chair of the Arts Council of Wales follows this: ‘teaching in and through the arts, far from detracting from literacy and numeracy should be seen as an enabler to driving up standards in academic priorities’.
The research also identified that 98% and 99% felt that the arts developed emotional wellbeing and interpersonal skills of the pupils. The report provides evidence of the enrichment and progression of learners as a result of arts organisations coming through the school gate and through outside visits to theatres, galleries and exhibitions.
Which thinking about it, most of us will have our own experiences for which this rings true. I can still vividly remember a trip to the Barbican to see Romeo and Juliet with Tim McInnerny just mesmerising as Tybalt. The act itself of the trip to a big city, visiting the vast concrete megalith that is the Barbican and then to be wowed by the strange language of Shakespeare is the sort of stuff that stays with you at the tender age of 13.
Beyond this, the arts enables young people to explore identity and self-expression, to create and to experiment. Last week one of the RSA’s Royal Designers of Industry, Ben Kelly joined Arrow Vale RSA Academy in Redditch for the day. Designer of the interior of the Hacienda, Ben is a real life example of a rule breaker and innovator, and he inspired years 9 and 12 students with a new sense of what’s possible and attitude to success.
Whitley Academy head boy, Prince Chivaka leads a series of podcasts in a project with RSA Fellow Fran Plowright called Frontline Voices. Across the RSA Family of Academy schools, Prince and his fellow students explored questions of what it means to be a young person today growing up in an uncertain and changing world. Fran explains more about the project in her What about tomorrow? blog.
And take a look at Whitley Academy in Coventry. Their art website, Whitley Arts was created to showcase and sell their unique student artwork. It has also opened students’ eyes to the possibility of their work being in the public realm. The site acts as a focal point, a potential destination of work whilst underpinning learning and personal development.
We are working to create more of these moments of inspiration and practical projects where creativity is fostered as a core skill, and where hopefully more learners become more engaged as a result.
We love a celebratory list in the UK. From the Sunday Times Rich List and the Courvoisier 500 to Nesta’s New Radicals, every year brings a new hierarchy of brilliant, bright or affluent people for us to admire, envy or challenge.
However this year one list has certainly got everyone talking more than most. In February Radio 4 Woman’s Hour compiled their inaugural power list – a list of the 100 most powerful women operating in the UK today. It has not been uncontroversial. Eyebrows have raised at a number of issues – is the queen really the most powerful woman in Britain? Is the version of power depicted too traditional and narrow? Does this list show us how far women have come in equality? Or does it show us how little progress has been made?
The stats about women’s representation, everywhere from the boards of FTSE 100 companies (17.3%, and going down) to the democratic system (men outnumber women 4-1 in the UK Parliament) make for grim reading. The RSA Fellowship itself is more than two thirds male, so we’ve got a way to go to reach equality, something we’re working on. (One fact we are proud of however is that women have been Fellows since we were founded in 1754 – not true of most membership organisations.)
As often is the case with these lists we were happy to recognise several faces as RSA Fellows – one of whom was Rosemary Squire OBE. Rosemary is the founder, co-owner and joint chief executive of Ambassador Theatre group, the UK’s largest theatre owner/operator with 39 venues UK-wide, a major international producer, and a leader in theatre ticketing services through ATG tickets.
In the spirit of sharing the experiences of RSA Fellows, and (in the month of International Women’s Day) the experiences of strong women, I went to ask Rosemary about the career and life of Britain’s 16th most powerful woman.
You’ve been named as the 16th most powerful woman in the Women’s Hour top 100 in the UK. How do you feel?
Great! I’m particularly excited that theatre, the industry I’ve worked all my life in, is up there with all these “proper” businesses. Theatre is a real business in this country and it is important it is recognised. I’m also pleased for all the people who have supported me to get here.
What did you think of the list, and how important are lists like this?
I think it makes you think about what is influential. It is an interesting list. Many of the other women are in industries, like politics, where they’re still massively under represented.
I know quite a lot of the women on there, and I thought there were a couple of things I saw we all had in common:
The first, boring as it may seem, is education, education, education. All those years of training and university and post graduates – at the time you might think well why am I doing this? But actually it provides all kind of skills that everybody uses, whatever they do. Education gives you the skills to be able to use the opportunities when they come up in life.
The second is role models. There is nothing more powerful that someone you respect and can identify with to be able to say “you know what, you can really do it. I’ve done it, if I can do it you can do it.” I’ve had that in my life and it is really important.
Who were your role models?
My Mother and my Aunt – they were unusual in their generation. All my family were grammar school kids, my Mum and Dad both went on to university in the war, and my mum was somebody who had studied, come up the hard way with really tough challenges at the end of the war. They were desperate to get teachers out in classrooms so she went out to teach, aged twenty, sixty kids in the class. Those skills have stayed with her for life, she’s always been prepared to turn her hand to anything, and that was a great role model for me and my sister.
They were the first generation to go to university. For my sister and I it was an assumption – yes of course we would.
There are 30-40 million visits to the theatre each year in the UK. And we sell 10 million tickets. So that is powerful.
You run ATG with your husband and you have three children. How do you manage the work/life balance?
I don’t think I get it right all the time. Although I think my kids are great, so in that regard I may have done a bit of it right!
I’ve been very lucky to have my mother down the road; she has been a huge help to me. All of my kids have great relationships with her. It has been a great safety net – a lot of people don’t have that.
I’ve had other support, including great nannies. I’ve always tried to be fair about looking after people, the support staff who help you. People undervalue how important it is to look after them – pay them properly, treat them with respect as you would any other employee, and don’t take them for granted. It’s about building that safe and secure network of people around you. My nanny has worked for me for 12 years.
The thing I think I’ve had to sacrifice is friendships, and a social life. Particularly in the last three-four years we’ve been so busy, since we acquired our biggest competitor in the UK, I just don’t have time. It narrows down to what you can do, you have to distil and prioritise, and the family and kids are my priority. It does all come at a price.
Do you consider yourself a feminist?
Definitely. I remember the days of women’s groups and selling Spare Rib at university. Literally reading The Female Eunuch on the beach aged sixteen and thinking my god this has completely changed how I see the world. Things haven’t changed. Don’t lets kid ourselves that the glass ceiling isn’t there, it is.
You know, having a child is like having a love affair, you fall in love with that child, and that love stays with you forever. I have my children in my head at any one time, somehow they’re just there.
How did you deal with it?
I think you have to have confidence in yourself. And you need a role model. I’ve known Christina Smith since the early 80s and she was brilliant, I remember her distinctly saying “well if I can buy buildings and do property deals, so can you – it’s easy.” She gave me that positive confidence to realise things aren’t as complicated as they appear to be.
There’s an awful lot of mythology about lots of things. Being able to ask questions about something you don’t understand and not feeling an idiot, that’s something I’ve gained with more experience. I now know its not stupid to ask. Anything can be explained.
Is there anything in your life that has nearly blown you off course?
I think things would have been different for me if I hadn’t had Jenny (Rosemary’s first child Jenny has Down’s Syndrome).
I was in my 20s, and you do think you’ve got a charmed life. I got a first at university, I went off and did postgraduate scholarship, I got a nice job and a nice boyfriend and then we’re getting married and it’s all lovely. You assume, you take for granted, that your child is going to be healthy.
In a way it threw me back more into work, because I found it difficult at home. It wasn’t this experience I imagined. She used to wake up 8 and 10 times a night until she was 13, it was a nightmare in lots of ways.
So that could have easily thrown me off course. It made me ill in lots of ways, I had physical symptoms to deal with too. But then I had another child pretty quickly and I’ve been lucky enough to have another child in my 40s. It’s been fine long term. And in a way having a child with special needs does give you a perspective as well. A lot of the issues that are key are crucial for Jenny like money, housing, how to occupy yourself. It is very grounding.
You know, having a child is like having a love affair, you fall in love with that child, and that love stays with you forever. I have my children in my head at any one time, somehow they’re just there. I’m sure your mother does too. I’m sure I’m in my mother’s head.