Research that is giving us legs

It has not been without stress but Culturapedia has weathered the COVID-19 Pandemic more or less intact. We may have been doing things differently over the past 16 months but we’ve kept busy. Two of the things that have kept me busy have been responding to how others have fared. 

The first is a project under the working title of ‘The Shit! Corona Chronicles’ in partnership with Erasmus University in Rotterdam. We thought it important to chronicle the experiences of professionals working in the field of Arts And Culture. In the years to come, there will be plenty written, in hindsight, on how the pandemic changed the way that we do things or accelerated changes that were already underway. The Chronicles offer an immediate record of responses, issues, challenges and ideas as they were happening. This is not a peer reviewed academic journal, rather a repository of experiences. Our pool of authors came from Arts and Culture Studies students and alumni form Erasmus University. Its international courses mean that we received responses from across the world offering an insight into very different government responses and personal challenges. Over the past twelve months we have collected over 50 stories which are due to be published in an e-book in July. My role has been co-editor of the book and english editor of the international contributions. It has provided a fascinating insight into how many of the challenges we have experienced are the same as those in other countries. It has also highlighted the precociousness of the arts and cultural infrastructure, especially outside of Europe. I have thoroughly enjoyed this project and look forward to the finished version being available to all to read. 

The chronicles bring together experiences from across the cultural and creative industries. For some, sharing ideas with a group of peers in similar organisations has been a positive outcome of COVID 19. One such group that came together last year is the Artist Led NPO group. NPOs are Arts Council’s core National Portfolio Organisations. Spot On Lancashire is an NPO. It refers to the companies that get core, rather than project based funding. The Artist Led NPOs share a number of, if not all of the following characteristics. They may be led by founding creative entrepreneurs; they are performance based; they are peripatetic and don’t have their own venues; they produce new work and are often involved in co-creation or participation. In addition they are all micro businesses and vertically integrated with a small core team which is supplemented by freelancers as and when needed. Back in March ‘21, the group invited us to support them with some research leading to ways that the group can advocate for themselves as a distinct part of the arts ecosystem. Like us, being small and nimble, without heavy building overheads, they have survived by being creative and changing what they do. Once restrictions are over they have a chance to be stronger from the experience. We have been exploring ways for this sub sector to be recognised for the value and innovation that they bring to the national arts ecology.  This project also finishes its current stage in July. 

It is hard to really understand the impact that a crisis is having when you’re still in the thick of it. As I write, an end to legal restrictions is due in just over a fortnight but none of us really know when and where we’re going to land. Hearing from others and taking an objective look at experience across the sector has been invaluable in informing us as a company and, I hope, helping us support those around us.