I was in London last Thursday (19 February) at the BBC’s launch for its year round campaign GET CREATIVE which is designed to encourage everyone to tap into their creative side, and realise how big a part arts and culture already play in their lives. It was a fun and inspiring event, as you would hope given the subject matter.
We had actor/comedian Johnny Vegas and actor Timothy Spall (recently in the film Mr Turner) both talking about what they get out of being creative – and in each case they were not talking about their professions: Johnny throws pots (and made a tea-pot in front of our eyes in under 1 minute) and Timothy paints. Other public figures also happily announced that “giving it a go” and “not caring if it’s a mess, just do it” gave them great satisfaction and reward on many levels. It was great to hear all of these testimonies, as well as fun (Alistair Campbell plays the bagpipes to relax!) and the BBC have a great film about it too. I’ve signed up with the 64 Million Artists project – they have a very small ambition to get most of the UK population involved… More at 64millionartists.co.uk
Closer to home we in the West Midlands commissioned a cultural survey in October last year and asked members of the public to participate and tell us what arts and culture they took part in, during one 24 hour period. Again the aim of this Survey is to help people realise the important part that arts and culture already play in their lives so that they will value it, participate more and fight to save it if needs be. I liken it to the annual RSPB Survey which has brought me to appreciate the variety and beauty of our garden birds – before taking part I really had not appreciated how lucky we were in this country in our bird life. Now I do.
Over 2000 people across the West Midlands took part in the 24 Hour Culture survey. The findings show that arts and culture are integral to the lives of many: 98% of respondents said they believed that arts, culture and heritage are important to them. The main reasons they gave for appreciating arts and culture were that they keep the mind stimulated and give meaning to people’s lives. They also said that they felt increased health and wellbeing, thought that arts and culture helped to bring communities together, improved the lives of children and young people and recognised the positive effect that arts and culture had on jobs and economics. Take a look at the 24 Hour Culture survey results here.
Public funding enables most people to access arts and culture – geography probably being one of the most important factors. It costs the Government less than 0.05% of its Budget and, unfortunately, this is a declining %. Yet it gives so much pleasure and it sparks the imagination – both are outcomes which are not only good for us as individuals but are also good for the society in which we live. I think it’s a false economy particularly in this age of austerity to continue to cut such vital provision which stimulates self-help. I was very taken with a speaker at the BBC launch reminding us how all of humankind’s leaps of development have been the result of creative thinking: the invention of the wheel, the discovery of penicillin, the invention of the World Wide Web. And how creativity crosses all sorts of boundaries – geographical, cultural, philosophical, scientific – and how we need to be creative in order to solve the world’s greatest challenges such as climate change. So it’s so important to encourage creativity particularly in the young.
Fittingly we are also at the beginning of our own year of celebration: of the Belgrade’s invention of the world-wide movement Theatre in Education (TiE) 50 years ago. The theme of the celebration is Inspiring Curiosity because that’s what TiE specifically (and arts and culture in general) does – and by inspiring curiosity in the young, we will enrich their lives and all our futures. www.inspiringcuriosity.co.uk