The Bigger Picture: cultural democracy

Our big networking event for the spring term took place on 10th March at the Riverfront, with some great partners including National Museum Wales, The Riverfront, Wise Kids, Operasonic and Gentle/Radical. The subject of the day was cultural democracy, and particularly how that relates to schools and the development of their own unique expressive arts curriculum. Just as important to this is how cultural organisations can play their part in helping schools fully realise the Expressive Arts AoLE and how the support they provide will in the long term help develop and maintain audiences. This is in fact the ultimate goal of the Four Purposes of the Curriculum for Wales, and using the cultural sector is a simple and effective way for schools to meet them.

The Bigger Picture
The Bigger Picture

Sean Featherstone from the Lead Creative Schools scheme opened the day with a sharing of some videos of cross-curricular creative learning projects that have been taking place in schools. We saw the brand new animation made by three schools in Monmouth in collaboration with the infamous Rockfield Studios, where many famous records have been recorded, including Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. Another project involved a Comprehensive school in collaboration with a Creative Agent, who imagined and enacted what would happen at the end of the world, how would they survive.

The Bigger Picture

After this David Anderson, General Director of National Museum Wales and a world authority on cultural democracy, took the stage to give us an incredibly insightful talk on what cultural democracy means and how the cultural sector or can achieve it. Citing Welsh cultural theorist Raymond Williams, David declared that culture is ordinary, “all people have culture and culture is not elitist, […] we use the word culture in two senses: to mean a whole way of life – the common meaning; to mean the arts and learning – the special process of discover and effort… Culture is ordinary, in every society and every mind.” David described what some of the big museums are doing wrong in not providing democratic access to culture and some of the projects that National Museum Wales have initiated to foster inclusivity and access to their venues.

The Bigger Picture
The Bigger Picture

The afternoon saw three hour-long workshops looking at different aspects of cultural democracy. Sangeet of Wise Kids led a discussion about digital citizenship and how it affects our lives, our schools and our young people. She compares the internet to a huge city and begs the question; Would you allow your children to walk alone in a big city? This is effectively what we do when we allow children to wander the internet without guidance. But of course the internet is also an incredibly empowering resource, which everyone should enjoy and use to it’s full potential. Sangeet spit us into three groups for a discussion about different aspects of digital safety and empowerment, which we turned into a recorded dialogue using vocaroo.com and shared with the other groups using padlet.com.

The Bigger Picture

Rabab Ghazoul from Gentle/Radical opened her discussion a sentence written on a flip chart; “A conversation about change is a conversation about power.” Her discussion centred on Adultism, which can be defined as “the structural discrimination against and systematic mistreatment of young people by adults”, and forms of reparation. Quoting educational theorist Michael Apple, “education must be seen as a political act”, we are asked to consider the questions; “Whose knowledge is this? How did it become ‘official’?” This opens up a discussion about how young people might be empowered to become creators of their own culture, and thus become the people envisioned in the Four Purposes. We are split into groups of four and asked to actively listen while each person spoke for two minutes, reflecting on these questions in relation to the Welsh education system.

The Bigger Picture
The Bigger Picture

Danielle of the Riverfront and Rhian of Operasonic talk about their Schools Without Walls project, and what might happen when a school moves in to a cultural venue. The project involved a school moving into the Riverfront for whole days and using the cultural venue as its classroom. This allows young people to take ownership of their culture, while also effectively bringing the whole family to the venue, meaning the community start to take ownership. The session ends with something creative, a challenge; “We invite you to be explosive. Make! Write! Perform! An invitation at the Riverfront. Open for all.” Which leads to dressing up and some short, off-the-cuff group performances.

See More