Cultural Spring Director Takes To International Stage

The director of an award-winning South Tyneside/Sunderland arts project had a leading role to play at an international arts forum.

Emma Horsman has been Project Director at the Cultural Spring, part of the Creative People and Places (CPP) programme funded by Arts Council England (ACE) to increase participation in the arts across South Tyneside and Sunderland, for almost three years.

Last month, Emma was invited to speak at the prestigious Warsaw Forum, an invitation-only event gathering for researchers, cultural practitioners, activists, policy-makers, and decision makers from across the EU and further afield. The forum’s intention was to explore the role of policy makers in cultural democracy and widening participation.

Emma was speaking on behalf of the CPP network, which is made up of 21 projects across England including the Cultural Spring.

“It was a fascinating few days and it was great to talk to friends and colleagues across Europe about their experiences in widening participation in the arts, which is the aim of the Cultural Spring and the other 20 CPP projects.

“I spoke about where I think cultural democracy will be in ten years time – cultural democracy is about everyone getting the same level of access to excellent arts and culture provision no matter who they are or where they live. It’s also about people having a say in what culture is and having an input into cultural activity in their locality.

“It’s a huge topic in the UK and across Europe at the moment and programmes like the Cultural Spring are passionate about ensuring as many people as possible can access excellent arts events and activities in the areas where we work. I was delighted to tell the other delegates about the work we’re doing in communities in South Tyneside and Sunderland and how our work is transforming people’s lives.”

Sweden has already developed a programme modelled on CPP and Australia, Denmark and Italy are all exploring how the same sort of approach may work in their countries.

“It was an intensive three days and we had four discussion points that we talked about at length. One thing we kept coming back to was democracy and the role culture has to play in it – how culture can create a safe place for us to come out of our community or geographic ‘bubbles’ and encounter other people and views.

Other delegates included a Spanish academic from the University of Barcelona; a project manager from Rotterdam Festivals; a Norwegian academic specialising in audience research; the Director of the Budapest Observatory on Culture; a leading Danish dancer; a Portugese cultural management consultant and an Associate Professor in Audience Engagement from the University of Leeds, and Phil Cave, a former director at ACE who developed the £80m Creative People and Places programme.