What Next 2013 Delegates gather

What Next 2013
Delegates gather

Afternoon guest speakers and provocateurs at #WhatNext2013

Afternoon guest speakers and provocateurs at #WhatNext2013

Emerging into the sunlight full of further debate and thoght

Emerging into the sunlight full of further debate and thought

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What Next ? began in the shadow of massive cuts to the arts and cultural organisations as the recession became a reality here in the UK. It was a gathering of people, who came together because they felt isolated and threatened by impending doom. They gave themselves an hour but it wasn’t enough and so it continued on – weekly meetings around London that shared the news,  sought to come up with ways to challenge the landslide of negativity and have a positive impact on the current governments divisive statements about all things arts and culture.  No-one took charge, it was a collaborative approach. What Next? is open to anyone who wants to champion the arts and culture, anyone who is involved in it and who wants to become a part of a whole.  It is a movement (although it is still struggling to recognize this) and hasn’t defined its objectives beyond its common purpose but it must be doing something right because it is drawing Arts Champions and senior public figures in to its meetings to debate and discuss how we remind ourselves, and those who have forgotten, and those who don’t understand just why the arts and culture are the lifeblood of the UK and just what the impact of mismanaging the cultural future of our children would be.

What Next 2013 held twenty meetings across London (although it is spreading across the UK as we speak). An open invitation was issued via social media platforms and there was a diverse crowd of people who responded to the call, 650 people came.  A small but broad group of people from a variety of cultural sectors and arts organisations and groups.  We came from all over the UK to come together, to find some common ground for some common actions that would have strength and impact alongside all our individual voices and individual actions.

What Next isn’t about re-hashing the arguments and it’s not about waving a magic wand or having the answers.  It is about cultural activism, forming a cohesive body, about bringing together as many of the disperate parts of the arts and cultural sector as want to be involved and finding some platforms from which to fight our corner.

Those who were at the event and those who managed to overcome the live streaming glitches, heard from a plethora of voices in the afternoon see here http://www.whatnextculture.co.uk   We heard from the young, the old, the experienced, the new and upcoming. Old adversaries and competitors stood in the same room and put their egos to one side in order to focus on this important task. We’re not just saving the Arts here – we’re saving the future of our country.  We have to help those blind to the consequences of their actions to understand that it’s NOT about which is more important – Save the NHS or save our Arts?   It’s about keeping the essence of what makes our country good and not allowing it to be destroyed, it’s about balance and vision and purpose.

My grandfather could draw, but he went down the mine and worked in a steel factory to help his older brother feed the family rather than going to college, two things fed his soul: football and art. Although he never formally recognised the latter, it was in every letter he penned and every drawing he made and he instilled that love in his children, they made costumes, put together plays, learnt to play the piano and they sang, he filled his family life with as much colour as his own childhood had lacked. He fought for that. I fight for it also because I see it slipping away under a tide of short-sighted, weak-willed governance.

see my storify of tweets and comments on the day and on reflection of the day here: http://www.storify.com/Artsmonkey1/what-next-2013

and some action stirring already in response to arts Champion Sam Wests (@exitthelemming) gauntlet that he threw down to those assembled :  http://storify.com/Artsmonkey1/what-next-2013-the-debate-continues-actions-stir

Collection of pictures from the day here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/artsmonkey/sets/72157633372904389/

Resources from the day here:

http://www.whatnextculture.co.uk/resources/

Response here on the Arts Pro blog http://www.artsprofessional.co.uk/blog/juliet-brain/togetherness

Kwong Lee’s response here on the A-N Artists site http://new.a-n.co.uk/news/single/conference-report-what-next-a-movement-in-the-making/1

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