The National Campaign for the Arts are hosting a digital Open Space event in response to the Arts Index.
“Only through radically rethinking the ambitions we have to serve communities and audiences are we going to be able to recover” said Nicholas Kenyon of the Barbican last week.
Is he right? Can we look to a radical future? One thing for certain is that we need to urgently act to ensure the UK arts sector survives and thrives beyond COVID-19. Which is why we’ve decided to organise Somewhere Over the Rainbow, an Open Space online conversation that will bring people together, ask questions, share ideas and hopefully bring a little hope as to ways forward.
So what is Open Space?
Open Space is a perfect format for imagining new possibilities because the agenda is set, not by the NCA or by our partners, but by those of you who come along, whether you’re an artist, promoter, cultural leader, curator, venue, technician or an advocate. Open Space assumes we all have a responsibility to tackle big issues, and if we’re going to do that, we need time and space on an equal footing to explore, discuss and identify how we can affect real and lasting change.
What’s going to happen then?
Open Space events usually happen in a physical space, with conversation, networking and powered by coffee. But these days they happen online, powered by Zoom, with your own favourite brew to hand. If you’ve not used it before Zoom is a simple, free video chat app, but if you’re worried about using it, please let us know and we can give you whatever help you need.
The process will start with a gathering of people, people who’ve come along because they care about the arts, a gathering of people that’s unique, and who have never and will never again be together in exactly this grouping.
Open Space ‘technology’ is simple. It’s people. At the outset of the session there’ll be a chance for anyone with an issue, question or idea to timetable a conversation about it. Normally you’d post your idea on a big ‘market place’ wall; in Zoom we’ll post it on a screen everyone can see. All the ideas and questions will get timetabled on the screen and the agenda for the afternoon will come together. Thanks to the magic that is the Zoom breakout room, over the course of the couple of hours that follow, people will join the conversations that ‘speak to them’ the loudest.
At any one time, there might be 5, 10 or even more breakout conversations going on at the same time. The ‘law of 2 feet’ (or of ‘personal mobility’) means that you can dip in and out of conversations as you want, using some simple Zoom steps; you might sit through 2 conversations from start to finish, or move like a bumble bee between loads more than that, adding a few ideas to all of them as you go. The choice is yours. The responsibility is yours. Then, at the end of the event, everyone comes together again, to share their reflections, learning and the actions they want to commit to after the event. We end as we finish, sharing what’s important to us all.
More than just a talking shop, the aim is to get things and people moving
At ‘Open Space’ isn’t about any one person or organisation taking control or promising to solve everything; rather, it’s way of bringing together people who want to address an issue, focus on what matters to them, make essential connections, and do what they think must be done. It’s about a culture of shared responsibility through which ordinary people can accomplish extraordinary things.
Because we want Somewhere Over the Rainbow to contribute to the national conversation currently going on about the arts and its future viability we’ll produce a report or blog after the event and share it with everyone who was there as well as funders and government.
Hopefully, Open Space inspires thinking that wouldn’t have come about in any other circumstance, and ideas are generated that wouldn’t otherwise have seen the light of day.
By the end of an Open Space event our hope is that everyone will go home a little bit different, with some new insights, some new potential collaborators and friends, a spring in their step and some ideas to keep them busy and connected in the weeks and months that follow.
But who knows?! We certainly don’t. That’s the whole point, the beauty of open space, and what makes it so exciting!
Somewhere Over the Rainbow – an open space for artists, cultural leaders and activists – takes place online on the 26th June from 1pm-4.30pm. Book your free place here