Participatory Arts – Thinking Beyond The Lockdown. A Response From Kathryn Williams, Director Rubicon Dance and Tracey Brown, Mentoring, Training, Development Leader, Rubicon Dance.

In response to the lockdown triggered by COVID-19, many arts organisations have taken their work online, sharing content for audiences to view for free. However, creating participatory engagement online is much more challenging and, as a sector used to being face to face with people in their practice, it’s clear that the current restrictions change the nature of participatory arts based activity substantially.

Following a vital conversation on social media led by Guy O’Donnell, Learning and Participation Producer, National Dance Company Wales which opened a discussion on how we can deliver participatory arts effectively, a range of partners are collaborating to lead Zoom discussions for the sector where we can talk about the impact of the lockdown on our work and work creatively together to think beyond the lockdown.

In partnership with ArtWorks Cymru a series of free Zoom meetings have been set up to discuss and share current working practices in participatory delivery.

Thinking Beyond the Lockdown

These Zoom meetings will explore how we think beyond the lockdown. We’ll explore what the future might hold, what we might keep from our online experiences, and how we live with an uncertain future.

Tracey Brown, Mentoring, Training, Development Leader and Kathryn Williams, Director, Rubicon Dance Dance are presenting at the Dance focused Zoom meeting on Wednesday the 10th of June 3-5pm. 

Kathryn Williams, Director, Rubicon Dance is presenting at the Community Arts meeting organised by Tanio on Thu, 11 June, 2-3.30pm

The meetings are free to attend but numbers are limited. Kathryn and Tracey share their biographies below and some information on of areas they will discuss at the meetings below.

Kathryn Williams

Rubicon’s Director since 2014, I studied Dance at Roehampton. My career has spanned IT, Finance as well as the Third Sector and the Arts. I have an MSc in Entrepreneurship, I’m a Lead Wales graduate and I’m also Wales’ first Pilotlighter.

I think that access to the arts is a democratic right and this very much spaces my approach to what I do. I’m also a School Governor, childcare campaigner, advocate for the arts and committed martial artist. I live in the former mining community of the Rhondda in South Wales with my husband and teenage sons.

Tracey Brown

Tracey has worked at Rubicon since September 1996 and her very first role was Dance Development Worker, leading dance sessions for a wide range of ages, abilities and backgrounds and contexts whilst setting up Rubicon’s development programme across Cardiff which initially targeted five key areas of the city.

Tracey now manages Rubicon CPD programmes, an annual summer programme for community dance practitioners from across Wales, an individual learning programme for Rubicon’s dance practitioners, the community dance apprentice training programme, mentor development as well as the Wales Wide Training Programme (WWTP).

Highlight’s for Tracey’s time at Rubicon includes the success and reach of the development programme, the Rubicon to Romania programme working with deaf children in Craiova, the community dance apprentice programme and the Wales Wide Training Programme! In 2017 Tracey won a Creative and Cultural Skills Council UK Award for her work with community dance apprentices.

Wales Wide Training Programme (WWTP)

At the Dance meeting Tracey will talk about the Wales Wide Training Programme (WWTP) which is an initiative that exists to support the development of community dance practice and provision across Wales. WWTP was established in 2013 with seven partners, all of whom were community dance/arts organisations. There are now seventeen partners from across Wales and these include venues and theatres, universities, national companies, colleges as well as the initial community dance and arts organisations. WWTP is steered by the partners who work together to design and organise training and professional development programmes that respond to sector-need.

The database is currently at 250 (it started with 40 in 2013) and includes a range of people from practitioners, apprentices, venue managers, health boards, arts organisations, freelancers and directors.

Challenges and solutions

WWTP is a programme that enables people who work in the dance sector to come together regularly and this takes place across Wales. There are currently twelve strands to WWTP and it was important to keep all of this work happening, especially as many of these strands take place more than once eg CPD days three per year across Wales. Initially when COVID-19 and lockdown began we were coming out of one year of funding and into another so the challenge was how the whole programme would be adapted in the new climate especially as both programmes overlapped. However we have adapted well and have re ordered the programme (May 2020-April 2021) and have met with partners and also practitioners from the database regularly via Zoom.

An Evaluation Forum that was scheduled for March 2020 (pre lockdown) and due to be led by Dr Susanne Burns was initially open to twelve people as this training is very tailored.

We have adapted this to have three Evaluation Forums on Zoom and they are open to eight people per session so our reach is higher, albeit online. The first two forums have already sold very quickly.

Another big challenge was thinking about the work force and that people will have less money than ever so it was important to offer a “pay what you can” approach. People have great trust and loyalty to WWTP and we feel that being fair to all is really important right now. WWTP is a training programme and no one should not sign up for events and CPD due to lack of finance or these people could de skill or lose confidence in a professional capacity quickly.

Further links

Wales Wide Training Programme Facebook Page

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