Engagement at the Grassroots: The Anvil of Creation

Robin Simpson,
Fiona Campbell
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The Voluntary Arts Network (VAN) was set up by the voluntary cultural sector to be its development agency and advocate for arts participation in the UK and Republic of Ireland. As such we are in the unique position of supporting grassroots cultural groups and their artform umbrella bodies in their local arts and crafts activity.

These groups are made up by most unpaid workers, who have decided how they will engage with culture is through creating opportunities for themselves and others to take part. In many cases this has been motivated by people seeing a gap and not waiting for others to fill it – what could be termed ‘the anvil of creation’ of the voluntary sector. Whilst many of them have chosen to remain at an amateur status, they do pursue professional standards in their operations.

We recognise the importance of people engaging in cultural activity for the many benefits this brings. VAN works at many levels to ensure that the environment is conducive to this kind of participation. Volunteers are essential to the cultural life of their communities, especially in rural areas, and all the festivals in Edinburgh have a reliance on voluntary effort to make them the success that they are.

This presentation will introduce you to Voluntary Arts Network, the sector known as the voluntary cultural sector, the importance of cultural volunteering and will share inspiring stories of people’s personal involvement with their art form and how their motivation has given so many the opportunities to engage and experience cultural activities that otherwise would not have existed. It will also touch on how the grassroots are being linked to the global through such initiatives as the European Network of Voluntary and Amateur Arts – creating different levels of engagement.

Speaker: Robin Simpson, CEO Voluntary Arts Network

Keywords: Voluntary Arts, Cultural Volunteers, Arts in the Community, Arts and Crafts practice, Amateur Arts, International Links, Access and opportunities
Stream: Supporting the Arts, Art in Communities
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Engagement at the Grassroots

Robin Simpson

Chief Executive Officer, Voluntary Arts Network

Robin Simpson is the newly appointed CEO of the Voluntary Arts Network. Until recently he was Head of Training & Development and Deputy CEO of Making Music the national umbrella body for amateur music making, supporting over 2,000 amateur music groups throughout the UK, including choirs, orchestras, and music promoters.

Robin Simpson joined Making Music at the end of March 1999 after three years as General Manager of The British Federation of Festivals, supporting the volunteer organisers of more than 300 festivals of music, dance and speech & drama across the UK.

Robin has substantial experience of working with volunteers having also worked for six years for the Royal National Institute for the Blind, managing a team of over 130 volunteer readers to record academic textbooks onto tape for visually-impaired students.

A keen amateur French horn player, Robin is currently a member of the Northampton Symphony Orchestra. He has recently completed his MBA with the Open University Business School.

In his new role Robin will continue to build on the work of the organisation which supports over 270 umbrella organisations and thousands more at a local level through its national devolved structure.

Fiona Campbell

Network Officer, Voluntary Arts Scotland, Voluntary Arts Network

Fiona Campbell has been involved in cultural activities for a number of years in Scotland and New Zealand (where she hails from) and currently is the Network Officer of Voluntary Arts Scotland. She has been and is on a number of management committees such as for the Adult Learning Project Scots Music Group and Traditional Music & Song Association of Scotland. Fiona also performs in and produces musical theatre productions and is a tutor of Scottish Step dancing. She enjoys different forms of dance, singing, playing a variety of instruments, reading and needlework. Fiona has been involved with marketing work for the National Association of Youth Orchestras (NAYO) and her last post was as Project Administrator for Scottish Education & Action for Development. She has completed a postgraduate diploma in Cultural Policy & Management.

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