from Great Art and Culture for Everyone,
to Great Arts and Culture by, with and for Everyone
Everyday Creativity and Grassroots Culture
Everyday Creativity: Why, What and How?
Themes and Recommendations
Appendix 1 - Acknowledgements
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Photo Credit: Nick Hand
In late 2015, 64 Million Artists was commissioned by Arts Council England
(ACE) to deliver a nationwide consultation looking at the value of everyday
creativity within arts and culture in England. The work was delivered following the
publication of the
more joined up cultural ecology and revealing that only 8% of the UK population
regularly attend funded culture. We have worked in partnership with
and others to suggest ways of addressing these findings and
this consultation has been a step towards understanding the role Arts Council
England might play in supporting a culture of everyday creativity.
Over five months we have met with over 300 professional artists and
practitioners; everyday artists, academics, staff from arts and cultural
organisations, local authority staff and volunteers in twelve towns and cities
in each of the English regions. We have heard many different opinions, as
well as many common themes and from these have gathered some concrete
recommendations about how we might better integrate everyday creativity
across a spectrum of arts and culture in England.
Overwhelmingly we have heard that language, attitudes and the prevailing
‘excellence’ narrative in the arts can be seen as divisive in terms of engaging a
broader audience in arts and culture. It was understood by many that we have
created a culture in which ‘Art is what artists do,’ and that those without skill or
talent in this area are discouraged from participating or practicing creativity. In
work, homes and schools all over the country people see a division between
‘the creatives’ and the ‘non-creatives’, and those who feel they fall into the latter
category don’t feel sufficiently engaged in the rich cultural ecology of the UK.
We gleaned that some of the characteristics of everyday creativity (the
importance of process over product, being given permission, finding activity in
your local area, driven by local people) offered great starting points, for people
finding their own way into individual creativity and culture more broadly. We
looked at how developing a culture of everyday creativity across the country
might contribute to a more democratic, accessible and open culture for all.
We realise that these findings build on the work of many others over a number of
decades. The balance between ‘high art’ and the grassroots has been a continual
conversation across the arts sector since public funding for the arts was first
introduced 70 years ago, and there are many more qualified than us to give a
detailed history of it. This consultation takes a contemporary snapshot of the UK
scene and draws from a momentum manifested in national projects like
, Fun Palaces and the continuing work of Voluntary Arts. This work feels
more crucial than ever in contributing to a balanced arts ecology where culture is
valued by everyone.
o Lead action research into the impact everyday creativity can have on
o Take a stronger stance on creativity in education
o Lobby other areas of civic life where everyday creativity can contribute
• The arts and cultural sector to change its methodologies for measuring
and surveying engagement in arts activity.
• ACE to consider a national campaign that highlights the benefits of,
encourages more, and celebrates, everyday creativity.
• Cultural organisations (including ACE) to promote a culture of everyday
creativity in their own workplaces and with sponsors/partners.
2. Supporting existing and encouraging more grassroots activity: better
supporting existing examples of everyday creativity and helping to develop
• ACE to adapt its current funding structures to better support everyday
• creating a small grants fund EITHER as part of Grants for the Arts OR
using community funding models such as Feast to distribute small
grants, with lower requirements for up to £5,000.
• creating longer term funding opportunities for community
• funding people, not projects: supporting creative catalysts and
individuals who are promoting everyday creativity
• training Contact Centre staff to better understand everyday creativity
• Commission a feasibility study into improving information sharing for
local groups, activities and cultural and community events
• Continue support for networking opportunities across the broadest range
of everyday creativity
3. Democratising an existing funded infrastructure: supporting existing funded
cultural organisations to democratise their working practices and encourage
more and better everyday creativity
• Funded cultural buildings, where possible and appropriate, should be
better deployed for community activity.
• ‘Citizen panels’ to be convened for funding decisions.
• The arts and cultural sector to facilitate and encourage local, regional
and national skills sharing between individuals from across the broadest
spectrum of creative activity.
In this report we have attempted to find a balance between some radical calls for
a complete overhaul of the arts funding system and understanding the important
work that Arts Council England already does and needs to keep doing. There
was a clear and on-going belief amongst most consultees that ACE needs to
balance significant sums from ‘the gatekeepers of high art’ to the grassroots,
and that subtle shifts in the focus of funding will have little impact. We hope in
the recommendations in this report to have reflected a realistic balance that will
contribute to further shifts in the ways everyday creativity is viewed as a central
contributor to a healthy arts and cultural sector in England.
This report recognises that whilst ACE specifically could and should do more to
explicitly recognise and value everyday creativity, the arts sector and society at
large can also contribute to shifts in how this wider culture is valued. It is hoped
that this report will stimulate changes in approach from other arts councils across
the UK, from across funded arts and cultural institutions, local, regional and
national government, and other contributors to a healthy civic society.
Key to these debates was the search for the place where celebrating the
everyday and respecting the professional meet, ensuring that all areas of
culture are valued in the ways that work best for them. This proved to be a
core challenge, and one that we have tried to reflect across the following
recommendations, which were crowdsourced from all of the meetings we
attended. They are broken down into 3 overarching areas:
1. Valuing everyday creativity in arts and culture
2. Supporting existing and encouraging more grassroots activity
3. Democratising an existing funded infrastructure
1. Valuing everyday creativity in the wider arts ecology – from Great Art and
Culture for Everyone to Great Arts and Culture by, with and for Everyone
• ACE (in partnership with arts and cultural funding bodies in Wales,
Scotland and Northern Ireland) to take a clearer, more visible stance about
the inclusion of everyday creativity in its policies, practices and funded
o Increasing the visibility of everyday creativity in all communications
o Revisiting language including the use of ‘Great Art’ in public and
o Relaxing art form definitions.
• The arts and cultural sector to commit to a central role in lobbying and
advocacy across departments of government (local, regional and national)
to ensure everyday creativity is central to policy.
Photo Credit: Bedpop Fun Palace, Bedford
Credit: We Can Creative
64 Million Artists
In 2013 Jo Hunter and David Micklem came together around their shared
preoccupations with the importance of everyday creativity and its power to
unlock human potential. As arts practitioners they have seen the power of
professional art to transform lives and played key roles in supporting artists to
make excellent work. And they have both personally experienced the frustrations
of an arts sector that tends to dictate that ‘art is what artists do’ and that fails to
value a culture of everyday creativity.
In 2014 they formed 64 Million Artists – a major new project to shine a light on
and encourage everyday creativity as an increasingly central part of UK culture.
Using the methodology Do, Think, Share 64 Million Artists run experiments and
interventions in the following settings:
Working with Fun Palaces and Voluntary Arts and alongside movements
and BBC Get Creative 64 Million Artists take a central
role in shaping cultural policy around everyday creativity. They also work
with King’s College London on major research programmes to explore the
notion of everyday creativity and its impact on cultures and everyday life.
Workplaces and Education
From toothpaste factories to universities and everything in between, 64
Million Artists run workplace programmes to inspire creativity at work in
order to promote better engagement, wellbeing and idea generation.
Wellbeing and Mental Health
Building on their work with individuals in the January and Friday
Challenges Jo and David are now creating a bespoke set of programmes
for people at risk of or suffering from mental health issues such as anxiety
and depression as well as their friends, colleagues, families and clinicians.
City Wide Interventions
Between 2016-2018 64 Million Artists will be working with at least 2 major
cities to explore what happens when you create a city-wide culture of
everyday creativity across a prolonged period of time....over a year or
Everyday Creativity and Grassroots Culture
In February 2015 the Warwick Commission Report into Cultural Value published
its findings. The report highlighted that despite the good work of funded arts
organisations, regular audience attendance remained at around 8% of the
population and that more work needed to be done to encourage a culture of
everyday participation in the UK. In the same month the BBC launched Get
Creative in partnership with over 1,000 stakeholders around the country in an
attempt to catalyse everyday creativity amongst the population.
In partnership with Voluntary Arts and Fun Palaces, 64 Million Artists began
to examine the potential of a grassroots cultural coalition to champion the
importance of everyday creativity within a cultural ecology. It is the view of these
partners, and many other grassroots organisations and informal affiliations, that
arts and culture should be not just for everyone, but by, with and for everyone.
These arguments build on a wealth of existing (and growing) support for a more
democratic approach to arts and culture. An implied hierarchy that splits the
professional from the non-professional has been perpetuated since the middle
of the last century. However, there is a growing interest in this area from a range
of different interests and parties. This report attempts to consolidate voices from
a growing movement calling for a greater focus on the grassroots in the arts and
culture at a time when ACE is reviewing its commitment across this spectrum of
To this end in early 2016, 64 Million Artists brought together employers,
organisations, individual artists, academics (professional and amateur) and Arts
Council England’s National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs), to deliver an action
research project that explored how to catalyse cultural agency for everyone in the
country through reimagining everyday participation.
64 Million Artists, working in partnership with hosts across the English regions,
convened a dozen meetings to explore our understanding of everyday creativity,
the conditions under which it thrives, how it can play a central role in an arts and
cultural ecology, and what role Arts Council England might play in its support
in total. We brought together 304 individuals, identified by each host, with an
interest in the democratisation of culture, to contribute to our findings. We
worked with each host organisation to draw up a list of invitees that would ensure
a broad range of voices contributed to the thinking behind this report.
Over the following pages we will outline what we heard at those meetings, what
the overarching themes were, and what actions are recommended to ACE and
the broader cultural sector as a result.
No of attendees
City of Culture
Warwick University 6th April
Photo Credit: Camden peoples theatre Fun Palace (Credit: Joyce Nicholls)
Before trying to understand the factors that contribute to a thriving culture of
everyday creativity, we began by drawing together its positive characteristics,
and good examples from across the country. We gathered hundreds of great
exemplars comprising street parties, guerilla gardening, painting in sheds,
knitting circles, breakdancing in open spaces, Fun Palaces, amateur groups and
community projects and asked participants to identify the common themes that
linked these activities. Headline examples of those themes follow:
Accessibility of space/place
The importance of having access to a place to be creative was seen as a vital
ingredient of everyday creativity. Whether this is a physical or virtual place,
making it accessible for all, very visible in the public eye and having an entry level
for everyone to come in was seen as central in promoting everyday creativity.
Creativity by stealth
Many groups talked about the importance of ‘smuggling’ creativity into everyday
life. When individuals and groups stumble across things and people are already
getting involved, they are more likely to participate. This might involve learning
through singing at school, or targeting parents by doing creative activities with
children or taking part in something in the street or at a carnival.
Process over product
This was a key theme in each group. The importance of stressing the importance
of process as much as quality of outcome is seen as critical to a positive
experience of everyday creativity. Consistently we heard that it’s not about what
you did (or made) but about who you did it with, what you felt, how it affected
you. Many people noted our culture tends to focus on creative outputs (books,
films, songs) rather than process (writing, filmmaking, singing) to the detriment of
Being given permission
Perceived barriers to engaging in creative activity can be dissolved by someone
you trust or look up to encouraging you to take part. Society can put up invisible
barriers (see the second part of this section) and having someone to give you
permission to overcome them is important. Permission from yourself is also
included in this. Many people noted that creativity is something we often don’t
prioritise or make time for, but when we do, it has a positive impact on our lives.
Many examples of best practice in everyday creativity were led by individuals
with a passion for ‘doing’ who had set up events, groups or clubs for others to
join in. These cultural connectors or catalysts were seen as a crucial component in
support of a landscape of everyday creativity.
An opportunity to come together with friends, or to meet new people was cited
as a core factor in cultivating a culture of everyday creativity. People from across
society are often looking for a legitimised way of spending more time with friends
and creative activities can be a way to do this.
Everyday creativity can provide an outlet through which individuals can express
their ideas, opinions or feelings in a safe way. This was seen as core to the
experience of everyday creativity whether it took place on your own or in a group
setting, and whether it was implicit or explicit. Having an opportunity to make
your mark, or share something that is yours, especially for people who have less
of a voice elsewhere in society, was also deemed important.
The rise of digital has seen a greater prevalence of cheap tools for creativity,
more space for sharing and a way of increasing the visibility of everyday creativity.
TV programmes such as the Great British Bake Off, The Choir and Strictly Come
Dancing have also been linked to rises in everyday creativity across the country.
Whilst on the whole these have been positive developments, digital was also
cited as a barrier to children and adults engaging in ‘real life’ creative activities.
Whilst there was a focus on everyday creativity not being primarily about skill
or talent, the importance of having the opportunity to progress was deemed
significant. Having available progression routes that help participants to see a
way to continue or develop their practice of everyday creativity can help them
stick with something over a longer period of time.
As we talked through these themes, we also uncovered a number of key barriers
to formalised arts and culture that everyday creativity was helping to overcome.
The prevailing narrative around excellence/professionalism
This was one of the key narratives that came up in all of our conversations
nationally. Many consultees argued that wider society assumes that ‘Art is what
Artists do’; that it is only worth doing ‘art’ if you are good at it and that striving
towards excellence is more important than just having a go. This received
wisdom argues that if you are not talented then your engagement is as an
audience member, not as a creative citizen in your own right.
This dichotomy, between professional ‘great art’ and the everyday, creates
a barrier to more people engaging in a range of arts activities. ACE, in its
commitment to excellence and access, might be seen as focusing its support
towards either professional artists (great art) or audiences (everyone). Many
consultees pointed to support for sport where the amateur and professional are
seen as equal contributors to a spectrum as an example of engaged activity.
Language around creativity and the arts
Definitions of culture, creativity and the arts are perceived to be one of the most
significant barriers to people participating in creative practice. Many participants
felt that language used by those in the funded sector could be seen as exclusive
and ‘worthy’ and that it didn’t resonate with broader society. Words like ‘fun’ and
‘play’ were deemed more inviting and it was felt that ‘amateur’ or ‘community’
should be reclaimed and celebrated to raise the profile or engagement in
everyday creativity, as well as audience development in the funded sector.
It is also noted that this dichotomy, between professional and community /
amateur, can be overplayed. Professional artists are often key to catalysing
everyday creativity, the legacy of which can be longer term community led
groups and creative and cultural activity. The role of professional artist as initial
inspiration, permission-giver and confidence-builder is significant and can create
lasting impacts within community settings.
Lack of creativity in education and work
The education system was a focus of many of the national conversations, with
participants citing not only the reduction of arts in the curriculum but also the
lack of room for creativity in teaching with pressure on teachers from all sides.
Many also mentioned that arts subjects themselves were becoming more
regulated in their teaching – with children being made to create identical pictures
or structured forms of writing, rather than being encouraged to play or use
their imagination. Continual assessment from a very early age can stifle playful
creativity and runs counter to the notion of a creative educational environment.
In adult working life self-expression and creativity are often discouraged and a
culture of being a ‘professional’ version of yourself, rather than expressing your
own ideas and opinions, is often the norm. Education and work can to contribute
to a culture of embarrassment or self-consciousness around self expression and
Photo Credit: Nick Hand