Ticking Outside The Box

Have you noticed that there's a new 'C'-word in the air_? Not new in the sense that it didn't exist before, but certainly there is a rising interest in Creativity.

Over the last few years this escalation of interest has been obvious, especially since the 'All our Futures' report, although to be honest it was difficult to notice any real change of perceptions until Creative Partnerships began, two years ago. Originally it seemed that this initiative was mainly concerned with redressing the balance within the national curriculum, where due to an emphasis on literacy and numeracy, the arts had taken a backseat; however, it has become something different, and, for many of us, the beginnings of something much more interesting.

Around this time, Tom Bentley and Kimberly Seltzer wrote the DEMOS publication, 'The Creative Age'. This argued that there was a gap between what school education was providing and what our modern society needed. Ken Robinson continued this theme in his book, 'Out of Our Minds', which argued that not only has our world has changed dramatically over the last 100 years, but that the speed of change is increasing exponentially. Both publications alerted the reader that today's businesses are lacking in workers with the agile mind required by the 21st century workplace and agreed that what is required is nothing less than a workforce that can think creatively and cope with the pressures of an ever-changing society. Enter Creative Partnerships.

If these books posed the question, then Creative Partnerships was the answer. Well, except that not everybody appeared to understand (or have even read) the question. Everyone understood that Creative Partnerships was about connecting schools with cultural organisations; however, how and why these organisations could connect to actually help schools to be more creative places, especially with the curriculum still in place was another matter. Hence, there has been a wide range of experiences across the Creative Partnership areas, from arts organisations going into schools (as they have always done) and delivering what they always do, to artists experimenting with new ways of working in educational settings, and out of all this something interesting is beginning to emerge.

Around last November, the Arts Council began to note that there were at least two different types of projects going in schools. There were those that appeared to be similar to the arts education program that they had been funding for at least the last fifteen years, and there were those that appeared to be doing something else. Instead of the directed-project approach where the outcome is already decided, these 'different' projects were student-centred and with a focus on the processes employed within the art form. What's more, it was these types of projects that appeared to be having the most impact on the students and teachers.

In between times, Richard Florida had come to the UK to present his findings documented in his book, 'The Rise of The Creative Class'. His particular thesis showed that companies were so desperate for a steady flow of workers with creative thinking skills that they were actually moving to where creatives lived. This was the final pin that locked the subject of creativity to nothing less than the economic growth and future of this country.

Over the last five years therefore there has been a paradigm shift in thinking as to the role that creative people might play in today's society, and that includes community musicians. The good news is that the old views still appear to apply, such as the arts having an impact on the health of the nation, social issues, the quality of music education and cultural entitlement, but now there is a deep interest as well in the actual processes behind our work.

The questions for the moment include: what is the very essence of successful creative engagement; what are the processes used; what are the effects; and, how can these be embedded into our education system. The result is that it is now an opportune moment for those out there who have engaged in reflective practice and who have documented their work to share their understandings with a whole new audience and play a part in this new wave of change. □√