In Autumn 2019 I was invited to facilitate a meeting aimed at harnessing ideas and interest for the development of a Local Cultural Education Partnership (LCEP) in Chelmsford, the second meeting of its kind. While the LCEP would be new to Chelmsford, it would build on a national network, supported by Arts Council England, to embed Cultural Education for Children and Young people at local level across the country.
In Chelmsford, there was a clear alignment with the City Council’s Cultural Strategy, the formation of Ignite Chelmsford Cultural Partnership and the development of Chelmsford’s “Towards 2040” Shared Cultural Vision.
I jumped at the opportunity to support a concept with such a clear focus on joint working and the holistic view of cultural learning being a shared responsibility of both formal education and multi sector partners across the community.
An open invitation was shared to take part in the meeting and an enthusiastic group gathered, including some who hadn’t participated previously, for an overview of the LCEP project and some rapid idea generation. This reinforced the evidence of strong support for the LCEP and an enthusiasm to innovate, share ideas, and work together in new ways. Discussions also revealed a strong theme around support for creative career pathways and skills for future work.
Following the meeting, there was a firm commitment to move ahead and a welcome invitation for me to support this next stage. So began a frenetic few weeks to pull together an Expression of Interest to receive support from Royal Opera House Bridge to access Arts Council funding specifically designed to build Local Cultural Education Partnership infrastructure.
Following approval of our EOI we were determined to put forward a stage 2 proposal that built in as much insight as possible at this early point. We recognised that, while we were confident of Chelmsford’s potential, there were sufficient gaps in our knowledge to need some high level early research. Accordingly we developed a simple survey for our 6 identified stakeholder groups, and were delighted to receive almost 100 responses across children and young people, teachers, cultural organisations, community organisations, parents and businesses.
We also reflected on what we already knew of Chelmsford and the scoping undertaken previously to develop some key principles to underpin the proposal and the LCEP’s future:
- Understanding the LCEP’s unique role and avoiding duplication
- Acting as a convenor and facilitator supporting partners to deliver opportunities
- Strengths and evidence based
- Child and young person focused
- Innovative, learning and committed to building on and contributing to the knowledge base on the LCEP role and potential to support cultural and creative entitlement for all children and young people
We developed a detailed proposal, including 3 workstreams, allowing significant scope for further research and involvement in line with the commitment to an evidence based approach. The proposal was strongly predicated on the momentum building around Essex 2020’s planned “Year of Science and Creativity” and the anticipated upswing in engagement that the evolving programme of activities led by groups across the community this was inspiring.
On 6th March 2020 we received the fantastic news that the funding proposal had been approved and building the LCEP would receive a vital catalyst to kickstart its development. How quickly the picture changed and all plans went on hold, although within weeks ring-fencing of the funding for a later date was confirmed.
Fast Forward to the Beginning of 2021
Fast forward to the beginning of 2021 and a welcome opportunity to take stock and review our original proposal. What emerged was the sense that the pandemic had further proved the opportunity to build on the strengths of community based arts and cultural provision in Chelmsford, which had proved resilient and a positive focus for many throughout the challenges. It also suggested an increasingly competitive environment for future roles in the creative sector, and the need for our future workforce to be equipped with creative skills whatever their chosen direction.
At the same time, with continued uncertainty about COVID’s impact and the need for partners to focus their attention elsewhere, a request for a further pause seemed the best course of action. We therefore proposed to keep the two year programme largely unchanged, but delay the start further and were grateful that ROHB were able to offer this breathing space.
Where Are We Now?
It’s now really exciting to be at a stage to begin implementing the programme and to have been asked to provide a little support in setting things back in motion. We’re recruiting a Programme Manager to start early in 2022 who will be able to take forward all of the plans, and play a vital role in strengthening and building on the energy for cross sector partnership working to support the cultural education of all of Chelmsford’s Children and Young People.
There’s lots more information to come across a range of channels, about how the LCEP will work and opportunities to get involved so please keep your eyes peeled and spread the word.
I’ve loved being a part of shaping the early stages of this project so I can’t wait to see it beginning to come to fruition.
Blog post by Nikki Wilson, Founder of Resourcefully a strategic enterprise support, facilitation and incubation agency, worknig to bring change-makers and assets together to help great ideas to flourish. Working across sectors but specialising in working with individuals, projects and teams with a commitment to social purpose, community development, cultural enhancement and ethical business.
Chelmsford’s LCEP is being developed by Chelmsford City Council in partnership Culture Chelmsford, an independent charity set up to support and enable development of culture in our city through fundraising and advocacy.
Image: ©ACE Music Therapy who provide music therapy services across Essex, London and Hertfordshire, offering high quality, affordable music therapy provisions, community music groups and continued professional development and training sessions for professionals.