Widening Participation into the Arts Conference.

The creative sector demands diversity of life, social and cultural experience in the make up of the next generation of ‘cultural-creators and innovators’ (Into The Arts 2016). The creative industries form a significant part of the UK economy contributing £84.1 billion (Nesta 2016) and is the sector best supporting economic recovery. However multiple factors are challenging the diversity of applicants and access to the arts more broadly with numbers taking arts at school at their lowest in a decade. Loss of many local art schools, the cost, competition and entry demands of many arts HE Institutions and reduction in curriculum and take-up of arts subjects in schools has resulted in significantly diminishing diversity of applicants and access.

On 17th July Brighton University hosted the second annual Widening Participation into the Arts Conference to discuss and debate these issues.

Keynote speaker was British artist Duggie Fields who got the conference off to a colourful start talking about his life long career in the creative industries and highlighting the diverse opportunities that had arisen during his life as an artist. Presenting works from the 1970s to the present day, it was easy to see the inextricable blurring between Fields’ work and his life and his wide cultural significance over the last five decades.

Delegates then moved on to a series of papers and workshops looking at problems for the future of young people from diverse or more challenging backgrounds but with much to offer the creative sector. How the social mobility of young people from diverse and working class backgrounds is being limited. Moreover what is the impact on the future of the cultural, social and gender spread desperately needed to enrich our creative industry and the UK economy? This second Into the Arts conference provided much food for thought and a really valuable opportunity to develop discussion about widening participation in the creative education sector.