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If we see them again we've failed

6 : CPAL

Posted in: by Pete Moser on 18 March 2015
Tagged with: Artworks conversations

Consortium for Participatory Arts Learning (C-PAL) is a network of brilliant arts organisations in the North West that was set up in 2005. At present there are 14 members and we meet on occasions though in the past it as been a very active network with some major initiatives such as the brilliant Core Competency Framework.
These are all mature organisations who put participation at the centre of the their work and todays gathering in the Picturehouse at Band on the Wall included Cilla Baynes (CAN), Nic Hunt (MPA), Simon Ruding (TiPP), Rick Walker (Cartwheel Arts) with guest Tim Chatterton (Brighter Sound) and Gavin Sharp (BOTW).
We started with organisation updates that allowed us to understand what were the key drivers at this point for each organisation and as we talked I made notes that highlighted some brilliant practice. To read more it is best to go to the websites of the organisations.
I picked up on the following themes, and know that when these are done right you achieve quality. Throughout we recognise the line of risk we all run with that is about trying to have Bold Artistic Ambitions in Troubled environments.
Telling the Story
We heard about the great performance last week at Contact by professional actors voicing the story of young people from a project investigating mental health in Rochdale. About the presentation of a significant report in the House of lords called 'The Art of Engagement' commissioned and written by UNITAS and investigating the theory of change working with young offenders. About the accessible Congolese archive in the new Manchester Library, about 6.9 million views of a piece of work in Lancashire on Countryfile and of the recording that has recently come out of one of the Wall of Sounds residencies.
Process vs Product
We didn't talk long about this inevitable theme because we have rehearsed this conversation endlessly over the years but Simon was adamant that within his work the product was a very low monitor of quality. He talked about the great documentary visual artist who works with him to capture both the good and the bad aspects of the process - the result then sometimes becoming an interesting artistic 'product'.  And about honesty - Should the product at the end of a project reflect 'the hard work and pain'? if it is beautifully framed (in whatever way) does that negate what happened ? 
People
We talked about the targeting of groups for specific focussed projects and the powerful new CAN project RULE35 that 'will take you to the heart of the British detention system', about the leaps being taken nationally with inclusion strategies for music education, about oversubscribed 'call outs' or residencies at the BOTW and the line in the TiPP Audience Development Plan that says 'if we see them again, we've failed'. To be honest only one angle of the inspiring prison work that they carry out but a quote that shows that there is 'no one type of quality'.
Models of Participation
How is this pedagogy developing. How are we defining the differences between traditional learning apprenticeships and new collaborative practice. This mirrored a theme in every conversation so far.
Leadership
Can it be learnt ?
Do you have to be predisposed to the work? There was a real feeling that you have to want to 'create aspirations in cultures of failure' and that this desire cannot be learnt. It has to be there. 
'How much chaos can you allow?'
The 5 Units of Quality
"I have 5 in my hand and depending on where I place them the practice flourishes in different ways." What is it that creates the best conditions for quality participation - and here we are back at the to with a list that goes from great spaces, brilliant leaders, rules on junk food, magnificent intention, partner support, access conditions and so it goes on.
The final quote is from Zen and the art of Motorcycle Maintenance and is something like
'I am not sure what it is , but I sure know what it isn't'