And so, it’s semi-official. A Guardian article today provides the backdrop for news that the Creative Partnerships programme, which has changed the UK arts and education landscape in uncounted ways, will cease to be funded after the current fiscal year. This is no surprise to those us who do a fair bit of CP work: the rumour mill has been so active where CP’s demise is concerned that it has felt like a fait accompli for nearly a year now. Ironically, the Guardian piece is built around a new report citing the societal and economic impact of the CP programme, which is considerable. Read the article; then go to the Culture Creativity and Education (CCE) website and download the report. Both tell a tale of government money well-spent.
Expected though it may be, confirmation of CP’s imminent demise is bittersweet for us. Nimble Fish is a child of Creative Partnerships: the company’s founders met doing a CP project and our operating ethos–cross-arts, collaborative, never taking our clients or audiences for granted (CP has always been big on coming into schools with an open mind)–has always reflected that initial work. Many of our regular collaborators, not to say good friends, were met through CP connections. We’ve done a lot of CP work over the years, most of it very exciting and rewarding, both artistically and in the context of the kind of societal advancement that is at our core as a company.
Given all this, it may sound strange to say that perhaps it is indeed time for CP, as a programme, to end. This is not to say that we look forward to an end to the work that CP has fostered; that of arts-led collaboration between teachers, students and creative practitioners for the purpose of enriching and improving teaching and learning. If anything, CP-style work is obviously the way of the future in a world economy that is increasingly about flexible thinking, portfolio careers and creative collaboration.The UK is truly a remarkably rich place where creative people are concerned, and whatever the LibTories do in coming years they’d do well to keep in mind that breaking the back of the country’s creative industries (as their more alarming proposals appear to suggest) effectively breaks the back of the UK’s ability to operate as a real player in the world. We don’t build many great machines from fire and steel anymore, but we do continue to produce world-class ideas. This is a resource that must be nurtured, not neutered.
But as government-sponsored programmes go, CP has had a pretty long and rich run of it: about a decade from inception to what appears to be conclusion, with a truly nation-spanning reach. All programmes become moribund after awhile, their original swagger and daring inevitably stiffening with paperwork and boxes to tick. Artists, too, can grow torpid if they feed too long at any programmatic trough. Sometimes, things need to end in order for innovation to begin again. This may sound ungrateful, but many CP veterans would tell you much the same.
And far from fading into nothing, CP and its work have so fundamentally changed the educational and cultural landscape that we hope, and believe, there is no going back to pure reliance on test scores and rote learning. As artists and cultural producers who are also passionate about education, it’s our job to find meaningful ways to build upon the CP legacy in a changing and challenging world. We are well up for it, whatever comes next.