The Impact of Cultural Compacts in Promoting Creative Health Activity

The Impact of Cultural Compacts in Promoting Creative Health Activity

In April 2024, we hosted a roundtable discussion looking at the place of Cultural Compacts in promoting Creative Health activity.

According to Arts Council England, ‘Compacts are partnerships designed to support the local cultural sector and enhance its contribution to development, with a special emphasis on cross-sector engagement beyond the cultural sector itself and the local authority’.

Alongside Creative Health activity, Cultural Compacts hold a range of goals. Some mentioned by our panel included climate change, economic regeneration, addressing deprivation and/or loneliness, housing support, volunteer co-ordination, development of cultural eco-systems, and place-based partnership projects.

Audience member, Tim Russell, eloquently summarised a key motivation of us drawing this roundtable together: ‘the need for what we are doing, I don’t think, has ever been greater than it is at the moment. The money to achieve it has never been less’.

During the discussion, panellists and audience members alike responded to this provocation, considering the ways that partnership work, language translation across industries, and commercialisation of provision each positively or negatively affected the progress of Creative Health activity.

Audience member, Niki Holmes, added to the discussion, saying: ‘healthy happy people are more productive […] we need to be looking at ways in which, creatively - through creative health - you can re-engage and reinvigorate and add vibrancy to your population, so that they feel like they can be engaged in- and a part of- and pushing in the same direction as- these visions’.

Our panellists brought their own expertise to consider how Cultural Compacts could make an impact. Helen Billings, for example, considered how data deficits impact the ability for Creative Health ecosystems to grow. By being a health partner within a partnership of predominantly creative professionals, she can help partners to communicate the counter-risks related to data sharing aversions, to support more cross-sector collaboration and growth.

The panel considered the place of Cultural Compacts in re-framing cultural sector language for senior health strategists. Helen commented here on citizen engagement:

‘We love peer researchers – people who are of- and from- a community, having the skills and agency and the support to find out from their own community. […] There’s something about a peer researcher model that works better in an ICS. It sounds science-y and it’s research. Even calling it “qualitative research” instead of “citizen stories” – it just seems to work better’

Adding to a discussion about co-design with members of the public, panellist, Gemma Thomas, commented on how arts scenes are shifting over time. She explained that just as the arts moved away from artists presenting to people, towards members of the public participating in the making of art, we now see a movement towards the public actively making decisions about what art they want locally.

Elsewhere in the event, we discussed the place of flagship projects - like Cultural Quarters - in garnering political support, and how the Cultural Compacts can play a vital role in coupling this with community work.

This event contributed to greater skills and knowledge sharing across the Cultural Compacts in the Midlands. At a time when many Cultural Compacts are developing and refreshing their strategic priorities, this discussion was pivotal in informing best practise and a sense of possibility. We look forward to seeing how the Creative Health ambitions of Cultural Compacts continue to grow and connect, along with the positive impacts this will hold for our local communities.

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This event was brought to you by our Midlands’ Creative Health Associate, Jane Hearst, in partnership with Vibrant Shropshire and the University Centre Shrewsbury. It is the first event in a four-part series of roundtable discussions, showcasing Creative Health leadership in the Midlands and beyond.

At this event, we had representatives from a range of Midlands-based Cultural Compacts, including Herefordshire Cultural Partnership, Walsall Cultural Compact, Vibrant Shropshire, Stoke Creates and Warwick District Creative Compact. The roundtable discussion was facilitated by Jane Povey, Creative Health specialist and Chair of NCCH’s Champions Network.

Cultural Compact Roundtable

Cultural Compact Roundtable