Cultural Learning Alliance

Art, music, dance – and culture more broadly – is essential and transformative. It is about who you are

Tony Hall
Chief Executive, Royal Opera House



What was your most memorable cultural experience when you were young and how has it stayed with you?

Below is a sample of your inspiring examples of the power of cultural learning. Please see the menu on the right for more videos and stories.

David Cameron, Prime Minister

David Cameron, Prime Minister
“It´s something that stays with you forever”
Quentin Blake

To write and draw in a school magazine that I also had the opportunity to edit was significant; but probably even more significant, with hindsight, was to appear in school Shakespeare productions. It was not so much the parts but the sense of that whole experience; of identifying with characters, sensing mood, pace, emphasis, contrast, even though I was probably doing quite a lot of this fairly unconsciously. All this was part of my art education, the preparation for being an illustrator. Illustration for me is very much the theatre of the page, and so I have spent years, as it were, producing texts; acting the characters, controlling the pace, the mood, the emphasis, rehearsing effects. It’s what turns drawing into illustration.
Dr Maggie Atkinson, Children's Commissioner for England

Brought up in a mining family in South Yorkshire, I grew up surrounded by cultural experiences. Dads, mine included, grew and competitively showed prize flowers as well as food. Many people’s parents were male voice or women’s choristers or brass band members. I learned to garden, cook, sew, shout at the local lower league football team, sing solo and ensemble pieces, play the piano, and appreciate local dramatic and operatic productions. My comprehensive school taught me to act, appreciate literature and art. Took me to museums and galleries as a matter of course. All these influences are part of my very being. They inform how I do my job, love my family, pursue my adult cultural interests with the same passion as I did then, and value my origins. And I’m delighted to say that I could no more single out just one event from this rich palette, than fly!
Juli Beattie, The Art Room

I was four years old, growing up in 1950’s communist Budapest, when I first was taken to see Mozart's The Magic Flute. It was cheaper for my parents to take us to the subsidised state opera than to employ a baby sitter. In the opera house I was stunned by the enormous marble staircase, the paintings, the chandeliers, the gilt statues and the plush velvet box where we sat. The highlight for me was the glamorous costume and the extraordinary voice of the Queen of the Night. From that day on my love of music has never waned and has always been part of my life. At The Art Room we often play Mozart’s music which helps to create a calm atmosphere in which vulnerable and challenging children, at risk of exclusion, can learn and achieve through art.
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