Cultural Learning Alliance

In my opinion culture should be at the heart of the school curriculum so that every child can have the kind of cultural opportunities I was offered early in my education

Kevin Spacey
Artistic Director, Old Vic


The Big Link Up - National Event Review

Published 29 November 2010

Over the last few weeks organisations and schools across the country have been holding Big Link Up events to celebrate and debate the future of cultural learning. Findings and ideas are already winging their way back to us and the skeleton of our national strategy is starting to take shape.

The national event took place at the British Museum on the afternoon of the 23 November and was attended by over 300 delegates and a large number of virtual participants. You can see full details of our panel, participants and all the online films and resources here .

The debate was wide-ranging and covered many different aspects of cultural learning and its future. Some of the main themes, pledges and ideas from the national event are included in this blog post, but the conversation is on-going and we urge signatories and partners to get in touch with their thoughts.

Our keynote speaker, Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries, gave a speech with a number of significant implications for the CLA. He asked us to work with the Government to create a definition of cultural learning and to build on the results of the music review (currently being undertaken by Darren Henley). In the new year the CLA will produce a coherent overview of current initiatives and will identify opportunities for collaboration and partnership, creating a cultural learning blueprint which supports organisations, local authorities and charities.

Other Ministerial plans include a review into arts charities in the new year, a pledge to establish a cross-departmental ministerial group on culture (including  the Department for Education, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Work and Pensions) and the acknowledgement that culture should be ‘front and centre’ of the Prime Minister’s new Happiness Index.

The subsequent panel and audience discussion, chaired by Mike Baker, was passionate and wide-ranging. Collaboration and sharing of resources and ideas was a key theme, and delegates discussed the ideas of teachers acting as Cultural Ambassadors and of young people leading our cultural practice. Delegates aired their concerns that the Comprehensive Spending Review will have a disproportionate effect on culture, on children and young people and the professionals that work with them and many spoke of projects that are currently being curtailed, or have already been cut.

Andrew Nairne of Arts Council England highlighted that ACE’s new national strategy for the arts includes specific provision for work with children and young people. He also stressed that funding and activity for children and young people should not be disproportionately cut by arts leaders and those running cultural organisations.

All the panel and delegates agreed that it is critical that we all respond to emerging government policy wherever possible and that we make our case to every forthcoming review and enquiry.

The CLA will be putting forward the case for cultural learning at every available opportunity and will spend the next few months working on our national strategy and a blueprint for cultural learning. However, we need your help to gather together the full picture of cultural learning practice in this country and ensure that we represent the views and experiences of our signatories. We urge you to revisit the Campaign Questions from the Big Link Up and to get in touch. You can e-mail info@culturallearningalliance, join the conversation on Twitter at #culturelearning or add your comments to our forum.


I was one of the virtual participants in the national event last Tuesday. the debate was passionate and I found Michael Morpurgo's opening address and comments particularly pertinent. How do we make sure that children and young people continue to be able to meet and be engaged in the arts by inspiring people? the current round of cuts are going no way to ensuring that this will happen for many young people in the future and Ed Vasey in his reply to the opening speech did not address this question in any way. The debate touched on how successful cultural learning takes place outside the classroom and Shan McLennan's comments about turning the pyramid of arts focus around so that the most important people - the participants, audiences, young people and the community in general are given the top priority, were really inspirational and quite subversive. I thought that she was a truly visionary speaker and the events and programmes which she described as taking place at the Southbank Centre, together with proposals for buildings in the future to cater to many different types of community need, sounded innovative and inspired by a radical dedication to cultural learning. All in all a very thought provoking debate. Thank you
Bridie Moore 01 December 2010

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Panel Discussion at Big Link Up: Photograph by Lydia Casas
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