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The Arts and Social Change strand of Citizen Power just held the third Creative Gathering last night in the Beckett Chapel within Peterborough Cathedral. We will be holding many more but I realize that for those not there, this term of ‘creative gatherings’ may be confusing. Don’t I just mean meetings? And if so, who for? And why?

The Arts and Social Change strand of Citizen Power just held the third Creative Gathering last night in the Beckett Chapel within Peterborough Cathedral. We will be holding many more but I realize that for those not there, this term of ‘creative gatherings’ may be confusing. Don’t I just mean meetings? And if so, who for? And why?

 Well, every sector has has their own lingo but a similar-ish term that has arisen in the last decade is ‘creative industries’, a term I find very problematic. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport  define it as an inclusive term that embraces a wide range of professions from digital media and publishing to the arts. However I know few artists or arts organisations that would see themselves as part of an 'industry' - outside government or funding circles. I have had many interesting conversations about who is invited to the table when it comes to the creative industries and of course, how those who are invited inform the debate .

 So, in our attempts to build a self sustaining network  of all those who work within the arts in Peterborough, we wanted to find a format that could attract those who work with arts in prisons, youth workers who use theatre to engage disenfranchised young people, those who teach at any level some form of creative expression and even, yes, those in the Creative Industries. This format is experiential and built around arts practices. Each of the Creative Gatherings will be co-facilitated with someone from the local arts community.

 To offer an example from this week’s Creative Gathering, Ivan Cutting, Artistic Director of Eastern Angles spoke of documenting techniques and how one captures stories to build an archive based on narrative that can lead also to the creation of plays.  Chris Higgins and Fiona Lesley of THE MAP   then facilitated us all in a series of reflective exercises that explored the ideas of capturing someone else’s personal stories, what can be lost or gained in the re-telling, interpretive issues such as hearing others' stories through the prisms of our own lives and ending with a very engaging discussion on all this, most importantly fed by every single person who was there.

Food and informal conversation play an important part, as does the commitment to ensuring the emerging network grows in diversity. It is a ‘learning through doing’ opportunity - in the belief that learning together is a significant part of what forms communities  and that you can’t just talk about arts and creativity – you have to use it/ play with it/practice with it.

 This isn’t a new idea or a new term. Creative Partnerships areas have been doing for years. 

 Last night it felt like we turned a corner. It is clear that this emerging group, many of whom were previously unknown to each other, are creating a network for themselves, evidently with much to gain from each other.

They hopefully won’t notice when the Citizen Power programme is gone.

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