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The first meet up of the new Winchester RSA Network brought together over 30 Fellows and others curious about the RSA on one of the hottest days of the year. It might be a recent development, but there has actually been RSA activity of one sort or another in the city stretching back to 1974 so maybe it’s simply tapping into some latent creativity and enlightened thinking in the area. The evening was kindly hosted by the Winchester School of Art with a theme, appropriately enough, of Winchester’s cultural identity.

Before proceedings got underway, attendees had an opportunity to look round this year’s excellent undergraduate degree show at the School of Art, encompassing art, design, textiles, sculpture and pottery. Paul Coverdale FRSA, the Network lead, welcomed everybody and following a few words about the venue from Kay May FRSA, who works at the School, Oli Reichardt spoke about the RSA itself. Oli is Director of Fellowship at the RSA and was well placed to talk about the RSA’s themes, work, projects and networks.

The main part of the evening was given over to an inclusive debate to explore the question: “What part does culture play in Winchester’s identity?”. Paul facilitated the session borrowing the format from his project Future Debates. Everyone split into groups of 6-8 and over the course of 45 minutes the conversation duly flowed. Perhaps inspired by the setting, there was a lot of creative energy in the room as people expressed some passionate opinions on a whole range of related topics. Taking the city’s cultural heritage as a cue, participants discussed topics ranging from specific local issues relating to Winchester to a broader consideration of what exactly constitutes culture in the first place.

Several themes emerged: celebrating our shared cultural heritage, unused spaces, different cultural strands operating in silos, the cost barrier to culture, engaging with a wider audience (especially the young) and inclusivity. Many speak to some of the RSA’s wider work and they provide a rich seam of ideas for future events.

The evening concluded with an opportunity to meet other Fellows and network over a glass of wine and thoughts began to turn to what the network might do next. Paul is grateful for all the feedback he received on the night and messages from those expressing an interest but who were unable to attend. The next event is planned for mid to late September and it would be great to harness the momentum in the network.

 

Do you have an idea for a theme, event format, or a speaker?

Do you know of a suitable venue able to accommodate 30-40 people?

Would you like to become more involved and join Paul in being part of the organising team?

If so Paul and the RSA Southeast Events Team would be delighted to hear from you. You can contact him through the online RSA Fellows portal or by emailing networks@rsa.org.uk.

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