The London Picture ~ A New Direction Conference

My highlights and reflections…

Scott Noppe-Brandon.jpg-large

Scott Noppe-Brandon at ‘The London Picture’ (photo by A New Direction)

Films from The London Picture event (Thurs 28 March 2013)

Education, young people and the changing landscape for culture in the city.

about The London Picture

On 28 March 2013, A New Direction brought together senior leaders from across London’s arts and cultural sector to discuss innovative models for working within a changing education landscape. The event was streamed live via our website, enabling those who were not at the event to view and interact online.

A New Direction brought together senior leaders from across London’s arts and cultural sector to discuss innovative models for working within a changing education landscape around the the themes of:

  • Community

  • Family

  • School

  • Work

Venue: Central Saint Martins, King’s Cross

Gallery of pictures from the day

See also:  What if?

Conference organiser Holly Donagh shares her reflections after the event


Home Is Where the Heart Is 

@michaelejudge ponders before the event how cultural organisations can make a difference on young people.

Introduction – Steve Moffit

CEO of A New Direction

How can we help you to be part of the conversations?

It is really important to know our stakeholders.

Our emphasis is about collaboration.  The future is going to be about partnerships.

Munira Mirza (A New Direction)

Munira Mirza: “The arts should not be seen as oppositional to other subjects’ (photo: A New Direction)

Munira Mirza

Deputy Mayor, Education & Culture

The arts, like every other subject, need to raise their game.

Three issues:

  1. expertise – not enough use of subject skills and expertise.  “I don’t want to guide the students too much as it will restrict their creativity” is wrong.  More challenging work that stretches outside student’s comfort zones could be presented in schools.
  2. cultural experience is not the same as cultural education
  3. the arts have let themselves be classified as alternative education for non-academic children.  Until this changes the arts will always be seen as lower status.  We should be campaigning to be seen as real academic subjects as well as meeting a participation agenda.  The arts are for all children and all abilities.

What the arts sector can do together as a community.

Important to see the bigger picture – why education needs changing.  1 in 5 children are leaving school without good literacy skills. 40% are leaving without GCSE’s.

Mayor’s Office Initiatives:

Excellence Fund – £23million to raise teaching excellence in science and maths, english and languages and ‘other subjects’ (left deliberately vague to see what comes forward)

London Curriculum – to use London itself to help teach the national curriculum and come up with a range of resources.


Steve Moffit introducing Scott Noppe-Brandon:

We need to have international perspectives.

Scott Noppe-Brandon

Author of Imagination First and former Executive Director of the Lincoln Centre Institute, now Co-Founder/Director of Squiggle Consulting LLC.

The challenges:

  • The changing global economy that demands an imaginative, innovative and creative workforce equipped with skills that cut across traditional academic disciplines

  • Mastering and capitalising on technology as a power for transforming learning and enabling the youth to give voice and visibility to their knowledge, aspirations and achievements.

We talk a lot about nouns but we forget about the verbs.  How do we achieve change by not trying to achieve change?  But rather because it’s the right strategy, the right context for change?

At the Lincoln Centre, education was not there to promote the culture of the parent organisation.  We wanted to have students not only learning about the arts, but learning about themselves and about learning itself.

We need to be pragmatic optimists.

Ask yourself: are you optimistic or pessimistic about what you are doing and what is happening?

If you are optimistic you are right, but if you are pessimistic you are a pragmatic realistic.  

How can you be both without each cancelling each other out?

In front of students you have to be optimistic for the possibilities of each of them.

We have to be counter-logical and think about things in a way that goes against what seems to be how they should be and yet still makes sense.

imagination ~ the ability to think about things as if they could be otherwise ~ asking “what if…”  This can be taught and learned.

creativity ~ imagination enacted.  You need to know how you do what you do. This too can be taught and learned.

innovation ~ when the form is pushed and changed; pushing the limits so something new is created, made or made to happen.

enterprise & entrepreneurialism ~ when you do something in the world with what you have newly created.

All of these elements work together through commerce, culture and education:

imagination ceativity innovation graphic 2 copy

John Dooley talked about an ‘aesthetic education’ – the opposite of anaesthetic, making it so that that life is not dull.  But this won’t sell, so we have to reframe it.  We have to look at the question of how time, effort, and resource are monetised.

You can’t continue to do work because it is good for people alone otherwise it will not be valued.

Talking with Scott 1Talking with Scott 2

Who’s challenging me?

Who’s asking me the questions that I don’t know how to ask myself yet?

I have this idea of ‘civic dialogues…’  If you want to be relevant, you have to be having relevant conversations.  So I went to talk to people I wasn’t already talking to … the military (who are incredibly insightful and articulate about the role of creativity); spiritual leaders; neuroscientists…  We piloted with 12 civic dialogues across the country to find out if people were interested.  These dialogues led to new discoveries for all, harnessing the diversity of these atypical combinations, which was then translated into action:  making ‘Friday conversations’ that are still meaningful on Monday morning… and in ways that have commerce, culture and education working together.

Cezanne Card Players

Cezanne:  The Card Players,  1890-92, Metropolitan Museum of New York

“Your eyes see the front of the picture, and your imagination curves to the other side.” Cezanne

Creativity and imagination are more and more part of commerce and business schools: how do you create?  From rich content knowledge how to curve round the corner into imaginative thinking and action.  This needs to be driven by social good and economic benefits.

10 Capacities (or Principles) for Imaginative Learning

These are what we expect students to become expert in:

  • Noticing Deeply
  • Embodying
  • Questioning
  • Identifying Patterns
  • Making Connections
  • Exhibiting Empathy
  • Creating Meaning
  • Taking Action
  • Reflecting/Assessing
  • Tolerating Ambiguity


Panel Discussion highlights

Francis Augusto, Sociology Student & member of Dare London:

Young people should be here in more numbers…

It is very simple to find out what young people think.  Go and ask them…

Stella Barnes, Director of Participation, Ovalhouse:

Young people don’t believe they have a voice.

We need to make a case for the arts and we need to make it in a very loud voice.  We can do this by sharing rather than being competitive and fighting each other over resources.  And we can share our learning.

This is the moment that we have to come together.

Rys Farthing, Policy & Research Officer, Child Poverty Action Group

Recent research findings from surveying 399 young people form three socio-economic groups revealed:

  1. 25% of 11-18 year olds getting free school meals, out of work parent(s)…
  2. 15% of 11-18 year olds from families in poverty, low income households…
  3. but only 8% 11-18 year olds from above poverty households…

…did not select a course because of price.

These courses were mostly creative subjects, including and especially:

  • art
  • photography
  • design & technology
  • food technology
  • music

See also panel member Charlie Tim’s post after the event:

What Can Culture Do For Young People?

Panel (Phillip Flood)

The Panel (l-r) Francis Augusto, Stella Barnes, Tony Sewell, Giles Fraser, (Rys Farthing not visible), Charlie Timms (photo: @Philip_Flood)

Simon Mellor: A Daydream for the Arts

What problem do we solve in the arts?

What we do will only be truly valued when the public believes and starts to demand arts investment in order to solve a problem they care about.

Steve Moffitt: Closing Thoughts

We have to envision the future we want and we have to do this in the context in which our work takes place.

We are all going to have to broaden who we talk to.  We have to engage in a different way than we have before.  There is some territory here that we have to fill.

There are some things we, at A New Direction, will encourage you to do.

We have to be brave.

And we have to have Scott’s pragmatic optimism.

Some of my reflections . . .

Imaginative extension ——————> can we dream up together our ideal communities, families, schools and work with the arts and creativity at their heart?

What if we we could…?

What if we did…?

We have to find better ways of having these conversations without using the blanket term of ‘young people’, as Mushana from Young & Serious said from the audience during the panel session.  We would be outraged to hear ourselves bundled up as old people, or even older people, we would be fast and loud and strident at insisting on our uniqueness and our individuality, and so, too, we must find better ways of talking that draw out these same distinctions, multiplicities and distinctiveness when we talk about people under the age of 25.

It would be wonderful to be part of any version of Scott Noppe-Brandon’s ‘civic dialogues’ ~ surely this is a potent(ial) next action: to reconvene around these themes and questions with people who span a much wider diversity of age, profession, passion and preoccupation; to start to learn together from each other about what matters, what we all care deeply about being and becoming as a creative aspirational 21st century humanity, and what we might make and do together to create an ideal emergent future that stretches the limits of all of our dreams and imaginations and creative capabilities.

And of course this will require us to learn – to discover and develop different ways of thinking and doing things and different things to do and think.

Why do we, of all people, forget this?

We are naturally biased in the arts in talking about desirable futures and aspirations that are worth striving and reaching towards, but more and more research is suggesting that we humans are most driven and compelled to act in response to threats and problems that move us to get away from – it is our focus and attention on undesirable and dangerous threats and difficulties that galvanise our decisions and spring us into our most instinctive and unstoppable action.  If we want to be relevant, to be in the mainstream conversations, we need to become much better at being able to speak about why we matter in terms of the problems, threats, worries and dangers we can help to avoid, lessen, reduce and overcome.  This doesn’t mean changing our values and what we care about most passionately.  Rather it is learning to talk of these things in the language of the people we seek to convince, at least as well as we talk about the potential we are capable of enabling and the enrichment we are expert at realising.

It is perhaps also worth remembering the necessary rudimentary aspects of what people need to become persuaded to act:

Monroe’s Motivation Sequence

Developed in the 1930’s by Professor Alan Monroe,  this sequence has five steps that follow the psychology of persuasion:

  1. Œ   Attention – they want and feel they need to listen
  2.    Need – an aroused sense that some real action is needed
  3. Ž   Satisfaction – clear connections can be seen between how the proposed solution satisfies the need
  4.    Visualisation – vivid imagery is conjured up so that they can literally see how they will benefit from taking the proposed action
  5.    Action – strong persuasive appeal that effectively calls people to action

The Ladder of Influence:

Put another way, these are the 5 essential steps a persuasive speaker or advocate must achieve in order for their audience to progress from receiving a message to becoming compelled to act on it

5th ~ and so they ACT

because they want and feel compelled to do as proposed

4th ~ they CARE 

they can see real personal value in what is being proposed or called for

 3rd ~ they BELIEVE 

both speaker and messages seem fully credible and connect with what they believe already to be true  

2nd ~ they UNDERSTAND 

what they hear makes sense to them

 1st ~ they HEAR

they feel that they want and need to listen

I believe there is also much that we might learn from the research and advocacy that is being successfully forged in happiness and wellbeing and resilience studies and strategies.  The arts share many similar characteristics of apparently intrinsic, unquantifiable and indefinable values, and yet these areas are fast and emphatically developing a growing and compelling rhetoric that is getting attention, resource and commitment from global, national and local ‘people with the power’.  I would argue, based on our work helping to develop mastery in these fields, that these areas share more similarities than difference with the arts and creative learning.

And so why should not the United Nations be considering making a minimum arts offer as indispensable an entitlement to every human on the planet, (as we now accept about learning to communicate and to read), in the same way as they have now sanctioned entitlement to happiness in this year’s first ever just celebrated UN International Day of Happiness?  Imagine if these had been the Secretary-General’s words (which I have only slightly re-written from his message for the day):

I am encouraged by the efforts of some Governments to design policies based on comprehensive artistic indicators. I encourage others to follow suit. On this first International Day of the Arts, let us reinforce our commitment to inclusive and sustainable human development and renew our pledge to help others. When we contribute to the common good, we ourselves are enriched. Artistic excellence promotes happiness and will help build the future we want.

The arts could have an extremely persuasive case to make for the contribution we make to people’s lasting and self-sustaining happiness, resilience and wellbeing, increasingly so now that more and more convincing research is finding that:

  • happy people are more successful, productive and creative, as well as making better relationships, staying healthier and living longer, and and and…


  • we can all learn to become happier: only 50% of our happiness seems to come from our genetic inheritance, and only 8% from our current circumstances of health, wealth and security.  At least 42% of our happiness comes from how we choose to think and act.

The UK now has an emerging set of indicators under research feeding into a new notion for a Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index informed by what they have been doing for some years in Bhutan.  Surely this might be an area where we can find ourselves a place at the table, amongst a gathering of listeners who we might cause to feel that they really need to strain in to hear and understand what we have to bring?  Consider these ideas from a Bhutanese teacher quoted in the Guardian article Gross National Happiness in Bhutan: the big idea from a tiny state that could change the world

The infusion of GNH into education has also meant daily meditation sessions and soothing traditional music replacing the clang of the school bell.

“An education doesn’t just mean getting good grades, it means preparing them to be good people,” says Dukpa. “This next generation is going to face a very scary world as their environment changes and social pressures increase. We need to prepare them for this.”

One of the leading organisations influencing government and social policies in the UK is the new economics foundation.  In this extract from their report National Accounts of Well-being notice the resonances with our own aspirations and agenda for change:

National Accounts of Well-being uses comprehensive data from a survey of 22 European nations examining both personal and social well-being. Personal well-being describes people’s experiences of their positive and negative emotions, satisfaction, vitality, resilience, self-esteem and sense of purpose and meaning. Social well-being is made up of two main components: supportive relationships, and a feeling of trust and belonging. Together they form a picture of what we all really want: a fulfilling and happy life. With National Accounts of Well-being, policymakers have a new compass to guide us. 

It is extremely easy to see where the arts and creativity can play a vital role in the new economics foundation’s prescription for 5 Ways To Wellbeing:

  • Connect
  • Be Active
  • Take Notice
  • Keep Learning
  • Give

Why is any explicit reference to the arts mostly missing from these studies,  indexing and conversations?  Why aren’t the arts already seen to be an essential component of any happiness and wellbeing strategy?

What if they were…?

We are getting surer and more confident in articulating a set of artistic disciplines (or principles, or capabilities, or areas of expertise) that can be learned and nurtured and mastered.  For instance, the 10 Disciplines that Scott Noppe-Brandon listed correlate strongly with the creative capabilities we know from Ken Robinson’s ideas that many of us learned and worked with through our work in Creative Partnerships.  This is our adapted version of these:

  • imagining
  • original thinking
  • experimentation & risk-taking
  • problem solving
  • challenging & questioning
  • listening & noticing
  • reflection
  • collaboration
  • resilience

And here again is Scott Noppe-Brandon’s combination to compare and connect across:

10 Capacities (or Principles) for Imaginative Learning

what we expect students to become expert in:

  • Noticing Deeply
  • Embodying
  • Questioning
  • Identifying Patterns
  • Making Connections
  • Exhibiting Empathy
  • Creating Meaning
  • Taking Action
  • Reflecting/Assessing
  • Tolerating Ambiguity

Compare these with Martin Seligman’s 5 Essential Elements of Flourishing ~ a new understanding of happiness and wellbeing and how to achieve them:

  • Positive Emotion
  • Engagement
  • Relationships
  • Meaning
  • Accomplishments

What we know in the arts about ‘engagement’ alone should be swelling and vibrating through the airwaves.

As, too, should be the expertise, understanding and real lived-through wisdom we have to bring to contemporary studies into resilience.  This list of 10 essential elements of Resilience from Steven Southwick & Dennis Charney’s research is potentially rich with resonances to our own arts disciplines and practices, let alone what we already know in the arts about resilience itself:

  • Realistic Optimism
  • Facing Fears
  • Moral Compass
  • Spiritual Practice
  • Social Support
  • Resilient Role Models
  • Physical Fitness
  • Brain Fitness
  • Cognitive & Emotional Agility
  • Meaning & Purpose

It is worth us in the arts listening again to the words from the 1968 speech by Robert Kennedy on GNP that have played a significant part in inspiring and validating the current happiness and wellbeing movement, (including David Cameron who quoted them with a vehement passion in his 2010 TED Talk The Next Age of Government).  I have substituted Kennedy’s ‘America’ with ‘London’ here for deliberate effect:

“Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product … if we should judge [London] by that – counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our [trees] and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts … armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts … the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

“Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about [London] except why we are proud that we are [Londoners].”

We are living in a world struggling to reinvent itself around new economic models that recognise that increased wealth is no guarantee of increased happiness and wellbeing, and reaching out for new solutions and ways of working, of ways of being and being together, that bring much greater, longer lasting and less expensive resilience and flourishing to more of us across an increasingly connected and interdependent global community.

Where is our Manifesto for change?

What if we could imagine ourselves at the centre of these conversations?

What if more and more people recognised and knew what we know about the potency and power of art and artistry to release human imagination and creative problem solving to make innovative new realisations that push us out into radically new possibilities that are fully equal to the problems we are facing and capable of answering the most urgent and complex difficulties of our time and place?

What if we could bring a united, heightened and imaginative curiosity, our creativity fully opened and expertly readied, and our collaborative enterprise unified into a complex synergy to a seat at the table where the most important re-imaginings, conversations and innovations are striving to be made for the better education, cultural vitality and more sustainable rewarding commerce we now so urgently need to find and make…?

Fantastic & ridiculous idealism?

Or pragmatic optimism?

Central St Martins (Michael Judge).jpg-large

…imagination curves to the other side…(photo: @michaeljudge)