What if?

4 April 2013

It felt like Spring might just be gaining a foothold as we gathered in the imposing ancient/modern setting of Central Saint Martins last Thursday.

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(Image credit: Simon Way)

It was fitting to be in a space dedicated to craft, imagination and learning - in fact the great English traditional of the arts school – all themes which ran through the day.

The aim of The London Picture was to look at the progress of cultural education through the lense of Londonwhat are the particular challenges of this city? As well as the particular advantages?

To spark the discussion A New Direction launched the Future Agenda – a short pamphlet that highlights some of the dynamics of the city as it is today. We are changing, the challenges today's 40-something generation faced when they were children are not the same as the challenges today's teenagers grow-up with – and the opportunities are different too.

If the city needs nearly 100,000 new primary places by 2014-2015 this will put pressure on services, but it could also spark a new generation of creative schools?

Munira Mirza from the Mayor's office set the tone for the day highlighting the extraordinary talent and assets available in the city and the particular potential this offers schools and young peoplewhich could be harnessed through the London Curriculum? But she guarded against complacency reminding the audiences that too much creative practice in schools (and other settings) is not of a high enough standard.

To keep progressing we need to learn from global perspectives and Scott Noppe-Brandon, formally of the Lincoln Centre Institute in New York asked the audience to think about their own practice – do we challenge ourselves enough? Do we talk to people not from our immediate sphere or politics enough? If we don't do this how can we harness the powerful diversity of our environments? We need to keep asking 'what if'?

The afternoon session started with a rambunctious panel session led by Tony Sewell from Generating Genius. The Rev Giles Fraser, Stella Barnes from Oval House, Charlie Timms and Francis Augusto – as well as the last minute addition of Rys Farthing a researcher from the Social Policy Institute at Oxford University – all gave perspectives on the challenges of housing, poverty, and confidence that challenge young people's ability to take part in the cultural life of the city. And there was a bit of an argument about an i-phone...

We were grateful to Simon Mellor from the Arts Council for rounding off the day in the same positive spirit in which it had started. Asking the audience to imagine a great future for cultural education and encouraging everyone to join the debate about key issues such as the future of the curriculum and possibilities of new forms of learning and engagement.

This spirit of pragmatic optimism is the one that we want to take into our work for next year – please help us understand and meet the challenges of cultural education...join the conversation...

Please continue the conversation by joining the Future Agenda: Cultural Education in London Linkedin group - and help us to build an agenda for change in how the cultural sector can work together to address the real issues for young Londoners today.

Click here to follow the online conversation via Storify and to see the videos from the event via our YouTube channel.