Blog Post

Involvement is key: a participant's view of Creative People and Places


Robin Dixon, a local resident and Cultural Connector with Creative Barking & Dagenham, reflects on learning from Creative People and Places and his experience of the programme

Visitors enoying the Becontree mural This Used to be Fields, a Creative Barking and Dagenham landmark commission with Create and Chad McCail. Photo Emil Charlaff

Robin Dixon, a resident and Cultural Connector in Barking and Dagenham, responds to Faster but Slower, Slower but Faster and his experiences with Creative Barking and Dagenham

Involvement is key. In Barking and Dagenham we have found this vital, not just for impact, but also for excellence, relevance, sense and value of place, and capacity building. Where artists/commissions have been unsuccessful in creating involvement they have not been able to sustain creative activity.

It is worth mentioning that we put emphasis on creativity rather than the Arts (with a capital A). This attitude has proven successful in getting people involved.

Several of our projects have drawn on our history (Hallowtide, Becontree Mural, Well...). These have valued place, memory and homes as well as creating inclusion - one of the local artists who helped on the mural had arrived as a refugee just a few months earlier. The fact that all but one of the CPP areas voted for brexit is indicative of far wider political and social problems, which need far more than the artistic community can offer alone.

A few words about me. I am from a white working class background, and would almost certainly have ended up in a factory at age 15 if my epilepsy hadn’t made that a no, no. I had little connection with the arts until I was given the opportunity to do an art workshop via my Mental Health Team. From there I had the good fortune to work with ARC Theatre for Change and Studio 3 Arts. All this was extremely fortuitous. The direct access to the arts in mental health no longer exists, unless you’re in therapy. Projects such as CPP are vital in bringing access to the arts into all of our communities.

Robin Dixon, Cultural Connector with Creative Barking & Dagenham

About Cultural Connectors

The Cultural Connectors are an ever expanding network of adults living locally, who are making decisions about the Creative Barking and Dagenham (CBD) programme. There are now more than 120 connectors. The network is open, supportive and flexible. Cultural Connectors give as much or as little time as they would like and are invited to CBD events and opportunities and given support if they have their own ideas for creative projects. 

Cultural Connectors go on regular trips and visits to arts venues and events. In 2014 and 2015 these included The Barbican, The Broadway, Studio 3 Arts, The National Theatre, Out There International Street Arts festival in Great Yarmouth, The Photographers Gallery, Tate Modern, Watch this Space festival in Waterloo, Punchdrunk’s show ‘The Drowned Man’, the Roundhouse, Sadlers Wells and the Royal Opera House.

Cultural Connectors get involved in:

  • Curating festivals
  • Arranging trips and visits
  • Commissioning artists and projects
  • Being on funding panels
  • Making decisions about how local people should  be involved in CBD
  • Taking on specific roles on local projects; this might include talking to the public and helping them have a great time, being an assistant to an artist, leading an artist session, taking photographs, doing office work, or assisting with the technical side of an event.
  • Telling friends, family, colleagues about what's happening.

Cultural Connectors do not get paid but they sometimes access paid work through being part of the network. Some have experience and skills in the arts and others do not; they all however, share a passion for making more arts happen during CBD.

This is one of a series of guest blogs. You can read other blog responses to Faster but Slower, Slower but Faster on the links below: