The sector: A room with no windows

When I think about the arts sector I am reminded that we, for so much of the time, are one big echo chamber. Too often we’re discussing diversity in relations to the time and space within which we operate – taking the conversations from where we are as a sector rather than where we are as a wider society. Over the past few weeks I’ve become clear that I don’t want to engage in that any more. 

I’m not interested in being part of the sector conversation when it’s always behind the reality of our society. If it doesn’t allow space for me and my friends and family in all of our complexity and multiplicity then why would I engage with it? I want to be having a conversation in the now and the future. I’m not interested in where the sector has got to (or not) over the past few decades, but where we are as a society today.

Working within the children’s sector makes this all the more pertinent. If we continue picking up the conversation where the majority left off then we will continue to be behind – chasing our tail each time a new dimension or conversation arises. I want to be a part of something that is relevant for me now and for young people entering the space tomorrow.

The children’s sector can be much like a room with no windows and I think that is a big contributor to where the conversation is. We’re spending too much time looking inwards. Occasionally we go outside and gather information but then we bring it back in to a windowless space. We need to be in a glasshouse – constantly feeding and learning from the world around us, not just the conversation within.

Maybe I’ve become impatient or bored of the conversation, I’m not sure, but right now I don’t feel like I have time to talk about where we are or where we should have been 20 years ago. My focus has to be one where we want to be tomorrow. 

If I keep turning around and getting distracted by what myself and others are getting wrong, I’m not moving forwards – and that means the programmes I deliver on aren’t either. I need to keep driving forward – recognising the bumps in the road (whether they’re of my own making or not) but not stopping for them. Then when I reach the first destination I can share all I’ve learnt with those who are still behind; encouraging them to speed the hell up and hoping they can avoid some of the bumps I met on the way.

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