Last Sunday 2 June saw the fourth Manchester Day Parade animate Manchester City Centre with a striking procession of people and artworks created by community groups, artists and volunteers. Hundreds of groups featured in the parade including Z-arts; The Real Harpurhey; Taylor Made Community Fitness; Women’s institutes of Manchester;  Jazzie J Street Dance; FCAM (Federation of Chinese Association Manchester); Batala Lancaster Samba; Greater Manchester Police and Band.  The list of participants is a very long one and would run to pages if I detailed them here. There are great videos showing the making and makers here: Workshop Videos

Commissioned by Manchester City Council, produced by Walk the Plank and created by Manchester People, the theme this year was ‘Wish you were here’.  Liz Pugh of Walk the Plank and co-producer of the parade with Billie Klinger and Candida Boyes said:  ‘What you see on the street is the tip of the iceberg…Culture has immense economic value – a £4 return for every £1 invested; cultural businesses contribute £28m to the economy annually and the arts are responsible for around 1 million jobs…Manchester’s great because people from the community groups and the many volunteers involved in the parade love their city.  And that’s the legacy of an event like the Parade – it’s the glue on your fingers; the renewed sense of community and the paint splashes on your clothes. As Orwell said, “nothing ever stands still. We must add to our heritage or lose it, we must grow greater or grow less”’. Strong words in challenging times. Even more reason to keep on celebrating culture.

The Day Parade was sponsored again for the fourth time by engineering and construction company  Laing O’Rourke  who are currently working on the transformation of Manchester’s Central Library Building and Town Hall Extension in addition to the Metrolink extension and Beswick regeneration project. The company also deliver talent programmes and career development and are based regionally in Hulme.  Many other organisations sponsored or supported the Day Parade. Being immersed in crowds, creativity and colour as well as having lovely sunshine for the parade did much to lift my spirits.

Not content with being extremely busy in Manchester, last week Walk the Plank were in Derry for the creation of their biggest ever outdoor event as part of City of Culture 2013

In other news, I’ve been continuing conversations with individuals and organisations who are part of either the ‘big story’ case studies or governance case studies for the first year of this project. Interviews included those with Simon Ruding Director of TiPP (a practice-based organisation housed at the University of Manchester), and Cilla Baynes (MBE) Creative Director and founding member of Community Arts North West CAN. Cilla and Simon were as inspiring as ever on their respective organisations. Both represent long-standing and intensely crafted and connected work with many different people addressing a plethora of concerns, celebrations and challenges.  Their working practices have inspired and developed new projects and they continue to passionately support caring, meaningful and considered arts practices with people. Here’s a link to Simon presenting TiPP’s work which formed part of the Curious Minds, Bridge Development Group seminar based on the theme of Engagement and explains how Tipp began and their connections with various communities and also questions what we are talking about when we talk about ‘engagement’.

Both Cilla and Simon are members of C-Pal (Consortium for Participatory Arts Learning). Established in 2005, C-Pal is a learning network for participatory arts in the North West. The main remit is skills development for people who are currently working in or want to work in the participatory arts sector. It is also a network to share learning, unearth key issues and explore the development of the sector. Originally C-Pal was set up by Arts Council England, North West in response to the need for learning pathways and capacity building within the participatory arts sector as highlighted in the 2004 ACE, NW research report carried out by Karen Smith (yes that was me!). Sadly approximately a quarter of the founding participatory arts organisations in this network no longer exist or exist in a different context following funding cuts from Arts Council and Local Authorities.

On a wellbeing note, as reported by Arts Professional: After much lobbying by many groups to include cultural activity as a measure in the Measuring National Wellbeing Programme, The Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) will take account of  people’s engagement in the arts as a contributing factor to wellbeing. A report reviewing the criteria used to measure wellbeing in the UK shows that questions on arts, culture and sports participation have been the most commonly requested additions to the survey. The programme will use figures taken from the DCMS Taking Part Survey, specifically the measurement of the percentage of people who have engaged with or participated in arts or cultural activity at least three times in the past year. The Programme originated in 2010 to complement the use of GDP to track the nation’s progress.

Manchester International Festival is also about to kick off. I have spent some of my earnings on tickets to Massive Attack vs Adam Curtis (I lived in Bristol for a while and Massive Attack are part of the soundtrack to that part of my life, and Adam Curtis is always worth spending time watching) and, as ever, there is a wealth of arts activity taking place across Manchester and ‘The North’!

A big thank you to Liz Pugh, Cilla Baynes, Simon Ruding, Karen Shannon (at Lets Go Global) and everyone else who continues to commit and give their time to talk to me about this project when they are not paid to do so. I’m going to finish with Walk the Plank’s statement:

Create it, memorably
Burn it, beautifully
Make it, imaginatively
Learn it, passionately