AMATEO MEMBER: voluntary arts

Member countries: UK & Ireland
Contact persons: Damien McGlynn, Communications & Partnerships Director, and Andreea Lupu, Communications Administrator

Who?

Voluntary Arts is the representative organisation for the voluntary arts sector across the UK and Ireland, founded in 1991. It promotes voluntary participation in creative cultural activity in order to develop a healthy, creative and engaged civil society. We aim to provide a universal voice to more than 60,000 voluntary-led creative groups which regularly involve more than 10 million people. Voluntary Arts’ strategy focuses on fostering collaborations, strengthening social connectedness and providing spaces for creative cultural activities. 

“Voluntarily doing creative cultural activity is not just a nice thing to do, it is the key to a happy human life”

Martyn Evans, Chief Executive, Carnegie (UK) Trust, July 2018

What?

Voluntary Arts works across a wide network of amateur arts umbrella bodies, local organisations and media partners in the public and private sector. Actively liaising with government bodies, we seek to improve existing policies and infrastructure in the arts and culture sector and to make creativity an inherent part of the daily lives of individuals and groups of all backgrounds. We offer guidance materials, resources, workshops and conversation platforms to support and develop local initiatives that are inclusive and highly engaging.

Some of Voluntary Arts’s main initiatives include:

  • Annual campaigns and events, such as the Get Creative Festival and the Epic Awards
  • Collaborations with local media, including BBC radio as part of the Up For Arts project
  • Extensive resources, including helpful briefings on a range of topics, listings of opportunities, funding and much more.

One of the most recent initiatives is #CreativeNetwork – a series of online conversations open to anyone involved in arts, culture and creativity in order to connect and collaborate in these unusual times. Facilitating these conversations has enabled people from across the UK and Ireland to talk with others, develop ideas and projects, and find sustainable ways to continue or improve their work in changing circumstances. 

Why Amateo?

Amateo is a unique network developing the capacity of many different participatory arts organisations all across Europe. Helping to shape its goals and programme as a founder member was a natural step towards upscaling our activity in the voluntary and amateur arts sector internationally. With a shared mission to support and promote people’s active engagement with creative activities, we have been building exchange-based collaborations with peer organisations across Europe for quite a few years now. 

We strongly believe that a joint effort towards creating and facilitating a stimulating environment for inclusive and accessible participation in cultural activities is a key ingredient of a lasting meaningful impact in different communities and decision-making structures at an international level. Thanks to the amazing quality of the arts and creativity to transcend borders — as well as to the genuine commitment of Amateo member organisations to developing trans-national cooperation — there is much potential to be further explored.

Importance of international connections?

The international outlook of any organisation working in the cultural sector in today’s interconnected world is key to maintaining a good sense of awareness of the practices and policies applied from a local to a global scale. There is much knowledge and practical insights to be exchanged and built upon as part of trans-national collaborations. The focus of our activity makes it ever more necessary to be in a constant flux of international and intercultural communication in order to ensure the diversity, relevance and inclusion of our endeavours. We have been able to achieve and celebrate many good results since Amateo began in 2008 and we are excited to raise the profile of our partnerships and projects across Europe. Being able to welcome guests from all over Europe to events in the UK and Ireland have been among the highlights of our work in the past decade.

Future hopes?

There are many challenges in the world at the moment, whether you are an individual, an organisation, a country or an international network! We hope that Amateo’s members can work together to ensure that the right of every individual to freely participate in cultural life is protected across Europe and beyond, and that the many benefits of creative participation — for individuals and communities of all sizes — are widely recognised. It is easy to make political declarations of unity but to truly understand each other and move forward together we must understand each other’s culture and heritage. Participating in cultural activities together, sharing what we do and what we care about, is essential in creating a world where we can collaborate and face challenges together.

Interested in joining Amateo’s European network? Find out more!