Music Mark is the UK Association for Music Education, a Membership Organisation that provides support to those who share our vision of an excellent musical learning in and out of school, for all children and young people in the UK, which inspires and enriches their lives. Our mission is to help our Membership to connect and network through events and training across both real and virtual networks, and to influence policy and practice on their behalf, so that every child and young person can have access to quality, diverse and inclusive musical learning opportunities.
As a large number of our Members are supported through funding from, or funding channelled through, Arts Council England (ACE), we were keen to read and reflect on the aspirations this national organisation has for arts and culture over the coming 10 years. Whilst we await further detail behind some of the statements made within the strategy, we welcome the overall aim for ‘England to be a country in which the creativity of each of us is valued and given the chance to flourish.’
We particularly support the focus on children and young people – ‘the great artists, performers, writers and curators of 2040 and 2050 need to be nurtured now’ – and believe that the Music Mark Membership can play a central role in providing that nurture. We therefore hope that through its relationship with the Department for Education, ACE can continue to champion, as we do, the importance of a National Plan for Music Education which is widely shared and helps all those who have a responsibility for the musical learning of the future workforce understand why music is so important. Whether they become musicians, work in arts/culture, or use the many relevant skills they learn to work in other sectors.
With a comprehensive network of Members, we know how a real understanding of the cultural, environmental and social context of a village, town, city, rural, urban, costal area is vital when developing appropriate, relevant provision. The many organisations and individuals that make up the English network of Music Education Hubs, can and do deliver services which have an understanding of the diversity and diverse needs of their communities. Further recognition and ongoing support by ACE for our Membership to ‘focus on the building and sustaining of communities’ is to be welcomed.
The strategy highlights the importance of using technology to assist innovation and we agree that this is important. At Music Mark we are looking at how we can better use technology to connect our Membership as well as what support we can give to enable them to develop and innovate. We are aware however that the pace of change can often be slower than the aspiration, especially when an organisation is either very small or part of a large public body – such as a local authority. We therefore would urge the Arts Council to be careful not to push those it supports without recognising that some may be willing but unable to make change happen quickly.
‘Let’s Create’ is an ambitious strategy in that it aims to work across all levels of making and consuming art and culture. It also highlights the importance and value of partnership working. As ACE has worked to become a leaner organisation to distribute more funding to others, it has recognised the need to work with partners itself, and Music Mark has been developing a stronger relationship with a number of its national and regional staff. As part of our strategy we hope to deepen this partnership and look at whether formal recognition of the existing support we give to the Music Education Sector is possible.
In addition to the music education organisations and individuals who are Members of Music Mark across the country working in specific regions or local authority areas, we also are proud to have many of the National Youth Music Organisations who support Music Education Hubs and provide inspiring, quality progression pathways for children and young people. Whilst ‘Let’s Create’ has an emphasis, quite rightly, on ensuring access to all through celebrating local communities, we would like to know more about how ACE will continue to support national organisations. There is little detail within the strategy which celebrates the important role these organisations have to play and how they will continue to be a vital element of arts and culture provision in England. Indeed could ACE confirm that their statement ‘in future, we will judge organisations for the way in which they reflect and build a relationship with their communities, as well as for the quality and ambition of their work’ does not mean that national organisations such as the NYO, NYJC or SAMYO will be less likely to gain support?
Let’s Create is an exciting plan for how arts and culture in England can be more accessible, inclusive, diverse and relevant. Music Mark, on behalf of its Membership, would welcome the opportunity to help ACE to ‘build connections between communities, businesses and institutions’ and make ‘the case more clearly, and to more people’. We look forward therefore to further discussions and exploration with our contacts at ACE as the organisation begins to deliver on its new ten-year strategy.