CAN Network Events

​Cambridge Arts Network delivers a range of different events and initiatives to bring CAN members together, strengthen connections and enable better arts networking in Cambridge.  CAN organises regular informal meet ups, talks, workshops, information and skills sharing sessions, debates and conferences.  Please see the listings below for all the latest CAN network events.

If you have a launch or event that you would like to link with a CAN meet up please email your idea to

Lord Ashcroft Building, Anglia Ruskin University, East Road, Cambridge CB1 1PT

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CAN Conference 2017 - The Cambridge Case for Diversity: Whose Culture is it Anyway?


20th Jan 2017 9:00am

20th Jan 2017 4:30pm

£5 (to include lunch and refreshments)

We live in an incredibly diverse society. But do our arts organisations, artists and audiences reflect this? 


In recent years there have been a number of national studies, initiatives and wide-ranging reviews of current and past evidence regarding equality and diversity within the arts and cultural sector in England.  This research has revealed that participation and engagement by diverse groups has shown little or no growth over the past nine years, demonstrating that there still remains significant variance in how people of different backgrounds access the arts across the country. 

Why is this?  Research on the subject concludes that the underlying reasons that influence an individual’s ability or motivation to engage in arts and culture are far from simple.  Some suggest that the under-representation of some groups is explained by a complex interplay of different preferences, drivers and barriers (social, institutional, economic, educational, ethnicity, age, disability and gender).  Others address this imbalance from the perspective of traits inherent within the sector itself, such as cultural elitism, or an arts workforce that does not represent the society it serves. 


The Cambridge Case for Diversity will span two events; the first conference Whose Culture is it Anyway? will kickstart the discussion by considering the national picture and address issues and topics that affect diversity within the arts and cultural sector as a whole.  By bringing a range of external speakers together with local representatives from equalities groups and arts and cultural organisations, the conference aims to better reflect Cambridge’s diverse communities.  Through situating Cambridge within this broader context, the outcomes of the conference will provide the framework for a dedicated follow up event to discuss the city’s response, highlight local examples of successful practice and areas for improvement, and explore how arts and culture can best reflect Cambridge’s complex cultural and unique socio-economic makeup. 

To set the scene, Whose Culture is it Anyway? will provide a platform to discuss the key factors that impact on our sectors ability to engage diverse audiences; including artistic programming, communication, access to funds and audience and arts workforce development.  With a combination of thought provoking key note speakers, breakout sessions, national case studies and initiatives, and networking opportunities; this conference aims to discuss diversity from a positive perspective and as an opportunity to explore the benefits and creative potential of taking an inclusive approach, addressing not only the protected characteristics but also the impact of education, class and geography upon diverse communities. 


  • What constitutes ‘art’ and ‘culture’ and to what extent are these terms still meaningful or useful?
  • Who defines what good or bad quality art is, what is high or low culture; and is this important?
  • What do diverse groups want to engage in and where, either as participants or as audience members and how do we find out their tastes and preferences?
  • How do we ensure that non-funded, non-NPO delivered and/or voluntary arts activities are acknowledged and recognised as equally legitimate alongside funded or professional arts?
  • What impact does positive or negative discrimination have across programming (creation and consumption), audience and art workforce development?
  • How can we improve communication between arts providers and diverse communities and equalities groups?
  • What support is available to arts and cultural organisations, equalities groups, and artist practitioners to help foster greater diversity?


We have invited representatives from Cambridge based equalities and voluntary groups, the education sector, and arts and cultural organisations and independent practitioners to attend the conference to meet, participate in breakout sessions together, share experience and network.  The speakers and breakout leaders have a wide range of experience and knowledge of working across diverse communities, from a variety of positions including research, consultation, project delivery, communication, training, audience development, funding and cultural strategy. 

The Cambridge Case for Diversity is an opportunity to bring together these different sectors and to collectively discuss what challenges we need to understand and overcome, and to consider what ‘culture’ means to different groups in society.  We will also produce a full delegate pack with organisation and contact details so you can continue conversations beyond the conference.    


Cambridge is a diverse city: over a fifth of its population totally changes each year, a third of residents are born outside of England with over half from non-EU countries, nearly a fifth of people are ‘non-white’, and 11% of households do not speak English as a main language.[3]  In short Cambridge continues to be one of the most culturally diverse places in the country outside of London.  However, despite having a thriving economy, a reputation for globally recognised hi-tech and bio-tech industries and being a national centre for higher education and research; many residents do not share in the city’s prosperous economy.  For example, 20 areas in the city are amongst the 40% most deprived areas nationally.  Poorer educational attainment and aspirations for children and young people growing up in low income families, has made Cambridge the fifth worst place in the country in terms of social mobility for young people leaving school.  The correlation between poverty and engagement in arts and culture is also recognised as impacting to a greater degree on people from BAME or disabled backgrounds.  To help make a difference, a series of consultations and a review of available evidence about poverty in Cambridge were conducted and an action plan created in response, as set out in the Cambridge City Council Anti-Poverty Strategy.                                                                                                                                                           




Welcome to the CAN Conference 2017: Jane Wilson, Culture and Community Manager – Cambridge City Council

Introduction: Councillor Richard Johnson, Executive Councillor for Communities – Cambridge City Council & Andy Salmon, Deputy Dean, Faculty of Arts, Law and Social Sciences – Anglia Ruskin University


Building Cultural Capital: Claudia West, Senior Relationship Manager & South East Area Lead for Diversity – Arts Council England  Arts Council England launched the Creative Case for Diversity in 2012 and established a baseline of data, evidence and research about the current position of equality and diversity across four key themes within the arts and cultural sector: arts and cultural audiences, arts and cultural participation, workforce, and access to funding.  This evidence has sparked a range of actions, including a pledge to recognise the importance of cultural education to improve outcomes for children and young people, targeted investment that focuses on marginalised communities, and to identify gaps in research in equality and diversity in the arts.  In this presentation, Arts Council England will provide an update on their progress so far, and what this means to Cambridge and the surrounding area.

Out of the Margins: Bobsie Robinson, Cultural Policy and Strategy Manager – City of Bradford Metropolitan Council  Bobsie Robinson has a long and varied history of working with BAME communities on various regeneration initiatives and has established new groups, networks and organisations cutting across a broad spectrum of cultures.  For this presentation, Bobsie will discuss the new Arts in Communities programme where she is developing a number of community arts networks across various localities and interests groups to enable grassroots communities to participate and engage in the arts.

A Democracy of Ideas: Whose Culture is it Anyway?: Robin Simpson, Diversity Panel Member and Chief Executive – Voluntary Arts  Voluntary Arts recognises that the arts are a key part of our culture and are vital to our health, social and economic development.  Voluntary and amateur arts are those arts and crafts that people undertake for self-improvement, social networking and leisure, but not primarily for payment and are often governed or organised by those participating in the activities. They are recognised as providing opportunities for people who would not otherwise participate and are often associated with diverse groups (such as learning, religious, older people’s groups and women’s organisations).  Robin Simpson will discuss how voluntary and amateur arts are part of an interlinked cultural democracy, valued equally alongside publicly funded and commercial culture; and how the voluntary arts is building new alliances in cultural diversity.   



Group 1 - What is Cultural Intelligence? Jenny Williams, Creative Director – Take the Space   Jenny Williams is an arts diversity specialist and founder of Take the Space, connecting mainstream organisations with communities, artists and groups who are currently not engaging with the arts – as audience, participator and creators of work.  Cultural intelligence is the ability to relate and work across cultures, but is this something that we can develop and measure?  This interactive session will focus on building knowledge and confidence within the cultural sector: exploring challenges and approaches to developing relationships with under-represented or less engaged groups, and setting realistic objectives around diversity, equality and inclusion for your activities, services or organisation governance.

Group 2 - Communication and the Creative Case: Getting your message out to diverse groups, Monika Richards – Independent Research Consultant   Monika Richards is an experienced practitioner and artist in the cultural and creative industry working in collaboration with the voluntary and community sector.  Following from the Creative Case for Diversity, she was commissioned to conduct a research and consultation programme into the voluntary and community sector with people from a low socio-economic, diverse and/or disability background.  The research targeted a range of community groups, individuals and key organisations outside the NPO portfolio that engage in arts and cultural activities across the South East region, ranging from festivals, workshops, cultural events, and short and long term programmes in various localities.  In this session Monika will discuss the findings of the report relating to the need for effective and meaningful communication, and the use of a range of media channels and collaborative approaches to building a foundation for a continuous ‘multi-logue’ that moves from ‘them’ to ‘we’.  Developing an integral communications plan that considers intersectional approaches, and the mapping of arts and cultural engagement; is a joint concern for practitioners, community groups and organisations outside as well as inside the National Portfolio.

Group 3 - Pulse: Diversity in the Arts – What Needs to Change?  Christy Romer, Journalist – ArtsProfessional   What is the impact of the arts workforce upon diversity? And, if the sector isn’t as diverse as it should be, what exactly needs to change?  This was the focus of the recent survey conducted by ArtsProfessional that asked those working in the arts about their organisation’s attitudes towards diversity in its workforce, its audiences and its artistic work.  Completed by over 500 respondents, it included questions about the barriers to improving diversity, and what should be done to break them down, and invited respondents to leave anonymous comments about the issues raised. In this breakout session, Christy Romer will discuss the survey results and implications in more detail, followed by a roundtable discussion.

Group 4 - Toward a Level Cultural Playing Field, Robin Simpson, Diversity Panel Member and Chief Executive – Voluntary Arts   Across the UK there are over 63,000 voluntary arts groups that regularly involve more than 10 million people voluntarily taking part.  Helping groups to become more inclusive and welcoming is an important area of work for Voluntary Arts – both in terms of diversity and inclusion but also in relation to attracting sufficient numbers of participants and audiences to ensure long-term sustainability.  In this breakout session, Robin will discuss what action Voluntary Arts are taking to achieve this and detail what help and support is available to local voluntary and amateur arts groups. 

Group 5 - “Diversity is not an abstract, but a lived reality”, Jamie Beddard, Director, Actor and Associate Director – Diverse City   Diverse City leads ambitious performance and performance-training that brings together disabled and non-disabled people, older and younger people and people from all backgrounds.  Diverse City works both nationally and internationally, and produced Breathe – a show that opened the Olympic sailing events on Weymouth beach and in collaboration with Cirque Bijou has set up Extraordinary Bodies, the UK's only integrated circus company.  They also created Diverse Futures, a unique tool for young people to help them progress in the performing arts.  Jamie Beddard will discuss how they have successfully worked with emerging artists who are disabled, why we should work toward an integrated sector to ensure greater inclusion and opportunity, understanding the value and talent that people from diverse backgrounds bring, and what steps we can take to ensure that diversity becomes core, rather than an ‘add-on’.

Group 6 - Making it Happen: Access to Funding, Claudia West, Senior Relationship Manager & South East Area Lead for Diversity – Arts Council England  Arts Council England has four new strategic funds that collectively will invest £8.5 million in diversity and the Creative Case.  These include Sustained Theatre to support established and emerging BAME theatre makers, Change Makers to help address the lack of diversity in arts leadership, Elevate to help develop diverse-led organisations that may be future contenders for NPO membership, and Unlimited that aims to support the development and commissioning of a range of new work by deaf and disabled artists.  In this session, Arts Council England will introduce the funds and examples of successful bids.  This will be followed by a Q&A providing an opportunity to discuss the diversity dedicated funding streams and any relevant projects or strategic plans that delegates would like to talk about.  

Group 7 - CultureHive: Audience Diversity Academy, Bea Udeh, Programme Producer – Arts Marketing Association   The Audience Diversity Academy is a new initiative running between June 2016 and January 2017 to help drive organisational change and addresses a key sector challenge – building new and diverse audiences from the whole of society.  Fellows taking part in the Academy represent arts, culture and heritage organisations across England, and are from marketing, education, outreach and audience development or engagement roles. By embracing agile working, Fellows were asked to identify challenges and to develop creative experiments to test new ways of working, being ready to shift ideas and move forward building on the results of each new experiment.  In this session, Bea Udeh will share the outcomes of the Audience Diversity Academy and will be followed by an opportunity to discuss ideas for increasing audience diversity within your own setting.


A delicious lunch of freshly prepared sandwiches, sweet treats and fresh fruit will be served in the atrium area. Please note that ALL food will be clearly labelled for food allergens, if it is vegetarian or if it contains meat or fish.  If you have requested any special dietary needs, eg vegan or gluten free, your food will be plated up separately and labelled with your name.


A repeat of the morning’s breakout groups:

Group 1: What is Cultural Intelligence?                      

Group 2: Communication and the Creative Case: Getting your message out to diverse groups 

Group 3: Pulse: Diversity in the Arts – What Needs to Change?  

Group 4: Toward a Level Cultural Playing Field  

Group 5: “Diversity is not an abstract, but a lived reality” 

Group 6: Making it Happen: Access to Funding  

Group 7: CultureHive: Audience Diversity Academy  



Conclusions and Recommendations, Jane Wilson, Culture and Community Manager – Cambridge City Council   Throughout the day we have been capturing your comments, suggestions and key messages through the graphic documentation of ‘visual minutes’ using images and text.  Jane Wilson will lead this session taking a look back at the day’s presentations and breakout sessions, summing up any key learning and what our next steps will be.  There is also the opportunity for delegate to ask questions of today’s speakers and breakout session leaders.

4.30pm  FINISH



To secure your delegate place/s, please ensure you have booked before 10 January.  Registering your place at the CAN Conference 2017 is done in two stages: providing your delegate information using the registration survey and then following the eventbrite link (at the end of the survey) to pay a fee of £5 per delegate (includes lunch and refreshments).  Places are limited and allotted on a first come, first served basis!


A map showing the location of the Lord Ashcroft Building within the ARU Cambridge Campus can be accessed here.  For information on travel arrangements by car, train, bus, bicycle or by foot please click here.   ARU does not provide parking facilities; the Queen Anne and Grafton Street multi-storey car parks are both five minutes’ walk away and there is a short-stay car park opposite the campus on Adam and Eve Street please click here for details of public car parks.  There are a limited number of spaces for daily use by Blue Badge holders; these can be booked in advance by emailing     


For further information please contact Michelle Lord, Arts Development Officer, Cambridge City Council by emailing or telephoning 01223 457450.     

Posted by CAN network on 15th November 2016.