…  42 .. …  26 … Big …. Up: Reimaginings

On 26 October 2022, Arts Council England will announce the results of their long-awaited investment decisions into which arts and cultural organisations have been successful in their applications to become National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) or Investment Principles Support Organisations (IPSOs) between 2023 and 2026. The Mighty Creatives are in the same position as everyone else in the sector and are ready for the email on 26 October which will tell us about what our relationship with Arts Council England will be over the next 3 years.  

So, in the meantime, in the spirit of hoping for the best but planning for the worst, here’s another reflection which highlights some of the amazing work the charity has done for children and young people in the East Midlands over the last ten years.

Today’s reflection: what do you want from a village? Really, really want?  

Royston Vasey was a fictional community invented in the BBC television comedy series The League of Gentlemen.

It was a simple village where everyone kept themselves to themselves and people liked to keep things ‘local’.

Filming of the series took place in the Derbyshire village of Hadfield and the programme gave us a sharp – but not altogether flattering –  insight into what villages can be and represent.

So what better place to start our thinking about what we want from a village.

And who better than Ferdinand Tonnies the German sociologist who knew all about how groups of people formed,  based on their wants and desires.

Tonnies distinguished between two basic types of social grouping based on human will:

Firstly, essential will which describes underlying, organic, instinctive driving forces in which membership of the group is self-fulfilling;


Secondly, arbitrary will – which is deliberate, rational and future orientated and in which membership of the group is sustained by some instrumental goal or definite end.

Tonnies defined groups that form around essential will as gemeinschaft which we translate as ‘community’. 

And he defined groups that are formed around arbitrary will as Gesellschaft which we translate as ‘society’.

For Tonnies, Gemeinschaft could be identified by family, neighbourhood or village relationships and Gesellschaft was identified by the city, the state or corporate relationships.

So what do you want from your village?  Gemeinschaft or Gesellschaft? 

Because there are consequences to your choice.

On the one hand, gemeinschaft or community refers to relationships in which individuals are bound together by common norms often because of shared physical space and beliefs.  These can be tight knit, potentially claustrophobic and disconnected from the wider world.  A bit like Roysten Vasey,

On the other hand you might want a village built on Gesellschaft: relationships which are based on contract, on mutual, rational benefit but in which self-interest is the primary justification for membership. A bit like the new Roysten Vasey the builders were brought into build.

Your choice of Gemeinschaft or Gesellschaft may depend on how you want to control your village.

In Gemeinschaft, control is through common morals, encouraging conformism and practicing exclusion and social  control.  ‘You’re not from here are you?’ is a oft heard quote in Roysten Vasey.

Gesellschaft on the other hand keeps its equilibrium through policing, through laws,  tribunals and the ultimate sanction, prison.

But if you were a young village member, how would know whether you had disrupted the village equilibrium?

Well, in Gemeinschaft the rules are implicit – they’ve been handed down through the generations and everyone knows what they are and what is not to be done.  

Gesellschaft has explicit rules which are our written laws – everything from lawn tennis clubs to rock concerts to the law of the land.  These are the rules which reflect Gesellschaft.

There are consequences of your choice of desire for your village of course.

Eric Hobsbawm has made the point that globalisation is turning the entire planet into an increasingly remote kind of Gesellschaft with Fredric Jameson suggesting that this is accompanied by what he calls “an ambivalent envy felt by those constructed by Gesellschaft  for a longing back to Gemeinschaft.  A kind of nostalgic reminiscence for days which perhaps never really existed.”

So what you want what do you want from your village? What you really really want as the Spice Girls might have sung to us today.

Well, what we want to do today is consider how cultural education could be at the heart of the village model.

 Let’s start with just a brief look at what we mean by cultural education.

According to the Darren Henley review of 2012, Cultural Education consists of cultural activities which are academically, physically and socially enriching which  take place in school or out of school. 

Henley says that cultural activities include everything from archaeology through to the visual arts: and I would add that faith, food, science and sport are cultural activities which are equally important in developing a cultural offer for children and young people.

Henley says explicitly that the best performing schools bring cultural education practitioners in to  schools to work alongside classroom teachers to share their knowledge with children and young people.

I would add that the power of place and local specificity whilst understanding the wider global contexts which children live in is also critical to the success of that work of teachers and cultural practitioners working together.

Henley makes the point that a sound cultural education is about allowing children and young people to gain – and I would add – construct knowledge.

It’s about understanding,  developing their critical faculties: developing skills to practice specific cultural forms and I would add, is particularly critical in generating personal social and economic outcomes as well as cultural outcomes. 

Whilst many of us here today are here to consider the cultural outcomes of our work we also know we cannot isolate them from the bigger social and economic outcomes that arise from our work.

So how do The Mighty Creatives place cultural education within a village model? 

We do this by placing the child at the centre of the learning experience.

We do it by engaging insiders and outsiders – i.e. those inside and outside the village institutions such as schools to work together through a collective impact model for the benefit of our young villagers 

We do it by building on the multiagency policies and approaches of the last 20 years which including the Children’s Workforce strategy,  extended schools personalised learning and so on. 

And most recently we’ve been doing it through our local cultural education partnerships, our Emerge Youth arts festivals and other activities that you’ll be hearing about today.

How can we start today? 

We at TMC can start today by pledging to provide a world-class cultural education offer across the East Midlands. 

I’ll be talking more about that at the end of afternoon but one thing I would close this session today with is to ask you, to pledge to engage with this fantastic work which has been produced by over 500 children from across the region for your enjoyment today and of course the action packed programme we have ahead.

Colleagues, I hope you have a fantastic summit and look forward to hearing about your wants and desires for your villages through today and in the months to come.

(Extract of Keynote Speech of The Mighty Creatives Village Model Summit, Nottingham Conference Centre, November 2016)

The Mighty Creatives staff team took part in the Mighty (UN)Mute, a day-long vow of silence, on 5th October 2022. You can check out the campaign here or donate your support to it here.

Or if neither of these is possible (and heaven knows we’re all in tough financial times right now), then anything you can do to share and shout about the campaign would be equally welcomed and appreciated.

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