National Conference 2019: An engaging day of debate and discussion in Cardiff

 3 April 2019

The 2019 Creative & Cultural Skills National Conference took place on Monday 1 April in Cardiff City Hall. Over 250 delegates attended from across the UK, for a day of debate and discussion about the barriers in the cultural sector.

2019 was the tenth year of the conference, and the first since the appointment of new CEO Simon Dancey. The event was set in Wales for the first time in its history, and brought together policy-makers, educators and creative practitioners to explore how we can break down the barriers in the cultural sector.

Conference was opened and hosted by Head of Skills Academy Wales, Sarah Hughes, who oversaw proceedings. CEO, Simon Dancey set the scene for the day by talking about the barriers in the cultural sector. He encouraged delegates to use the day to consider the practical actions they and their organisations could take and to build the connections necessary to make that happen.  

Lord Elis-Thomas, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Welsh Assembly then took to the stage. Delivering his speech in Welsh, with English audio translation, he spoke about the importance of young people in our sector and discussed the work that the Welsh Assembly has been doing to tackle inequalities in the arts and cultural sector.

He emphasised the importance of the arts in society, and the championed the “provocative, subversive and transformative” role of artists in society.

Phil George, Chair of the Arts Council of Wales, then continued this theme by looking at how they have been improving diversity through recruitment. He emphasised the importance of the arts in society, and the championed the “provocative, subversive and transformative” role of artists in society.

Industry Panel

This year’s industry panel was made up of Vilma Nikolaidou, Associate Director, People Strategy University Arts London, Kate Danielson, Director, Weston Jerwood Creative Bursaries, Emma Green, Head of Diversity, Dept of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Alex Porter-Smith, Co-founder, High Tide and Marc Jaffrey Creative, Media and Film specialist.

The panel emphasised the importance of really considering the practical barriers that people face.

They had a valuable discussion which ranged from considering how we can ensure that people have the opportunity to progress through the sector, to tackling the inequalities in the education sector. The panel emphasised the importance of really considering the practical barriers that people face when it comes to working in the sector, such as a lack of transport or difficulties organising childcare.

After lunch, delegates had the chance to choose from six breakout sessions.   

Second Half

The second half of the afternoon opened with Professor of Learning and Director of the Centre for Real-World Learning, Bill Lucas. He, and former CEO of Creative & Cultural Skills Pauline Tambling, devised the Mark Art Not War Programme to encourage young people to develop and nurture essential creative skills that are fundamental to wider learning and are matched to future social and economic demands. Creative & Cultural Skills has been a lead partner in delivering this, and it has former part of this year’s portfolio for the National Skills Academy.

Bill’s energising presentation asked the question ‘How are schools preparing the future workforce for entry into the creative and cultural sector?’ He encouraged delegates to challenge their perceptions of education, and what the education system should be. “Creativity is a literacy,” he said. “Creativity is the driving force, the oxygen of learning.”

Creativity is the driving force, the oxygen of learning.

The next keynote was a joint presentation from Simon Dancey, Creative & Cultural Skills, Seetha Kumar, Screenskills and Alan Bishop, Creative Industries Federation about new Creative Careers Programme. “This programme is ambitious but intensely practical,” said Seetha. All of the leaders emphasised how timely the project is, as the appetite is there to work together to drive for collective change.

The last keynote speaker of the day was Graeme Farrow, Artistic Director, Wales Millennium Centre. He offered a number of case studies about the lifelong impact that poverty can have on a young person and how real, quality employment opportunities can break that cycle. He also spoke about the Wales Millennium Centre’s recent work with young people in care: “If we are serious about breaking down barriers we must commit to working with the most vulnerable young people.”

If we are serious about breaking down barriers we must commit to working with the most vulnerable young people

Apprentice Debate

Finally, the day was rounded off with the ever-popular Apprentice debate. Yvonne Kelly, Principal and CEO, Barking and Dagenham College chaired a discussion with Kamiah Cowell, Becky Kaylor, Keisha Peets, James Parrott and Ahuti Punja. The apprentices spoke about their experiences of working in a variety of different industries, including music, theatre, heritage and digital, as an apprentice.

All of them acknowledged that while still at school they didn’t know that creative apprenticeships existed, but that once they discovered them they knew it was exactly what they were looking for. Kamiah said that the thing which attracted her the most was that her programme was described as being “Run by young people, led by young people, designed by young people.”

Further insights from the day can be seen on the @CCSkills Twitter feed, or by following the hashtag #CreativeNationUK


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