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Cambridge Festival of Education: The Power of Creativity

Festival of Education - Spinney head teacher, Rachel Snape. Picture: Keith Heppell
Festival of Education - Spinney head teacher, Rachel Snape. Picture: Keith Heppell

A Festival of Education, supported by the Cambridge Independent, is coming this summer. Organiser Rachel Snape explains the drivers behind one of this year's themes: Creativity in Education.

The Cambridgeshire Festival of Education is coming together nicely and over the next few days we plan to announce the amazing array of speakers and workshops that the steering committee is curating for this inaugural celebration of education in our county.

The steering committee has identified five themes for this year’s festival. Creativity in Education is one. I am passionate about the transformative power of arts, creativity and culture in young people’s lives. I am a member of the Arts Council’s Levelling Panel for the Arts Mark and am also on the steering committee of My Cambridge, one of four cultural educational partnerships in Cambridgeshire.

The naissance of My Cambridge goes back four years to a hot day in the summer of 2013 when I went with my daughter Esme for a visit to The Fitzwilliam Museum. It was the end of the academic year and, despite the temptation to spend the first Saturday of summer lazing about, we went off in search of cultural edification. A quick Google search reminds me that we would have seen, among many other treasures, an exhibition of Swiss watercolour miniatures as well as an exhibition in conjunction with the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology on the history of 6,000 years of the Afro comb.

As we were walking along King’s Parade and onto Trumpington Street, I noticed a family also going in the same direction. There was a mum pushing a buggy with a baby, two young children to her right and another, older child on her left, who looked about the same age as my own daughter. I saw that the parent was having trouble pushing the buggy through the busy street and, understandably, she appeared quite flustered. We were not too far away from them so I listened in on the conversation as they approached the museum. The conversation went something like this.

Mum: “There is no way we can get the buggy up those steps!”

Child: “There’s a flat entrance round the side for disabled access and buggies.”

Mum: “Well, how much is it going to cost for us all to go?”

Child: “It does not cost a penny, Mum. It’s free.”

Mum: “Are you sure, Ben?”

Ben: (Stepping back from mum) “Mum, my teacher told me the Fitzwilliam Museum belongs to me!”

That exchange nearly four years ago was a seminal moment. What if we could get every child in Cambridge to believe that the rich cultural resources and assets that the city and its world-famous universities had to offer belonged to each and every one of Cambridge’s children? What if young people had such a powerful sense of belonging and identity that they could confidently declare Cambridge belongs to me? “It’s My Cambridge.”

Jumping forward to 2017, My Cambridge is the name of an evolving partnership, one of the 50 that was announced by Darren Henley, Ed Vaizey and Nick Gibb in October 2015 as part of Arts Council England’s Cultural Challenge.

My Cambridge brings together Cambridgeshire County Council, The Kite Teaching School Alliance, Cambridge City Council and The Cambridge Arts Leaders.

In due course, we hope to have a one-stop-shop website for young people so that they know the full extent of the cultural and creative offer in Cambridge. A number of partners have worked with My Cambridge on various projects for young people, schools and communities, including Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination, Cambridgeshire Music Partnership, Cambridge Literary Festival, History Works, The Fitzwilliam Museum, New International Encounter, Cambridge Junction and Access Arts

Through various initiatives and projects, these organisations are promoting the take-up of Arts Award as well as signposting to the wonderful opportunities within the creative subjects and industries such as art, poetry and graphic design, music, songwriting, performing, creative writing and illustration, television, coding and making, acting, directing and filmmaking.

Cambridge is the second fastest growing city in the country. Over the last few years many world-renowned industries have joined our Cambridge community. New housing developments are popping up all the time, and the city works proactively and positively to make newcomers welcome. As the city grows, providing greater opportunities for commerce, tech and biotech industries, it’s right that organisations recognise how they can contribute to the vision of My Cambridge in the way Raspberry Pi, ARM and AstraZeneca do.

The UK is recognised across the world for its creative and cultural production. Advertising and marketing, architecture, crafts, design, film, TV, video, radio, photography, IT (software and computer services), publishing, museums, galleries and libraries, music, performing and visual arts – they all form what has come to be referred to as the creative industries.

According to the latest DCMS estimates, the creative industries generate nearly £9.6million per hour. The creative industries are an engine of growth for the UK economy, and it is therefore vital to pay appropriate attention to such a thriving and talented sector.

As more and more partners join the My Cambridge partnership, we will soon be able to convey a compelling connected narrative that Cambridge is a unique and dynamic city full of ideas, imagination and innovation that belongs to everyone, including its young people.

This will be the sea change we are hoping for where every young person has a strong sense of belonging and identity through arts, creativity and culture – and believes, as Ben did.

We hope that you will be able to join us on July 1 at Anglia Ruskin University where Professor Pam Burnard, professor of arts, creativities and education at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, will deliver a keynote speech that will unravel and explode myths about ‘creativity’ and highlight how education for sustainable living and learning are at the heart of everything we do.

Tickets from cambsedfest.com

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