The arts, culture and heritage - 3 Henrietta Hopkins

In the last decade HVM has embedded the arts, culture and heritage in its dialogue, facilitation and training services. For Anita and I, who come from arts and heritage backgrounds, this has been a process of evolution not revolution from which has emerged a very powerful set of tools we can use to:

  • Give people a voice on the issues that matter to them, to their communities and to society
  • Inform public policy on arts and heritage matters
  • Ensure the capacity of the sector is built to deal with the challenging economic and social circumstances in which they operate.

So how does it work for HVM? We think of it in 3 ways: performance to help understanding; using creativity to inspire new thinking; working with the arts, culture and heritage sectors to support policy making and strategic thinking.

1. Performance supporting perception
From 2015 to 2016 we worked with Look Left Look Right to design and deliver a public dialogue on challenges to the food system. Part of The Crunch, the Wellcome Trust's food and drink initiative.  Through sessions using an interactive mix of dialogue and dramatic scenes produced using verbatim techniques, people were given the opportunity to see a new piece of theatre, which vividly informed their discussions on the challenges of the current food system. It enabled them to embed themselves in a range of possible futures. Art here was used as a powerful mirror on the world which helped people to reflect deeply on their society and its future in relation to food, health and the environment. 

2. Creativity to inspire
For many years HVM has used creative dialogue tools to inspire people to think differently, to see the world from another perspective or to think of a better future. For the qualitative research through dialogue we ran for the New Economics Foundation and the Cabinet Office we were using the wellbeing lens to consider policy interventions to combat loneliness. As part of a two workshop deliberative process we asked people who self-identified as chronically lonely to draw their ideal societies, where loneliness could not exist. The drawings produced will remain in my head forever. Beautiful and emotive symbols of solutions to loneliness which would not have been arrived at by talking on its own.

3. Supporting strategic thinking in the arts, culture and heritage sectors
For the last 12 years HVM has run stakeholder engagement events, team building sessions and capacity building courses in the UK and internationally to support strategic thinking in the arts, culture and heritage sectors, including recent programmes for the British Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund. We've used creative tools to inspire the sector to think in new ways about the age of austerity, for example, and to encourage teams to understand how they could work in partnership with others to achieve more with less. 

So as we look forward to a week-end facilitating a discussion on priorities for cultural heritage for the Heritage Lottery Fund, HVM will be grateful that the arts and heritage exist as a tangible expression of all we are as human beings - and all we hope to be in the future.