Creative Lives’ survey demonstrates a huge appetite for more creative collaborations across the arts sector. 

A new survey conducted by Creative Lives has revealed local creative groups’ eagerness for more creative collaborations with professional arts organisations, but also a desire for equal treatment with their publicly-funded counterparts. 

The aims of the survey were to establish:

  • how well-connected local, voluntary-led creative groups felt to other arts organisations in their areas; 
  • whether they would like any specific support from professional arts institutions that receive public funding; 
  • and what they could offer to professional arts institutions.  

We received responses from local creative groups from all four nations of the UK and from Ireland, working in a wide variety of artforms including dressmaking, dance, printmaking, textile art, singing, creative writing, graffiti, theatre, festivals, music, spoken word, jewellery and songwriting. The age of the groups ranged from 25 years old to brand-new groups established during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We wanted to get a general sense of how well connected local creative groups felt to the wider cultural sector in their areas. The majority of respondents fell somewhere in the middle, with 32% reporting that they felt “a little” connected to the wider arts sector, and 45% reporting feeling “quite a bit” connected. 

Of the 9% of respondents who reported “not at all”, all were recently established, with one exception, suggesting that the impact of the pandemic may have removed many usual networking opportunities. 

Of the 14% of groups who said they felt very well connected, almost all were based in large cities, suggesting a critical mass of potential partners in the arts sector. Some rural groups reported difficulties in connecting and promoting their work.  

We are lucky enough to live in a very vibrant city with lots of creative opportunities.

What support would local creative groups like from professional arts institutions?

When asked what support, if any, local creative groups would like from professional, publicly-funded arts organisations, the top answer (at 85%) was creative collaborations. Above requests for technical support or resources, there is clearly a large appetite from voluntary arts groups to partner with other arts organisations on creative projects. 

The second most common request was for support with promotion or marketing (68%), followed by artistic support (60%), e.g. seconding artists to a group for a fresh injection of creative ideas. It is our experience, from commissioning artists to work with local creative groups, that the experience is mutually beneficial and that secondments quickly become collaborations. 

Other commonly requested areas of support were for fundraising (57%) and the provision of venues (55%). 

What support could local creative groups offer to professional arts institutions?

When asked what support or expertise local creative groups could offer to other arts organisations, the top answer (91%) was exactly the same: creative collaborations

Local creative groups often have strong, trusted connections with their communities, which is a real asset. One multi-cultural and multi-faith creative group stated that “Professionals use the group when they need to engage with the wider diverse community.” Another stated that “We reach audiences that don’t necessarily trust or engage with bigger institutions.” 

Voluntary arts groups also provide access to emerging or early career artists, who often begin their professional pathways with amateur arts activity. 

Some survey respondents also reported that their expertise wasn’t sufficiently valued by decision makers:

We’d like to be taken more seriously by the bigger funded institutions and offered a seat at the strategic table. Big decisions get made without us that end up affecting us.

Creative Lives’ recent research report, Common Ground: Rewilding the Garden, expressed a need to reconnect the disparate parts of our cultural ecosystem. This new survey suggests that among local creative groups there is real enthusiasm for improving links through creative collaborations with other arts organisations.