Local communities leading cultural projects
Cultural Connectors is a volunteering scheme set up by Creative Barking & Dagenham.This scheme is designed for local people new to producing and commissioning art work and leading arts programmes across Barking and Dagenham.
Danny Baxter, Cultural Connector for Creative Barking & Dagenham (CBD) tells us more about the scheme…
I’ve been working as a Cultural Connector for CBD for the last year. It is a six year project of the Art Council’s ‘Creative People and Places’ fund. It’s been really exciting to be part of this programme. Barking and Dagenham has seen unprecedented regeneration and has a rapidly changing population. As I’m writing this after Brexit, I believe it’s now more important than ever for arts and culture to help bring communities together. This is particularly the case in somewhere as diverse as Barking and Dagenham.
I've been involved in community arts projects for a number of years. I joined Cultural Connectors after enquiring about a performance at the Sanofi Factory in Dagenham for my daughter Lexi. A local Cultural Connector, Khushnood Ahmed, invited me to join the network. After a quick briefing and a few forms I was in. It all seemed a bit too easy, and I was right. I soon realised how tough it would be to unite all of Barking and Dagenham's creative people into one network. The great thing is there are so many opportunities once you’re in.
I must say just being in this environment has inspired, educated and helped me to really understand arts and culture. It’s been brilliant being surrounded by likeminded creatives and professionals. We all look out for each other. Focusing on money and profitability can sometimes be a creativity killer. Or network is thankfully more focused on contributing to the community. It’s a great motivation and unites us. In terms of practical skills, the programme’s given me experience of being on steering groups for events and interview panels. I’ve also done stuff like projects proposals and visited places like the Barbican and City Hall, as well as the local Broadway Theatre.
In early 2016, we heard that the CBD would be funded up to 2019. I started to realise that this wasn’t a permanent fixture, but more of a research project. Personally, that makes the project even more special. In the long run, I hope the network that emerges can carry on. The network is already extending far beyond the confines of the Cultural Connectors Facebook group and into others. Usually this takes a lot of time and effort, but it seems to happen organically with the Cultural Connectors.
I’d like to end by saying that I recognise that something special is happening in Barking and Dagenham, There is positive change against a global backdrop of negativity. I know that CBD has had a major part to play in that. I see a new kind of community begin built around me, with many people daring to dream for the future, and I like it.