Cultural democracy in practice – Feast
Feast is an innovative model for development that has been running for 10 years across Cornwall, encouraging artists and communities to make work, festivals and events, rooted at the heart of local areas. In 2017/18 alone their work enabled 1,651 artists and 1,944 volunteers to make cultural activities that were experienced by 12,928 active participants, 108,000 audience members and 299 communities across Cornwall.
They are given funds by Arts Council England, which a local community panel then administers, with artists and communities applying for small grants. 50% of the panel is always ‘non-artists’ and the panel rotates regularly to ensure that ‘a new cabal is never created.’ Interestingly the panel never goes to a vote, they always keep talking it through until the decisions are made so that all voices are heard and decisions can be accepted and respected by all. Jack Morrison, the Project Manager at Feast, explains that he doesn’t have a vote on the panel, to ensure decisions are neutral.
Feast take a broad view on culture and the range of projects that they fund is significant. This year they’ve funded a project that saw 850 people across the region receive or write poetry postcards, sing o grams or lyrical letters; showcased the work of autistic artists; supported dancers between the ages of 50-75 to open a show for Rambert; funded a film-maker working with young people to create an educational and training video on mental health; as well as funding community theatre work, festivals and large scale local events.
Feast are also an ambassador for Fun Palaces (who you can read about in the Cultural Democracy in Practice report), encouraging communities across the region to develop participatory events across the year, as well as for Fun Palaces weekend. Feast invest small amounts of money in people and infrastructure to build on work that is already in development, as well as new ideas. Its processes are transparent and open and the process of application is simple, with a two stage process that ensures people don’t put a large amount of work in without having a good chance of securing funding.
This model is a fantastic way of opening up creative opportunities to a wide range of people. By diversifying who makes work, it also diversifies who sees work and who participates in it. As part of our Everyday Creativity report for Arts Council of England in 2016 we visits all of the Arts Council regions to hold discussions and workshops around everyday creativity, and found that Cornwall had a significant prevalence of work coming from the ground up. There is less formal cultural infrastructure in the region but it is the work of Feast, and others, who have built on and harnessed the fantastic creativity emerging from all sorts of places and spaces to create a genuinely responsive scene that is owned by the people who live in the area.
This model for funding has been transformative for such a rural area and the fact that money is distributed locally, and decisions are made by people who live there, means that factors such as transport or infrastructure can be taken into account in a way that they might not be by a larger, more national funder.
To find out more about about Feast’s work you can download their report here: https://feastcornwall.org/2017-report/