What Next? For Emerging Creatives in the East Midlands?

What Next? are the grassroots movement credited with much of last years astonishing settlement for arts and culture when George Osbourne pledged that Arts Council England and national museums and galleries would get the same amount of funding in cash terms in 2019-20 as they do today. What Next? representatives from across the county also met with politicians in the lead up to the 2015 election, influencing the content of the party manifestos and are behind the West Midlands 24 Hour Culture Survey and the BBC Get Creative campaign.

The movement began in 2011 when a large group of culture professionals asked the question ‘what next?’ to the UK government following the recession and massive cuts to arts funding. Regular meetings were established at the Young Vic, a national conference followed in 2013 and the movement was born with Chapters forming across the UK.

So what makes What Next? different to any other open space meeting? Rather than being an opportunity to bemoan the current state of affairs, What Next? is forward looking and action led by it’s desire to articulate, champion and strengthen the role of culture in our society. The opportunity the movement offers to seek alliances outside the cultural sector creates opportunities for fresh thinking and new policy ideas.

Starting this week in Leicester is What Next? Generation East Midlands. There is an existing What Next? Midlands chapter, led by the Royal Shakespeare Company and Belgrade Theatre, though as it covers a wide geography the Chapter does not meet regularly, instead communicating successfully through a mailing list. After speaking with fellow early career artists and arts professionals across the East Midlands, it was felt there was a genuine desire to start a Generation chapter here.

Generation chapters are a group of younger and emergent arts professionals and artists who come together to champion the same values as the What Next?  ‘grown up’ groups whilst also championing issues specific to young people in the arts, such as combatting unpaid internships and calling for greater access to engage with all art forms.

Hannah Bird, What Next? National Lead will be joining us for our first meeting to fill us in on the movement’s achievements so far and advise us moving forward. Open to arts and culture professionals, artists and students from all disciplines and organisations, they hope this will be the start of a regional campaign that sees exciting collaborations engaging people in different conversations about how and why arts and culture are important, especially here in the East Midlands.

What Next? Generation :: East Midlands takes place at Curve on Thursday 17th November. Join the Facebook group here. You can find out more about What Next? here. Please email whatnextgenem@gmail.com if you have questions or would like to add to the agenda. 

Charlotte Mountford is a theatre and festivals producer, recently moved to Leicester from her home-town of Manchester. Interested in artist development and cultural policy, she is keen to sample as much of Leicester's arts scene as possible, stopping off for pizza/curry/beer along the way.

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