Highlights from the Family Arts Campaign 2019 conference

Our agents share learning about family offers that work for everyone, the value of intergenerational activities and the importance of role models that represent our diverse population.

Family Arts Campaign’s 2019 popular biennial conference brought together over 300 professionals from across the cultural and heritage sector for a day of debate, networking and inspiration. The Audience Agency was represented by Maya Sharma, Learning and Participation Consultant, and Margot Walker, Head of User Partnerships. We were there to share our expertise in developing family audiences but also to learn from all the exciting practice that is going on in the sector.

Maya Sharma: The value of a whole family approach for children with multiple and complex needs

One speaker that stood out for me was Bethany Mitchell, Curator of Inclusion at MK Gallery. She spoke about their family sessions for children with multiple and complex needs. Not only was I struck by her passion for this deeply inclusive work but also by the whole-family approach.

These activities are designed to be inclusive and responsive to the disabled child’s needs at the same time as offering an enjoyable experience for the rest of the family. Too often activities for families with disabled children focus – understandably - on the disabled child with less attention on the needs and interests of the rest of the family.

Bethany explained that their whole-family approach runs through everything: even the forms that families are asked to fill in before their visit are designed to be completed as a whole family activity. A good reminder that the best family activities are those that work for the whole family, not just the children.

Margot Walker: Increasing the visibility of role models from a wide range of backgrounds and the value of intergenerational experiences

My takeaways came from two speakers from the world of broadcasting. Cheryl Taylor, BBC Head of Children’s Programming, gave a great introduction to the development of informative and entertaining content for children and families. In particular, I was interested by the BBC’s commitment to presenting a wide range of role models for our young people, with presenters from different ethnic backgrounds as well as disabilities, and ensuring women are seen as expert in areas such as science and technology: “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it”.

Consultant Geriatrician Dr Zoe Wyrko spoke about the award-winning Channel 4 series ‘Old People’s home for 4-year Olds’ which I’m definitely going to watch on catch-up. This was an inspiring social experiment which brought together 4-year olds with old people to simply spend time together, playing and listening to each other. This intergenerational experiment rolled back the years for the old people, resulting in improved physical, mental and emotional outcomes for many. This fascinating programme beautifully illustrated how bringing the generations together in shared activities has benefits for everyone.

Margot was invited to the national Fantastic for Families Awards to present the Audience Choice Award to winners balletLORENT and Big Fish Little Fish. Find the full list of winners here.

Where next? Supporting your family engagement planning

If you’re feeling as inspired and fired up as we are, head over to our Engaging Families page to find out more about the support we can offer in understanding and developing your family audiences.

Written by Maya Sharma, Consultant, Diversity and Inclusion

Featured in the February edition of The Learning Diaries. Aimed at those working in learning, engagement or participation in the cultural sector, this newsletter will share updates from our team on sector events, ideas from some of our projects and links to new research. To receive The Learning Diaries, visit the sign up page.