The Vital North Partnership’s work will be continuing – there are lots of interesting projects coming up this autumn which my Newcastle University and Seven Stories colleagues will be working on. And there are lots of exciting plans in the pipeline. I’ll be keeping a close eye on developments!
For now, I’m signing off the Vital North Partnership blog and I imagine there will be a period of time when this blog won’t be updated. All of the posts on this blog will be backed up on the Children’s Literature in Newcastle blog, which is being actively maintained. Do have a look at their posts to keep up to date!
Seven Stories: The National Centre for Children’s Books and Newcastle University share the ambition that Newcastle becomes a centre for excellence in children’s literature – for collections, research, learning, engagement and professional practice.
From 2015 – 2018, Seven Stories and Newcastle University worked together on the Vital North Partnership, a strategic development programme funded by Arts Council England’s Museum Resilience Fund. This aimed to:
Enhance and scale up their collaborative partnership
Increase Seven Stories’ financial resilience and diversify income
Support Seven Stories’ long-term business planning
Arts Council England funding, matched by Newcastle University, supported the employment of a Partnership Manager (me!) to lead the collaboration, and provided a project budget.
Developing a museum / university partnership
The Vital North Partnership has strengthened and significantly developed Seven Stories’ collaboration with Newcastle University, through activities including:
Developing a detailed options appraisal for Seven Stories’ future infrastructure, and securing funding through the Higher Education Innovation Fund to explore models for the long-term future of the collaboration.
Through the project, Seven Stories’ work became embedded within Newcastle University’s structures, and enhanced their financial resilience.
For Newcastle University, new research collaborations were developed, wider audiences accessed academic research, and the Partnership provided unique opportunities for teaching and learning.
The partnership between the two organisations has been recognised by Arts Council England through the 2018 – 22 National Portfolio scheme, and with match funding from Newcastle University, we are looking forward to an ambitious programme over the next four years. And for more information on that – watch this space!
Universities and cultural organisations are working more closely than ever before. New roles and initiatives are emerging to manage these collaborations…
Navigating a challenging funding landscape, arts and cultural organisations are increasingly collaborating to make their resources stretch further and engage new audiences. Universities are similarly turning to partners, who can help to demonstrate impact beyond the academy, support challenge-based research funding bids and enhance the (increasingly expensive) student experience.
Aside from these external drivers, there are synergies between the two sectors. Both arts organisations and HEIs can be seen as ‘anchor institutions’, not-for-profit organisations which contribute to learning, economic growth, skills development and community engagement within their regions. Many universities run their own cultural venues; some of our national cultural institutions are eligible to apply for RCUK funding through their status as Independent Research Organisations. You could say we’re natural partners.
For larger organisations managing multiple cultural or HEI partnerships, co-ordination functions often sit with a team within the organisation’s staff structure. The National Archives’ Academic Engagement team co-ordinate engagement with academic audiences; Kings College London’s Cultural Institute facilitates collaborations between the University and the cultural sector.
But as you drill down to a collaboration between an individual university and arts organisation, new partnership models and roles, like mine, are beginning to emerge.
Our partnership is built on a shared ambition: that Newcastle becomes a centre for excellence in children’s literature. My work focuses on initiatives which are genuinely beneficial for both organisations, support our jointly agreed objectives and progress our long-term relationship.
Of course, working for two different institutions isn’t perfect – just imagine working between four different offices and two IT systems – but it’s a model that’s proving successful. Since 2015, our partnership has generated over £800,000 worth of funded activity and engaged with over 100,000 people. And beyond the numbers, I think that more interesting and innovative things happen at this intersection.
A collective ‘brand’
An extension of this model is Opera North and the University of Leeds’ pioneering DARE collaboration, positioned as a collective ‘brand’ embedded within both organisations. Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the partnership has impressive statistics, encompassing more than 250 projects and attracting £3million in new funding.
DARE Director Lesley Patrick says: “The fundamental pillars to building the relationship included identifying areas of common ambition, to form an equal partnership with a common language. This created a framework which removes ‘policing’ and allows conversations to breathe.”
“DARE has allowed each organisation to prioritise the development of initiatives that make a positive contribution to achieving its own ambitions. It drives the partners to think and act more broadly, outside the traditional spheres – it enables business development.”
Networks of partnerships
And as partnerships between the sectors increase, new co-ordination initiatives are developing to support, catalyse and highlight activity. Culture Forum North launched in 2015, bringing over 50 Higher Education and cultural sector partners in the North together to discuss collaborations. The National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement’s MUPI project, which began in 2015, brokers and analyses partnership activity between small to medium-sized museums and HEIs.
There’s a culture change going on here: arts research and arts organisations are demonstrating that our sectors can work together innovatively and effectively. But external funding is still primarily sector-specific. Arts Council England and the Arts and Humanities Research Council have yet to release a collaborative funding call. Perhaps there’s an opportunity here for our funders to work in partnership, too?
InnovateUK’s KTP scheme helps businesses to develop and grow by linking them with a university. The aim of our KTP was to help Seven Stories develop a research-led approach to their exhibitions and collections, and enable them to attract adult audiences.
The KTP has had some really interesting and tangible outcomes for Seven Stories. And, by establishing research pathways into Seven Stories’ amazing children’s literature archive and evidencing the benefits of collaboration for both organisations, it’s informing our understanding about how the Vital North Partnership could work in the future.
Pecha Kuchas are short, visual presentations. As you talk, you show 20 images, each for 20 seconds. Your slides change automatically. And they’re more than a little tricky to deliver…
The Vital North Partnership (+ 19 other ways Newcastle University and Seven Stories are collaborating) is exactly what the title suggests: a presentation about 20 current Partnership projects. And what are those projects? Well, watch the video and find out!
With thanks to Jeff Wilson from the School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, who produced this video.
This was fantastic recognition of our collaboration over the last 10 years, and led Seven Stories (with Newcastle University’s support) to make a Museum Resilience Fund bid to Arts Council England. This was for the Vital North Partnership, a project with the following aims:
To strengthen and scale-up Seven Stories’ partnership with Newcastle University
To build Seven Stories’ brand recognition and reach and develop new income streams
To secure a sustainable business model for Seven Stories as the national home for children’s books
We were delighted to be awarded funding, and the Vital North Partnership began…
From 2015 to 2016
It’s been a busy first year. Here are some of the highlights!
We offered 4 joint public talks on children’s literature with expert Brian Alderson, and author Garth Nix.
Seven Stories’ Living Books project is ongoing: this is a development programme for early years settings and parents to share and enjoy books with young children. Newcastle University’s Centre for Learning and Teaching are helping to evaluate this project.
We jointly offered four David Almond Fellowshipsto support postgraduates and early career researchers to come and consult the Seven Stories collection.
Newcastle University students from the BA in English Literature and BA in Education visited Seven Stories as part of their course, and I gave a seminar on Seven Stories and reading for pleasure for the Educational Psychology doctoral trainees
Now I’ve been in post for 8 months, things are really gathering pace. There are lots of projects in the pipeline and I’m planning to share activities as they happen via this blog. If you’d like more information about anything you’ve read about here, get in touch!