On Friday the 30th of September, Bedford had its first Open Space Conference.
An Open Space Conference has no set agenda, as the attendees create it as the event progresses in relation to the main topic of the day. In this case, we were asking ‘What are we going to do about Cultural Education in Bedford?’. We got 50 passionate people together in a room, to discuss the challenge with attendees from education backgrounds, local cultural providers, members from the Royal Opera House Bridge and the Arts Council team.
Those who wanted to have a conversation about a specific topic wrote it on a piece of paper, announced it to the room, and placed it on a large timetable on the wall. Anyone who felt their voice would be a valuable addition to the discussion attended that topic’s meeting but were free to move to a new conversation at any point.
As people settled down into a large ring of chairs, they looked at the walls in the main hall. On it were pictures of Butterflies and Bumblebees; these describe the two types of people who attend Open Space events. The ‘Butterflies’ are those who perch on the edge of a conversation and tend to listen more than speak, but when they do they have a valuable input. The ‘Bumblebees’ are those who go to as many topics as they can, but also mingle in the breaks with people and have vital conversations this way.
The sessions flew by; people were a little hesitant at first, but once they felt they were in the correct conversations for them, a warm bubble of enthusiasm erupted throughout the room. Some people chose to stay at their first meeting rather than moving onto their second destination, because they felt that there was more to say even after their time had elapsed.
After the third session came to an end, all attendees regrouped in the same circle that began the day and relayed feedback to one another. It was fantastic to hear that they all felt that they had gotten something out of attending. Whether it was building relationships, networking with new and interesting people, bonding over a like-minded passion to create better cultural education for young people, or putting actions forward after the event.
The discussion and the feedback from the day will help form a strong and concise Cultural Strategy for Children and Young People in Bedford put together by Bedford’s Local Cultural Education Partnership, based on the notes written up by attendees.
For me, the organiser of this event, the day passed in a blur of fantastic discussions and great networking opportunities from people of all levels of interaction in regards to Cultural Education with young people in Bedford. As a young person in a creative job, born and bred in Bedford, I am positively ecstatic to see so many people gathered in a room wanting to expand the cultural education in my hometown! I felt as though my voice was heard by some valuable people in the discussions I participated in, and look forward to seeing a positive change in the future! (To be honest, I only really relaxed and fully contributed to the day once the catering arrived safe & sound!)
Thank you to all who attended, and we hope that this will be the first of many events similar to this in order to better the Cultural Education of the young people in Bedford!
If you would like a copy of the Open Space Report, or if you attended and would like to offer feedback from the event, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This event was funded by Royal Opera House Bridge, organised by Bedford Creative Arts, and facilitated by Improbable Theatre.