National Ceramic Centre Survey Results

First, a big “Thank you” to all who completed this survey. It is much appreciated, and we apologise to those who tried, but for some reason the survey wouldn’t let them complete it!

The survey response was remarkable with 15.9% response on a total emailed of 1259. (Our marketing friends tell us that 8% is viewed as very good!)

The results were also very consistent:
with 77% concerned that Ceramics was not being adequately supported
97% feeling there was a need for a National Ceramic Art Centre of some kind.
95% were in favour of a trust being set up
75% being prepared to give some monetary support in principle.

A small minority felt that the survey did not give the opportunity for negative comment and was biased. This was not the intention and we had thought there was plenty of opportunity to say ‘No’ in the different questions for those that wished.

The location of any physical centre was dominated, not surprisingly, by support for the Midlands – with 58% (38% East, 20% West Midlands), with London (10%) and Yorkshire (11%) following well behind.

Of the facilities that should be offered, many wanted most of those suggested, but the most popular (looking at most important, ‘5’ and next most important ‘4’ selections) were:

Exhibitions (real and virtual)
International Links
Information Services,
Education
A public voice

All of which were chosen by more than two thirds of participants.

However, the real message is that all the categories suggested
Were given more than average response, the least popular (with an average of 3.02 out of 5) being Travel and Tours.

It is clear that there is, from this sample alone, a great deal of concern that more needs to be done to help Ceramic Craft/Art in Britain.  There seems to be a feeling that while existing organisations are all helping a lot, somehow, between everyone, the ‘whole, bigger picture’ of what is happening is being missed. We have had contact with most CPA Council members and CPA has offered to help in any way that it can. We will also seek views and discussion with the Crafts Council and other key Arts/Crafts/Design bodies.

Many people cited examples of courses closing, both in schools and further education.  A reduction in galleries specialising in Ceramics was also widely noted, although there was a reminder by some that as galleries close – others open!  The turning of ceramics courses into more general arts courses was highlighted. The loss of funding and firing facilities were also mentioned more than once.

Interesting comments on other areas where a central focus could be brought to bear included:
Liaison with other connected parties such as industrial ceramics, chefs and restaurants
Arranging TV coverage, emerging talent contests etc.
Communication at government level re education policy
An archive facility, library, database
Stronger links with potters/artists from other countries
Apprenticeship support and mentors
An annual international market

Conclusions:

So, where do we go from here? Well it seems clear – even from this, quite limited, survey that there is – amongst those approached (mostly the ‘Save Rufford’ petitioners and members (Makers and galleries) of http://www.studiopottery.co.uk ) – a real concern about the direction and future of Contemporary Ceramic Craft/Art in this country. It could be argued (and we have heard this criticism) that this group “would say that wouldn’t they” but with respect – the people completing this survey are in many cases very close to what is happening – and they are concerned by what they see!

Our view from what we are hearing is that ‘clay craft/art in this country is being remorselessly diminished in many locations, quietly and relentlessly – without anyone drawing together  the larger picture and complaining much about what has or is taking place. That the larger picture appears to show a significant loss of training and skills and facilities in an area of the arts where there is real unsatisfied demand!’

So:
Where is the National voice drawing attention to this ‘death by a thousand cuts’?
Where is the attention being drawn to a widespread closure of courses, closure of kiln facilities, dilution of quality (e.g. Rufford) that is taking place in the name of cost-efficiency?

We feel that what you have told us gives sufficient support for us to spend the next 3 months – until the end of June looking at the possibility of creating a National Ceramic Art Centre in some form and preparing a strategy paper on ‘the way forward’ for discussion with interested parties by the end of that period.

We will look at:

The overall framework and vision
We will start research into what is currently available within other organisations, seeking their advice and avoiding reinventing wheels that already exist
We will explore views on education and start to consider how other countries encourage clay craft/art in schools and colleges
We will look at existing information sources and see if they can be coordinated/enhanced to provide comprehensive coverage
We will explore the possibility of creating a public platform and consider how ceramics can be brought to a more visible position
We will look at exhibitions and the longer term potential for a physical National Exhibition Centre in some form
We will contact other International organisations and identify opportunities for greater co-operation/learning.
The possibility of creating a Trust and start to investigate the structure and formation issues

At the end of 3 months we will let you know our findings to date and what the possible options might be in the next steps towards creating a national focus for ceramic craft/art through a Trust and National Centre.

With best wishes and thanks for your support,

Alan Birchall
Stephen Dee
Carl Gray
Katie Greenfield
Andy McInnes

12 MARCH 2008

NATIONAL CERAMIC ART CENTRE SURVEY
DETAILED SUMMARY OF RESULTS

1. The summary was successfully emailed to 1259 individuals (comprising 852, who had completed the ‘save Rufford Petition’ and left an email address, 371 members of http://www.studiopottery.co.uk (makers and galleries) and 36 other possibly interested parties)

There have been 226 replies to 12 March 2008 which when adjusted for replies from those not originally emailed gives 15.9% response to date. For a survey of this type 8% is considered excellent, double that is a huge vote of support!

(Please keep replies coming if you haven’t replied yet – if you can’t get the survey to work email neil@ncat.org.uk for a pdf file and he will input your response)

The results were as follows:

1. Adequate support for Ceramics in the last 5 years?

Yes:               5% (12)
No:              77% (175)
Don’t know  18% (39)

18 individuals indicated areas (courses, galleries, schools programs) where there had been extra support, while 187 gave examples of reductions of support in the same areas, plus a number of examples of reduced funding.

2. Need for a National Centre for Ceramic Craft/Arts

Yes: 97% (219)
No:    3%    (7)

3. Should a Trust (National Ceramic Art Trust) be created to run a National Centre?

Yes: 95% (214)
No:   5%   (12)

Over 75% (170) would be prepared to be a member or stakeholder if a Trust were created and a similar number would be prepared to offer some financial support – nearly half indicating £25, while a further quarter would think about £50 and the final 25% £100 or more. A strong and supportive result.

4. The location of any Physical Centre?

East Midlands  38%
West Midlands 20%
Yorkshire          11%
London             10%
South West         6%

All other regions had less than 4% support.

5. Facilities to be provided by a National Centre

Description                                                                 Ranking   4&5*

Real and Virtual Exhibitions                                   83.0% (188)
International links                                                     81.0% (183)
Information source                                                    77.9% (176)
Education Programme, inc.Schools                       73.8% (167)
Provision of a public voice                                       72.1% (163)
Residencies and Exchange Visits                           67.7% (153)
Research                                                                     65.9% (149)
Marketing/promotion advice                                 61.5% (139)
Group Stands at Design/Art Shows                      58.0% (131)
Best practice guidelines                                           53.5% (121)
Electronic forum/news blog                                   50.0% (113)
Market place for surplus equipment                    45.6% (103)
Group discounts                                                       45.6% (103)
Travel and Tours                                                      29.0% (66)

*Survey offered choice of levels 1 -5. (5 being deemed ‘most important’ and this table adds together the number of people selecting 4&5.)

6. Available skills and Resources?

Over half (57%) of those responding offered help of one sort or another, which as we develop the study paper, we will be very grateful for help when this becomes appropriate.

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National Ceramic Centre Survey

A survey has been sent to petitioners asking for their views on the need for a National Centre for Ceramic Art.

We believe that there is evidence that while the petitioners wish us to continue monitoring the position at Rufford, there is also a need for a National Centre for Ceramic Art and a co-ordinating voice to represent all areas of contemporary ceramics.

If you would like more background, just read the letter that follows, otherwise if you would like to complete the survey and have not already done so, please click on the survey link immediately below:

National Ceramic Centre Survey

Thank You

The Save Rufford Petition Committee

Full Letter to all Petitioners

Dear Petitioner,

You will have seen our response to Nottinghamshire County Council (NCC) at our meeting in January and we have now responded to their subsequent letter. We feel, as we have already outlined on the petition site and the Blog, that the petition has achieved some limited objectives, both in bringing into public scrutiny what the NCC have planned and already largely implemented and by obtaining limited commitments from the NCC regarding the future of some key elements of the Rufford Ceramic Centre.

Sadly, the NCC have demonstrated their determination to totally disregard the impact of their actions on the Worldwide reputation of Rufford as a Ceramic Centre, despite many comments from ourselves and those signing the petition. They also totally dismissed our suggestion to put forward a study to create a Trust to support the costs at Rufford and to develop a wider National Ceramic Centre based at Rufford. It defies sense to understand why they would NOT want more of what they already have and profess to want – at a much reduced price, subsidised by a Trust. However that is their position!

Faced with this reality and the strength of what appear to be widely held views that the time for establishing a National Centre for Ceramic Art is long overdue we have decided to ask you whether you would like us to investigate the possibility of creating a National Centre of some sort for the whole Ceramic Art Community.

We need to establish whether there is the will and encouragement available for us to spend time identifying how your wishes and needs can be met by a National Centre and if there are some consistent threads as to what is needed.

To do this we will ask you to answer a few basic questions, but first we will set out a possible scenario for a National Centre to help your thoughts and response. This is neither right nor wrong, but is intended to help identify some views as to what is really needed.

We have been told regarding a National Centre ‘this was tried at Bideford a few years ago and failed, so don’t waste your time!’ Bideford (Ceramic Review No. 198) was looking for £30 million for phase one, rising to £48 million for phase 2 and incorporated ideas for a brand new ‘beacon building of major international architectural significance’
Let us be quite clear – this is NOT what we envisage. We are practical, down to earth and will get value for every pound spent – and will spend the least amount consistent with optimum value in meeting your defined needs. Apart from some set up costs we envisage that costs and income should be in balance for ongoing activities.

The National Centre we envisage would start quite small, selecting one or two of your priority activities and making these work, before moving on to the next priority and so on… However the overriding vision of a complete National Centre would be set out from day one and would form the framework for building the National Centre over, perhaps the next 10 years. Each new step to be put in place, only when the last has been brought to fruition.

We feel that many issues, Rufford’s partial closure is an example, are treated in isolation and at a local level. A significant part of the “Centre’s” role would be to look at these in a National context and hence provide a more powerful and effective response to such issues. It would also seek to promote and publicise individual ceramic organisations to help maximise the visibility and utilisation of their activities across the country.

THE VISION is:

To create an inspirational central focus and voice for artists and makers in Britain who use clay as a medium for their Craft/Art and to provide strong support for them throughout their artistic journey.

What might the National Centre comprise of?

Well that is what we want to ask you, but some ideas include:

Things that would provide income, cover their costs:

– real and virtual exhibitions
– residencies and exchange visits
– education programme, including schools competition
– travel and tours
– group stands at design/art shows
– website advertising
– corporate and public sponsorship, grants etc.
– small membership fees to cover admin

Things that would be provided freely or at cost for members

– A public voice on major issues of concern, representing the whole ceramic community, or supporting a stand taken by other important bodies on ceramic related issues
– A source for information about events, courses, workshops, exchange programmes in the UK and worldwide
– Achieving economies of scale for members, with discounts from suppliers, insurers etc..
– Establishing standards and best practice to help ceramic artists/potters
– Undertaking research
– Providing marketing and promotional expertise
– Providing an electronic forum
– A market place for unwanted surplus equipment
– Grants and awards in various categories
– Access to worldwide ceramic and design groups
– An electronic news blog with up to date news, with paper a version for those requiring it

How to pay for it – do we hear you say?
Well, as mentioned above, we would prioritise those activities you feel are important, we would coordinate/work with existing organisations where possible to avoid reinventing what is there already. We would set out the vision, but create it in manageable steps.

Ok! But where is the money?
Well we hope that if you feel the need for a National Centre, that you would all support it – a little. We will explore the possibility of setting up a Trust – The National Ceramic Art Trust (NCAT) and we would seek a small contribution from several thousand ‘stakeholders’ This would provide initial funding and our plans and budgets would use part of this to set up the initial activities which would then generate income to cover on going costs. The amounts needed may not be large – certainly manageable and practical. We have and will get good business management – not through expensive consultants, but through our members and team.

So to the questionnaire:

It would be very helpful if you could reply to a small number of questions which you can complete by using the link immediately below:
National Ceramic Centre Survey

The questions are simply to establish your level of interest in our investigating the possibility of creating a National Ceramics Centre. There are less than 15 questions and they ask about whether you feel there is a need for a National Centre, would you be prepared to support it, what services you feel are needed, where you think it should be located and could you offer help in its creation either in money or skills.

PLEASE do complete the Questionnaire – both positive and (hopefully not too many) negative responses will be of great value in helping to decide whether to invest our time and energy in undertaking the initial study.

We look forward to and thank you in anticipation of your response to the questionnaire. Can we ask that you complete it as soon as you can and ideally within 2 weeks?

With kind regards

Alan Birchall
Stephen Dee
Carl Gray
Katie Greenfield
Andy McInnes

The way forward!

We have received a letter from Nottinghamshire County Council (NCC) following the meeting of 4 January. The good news is that NCC has committed itself, in writing, to a number of things which we would expect them to honour.

A number of issues raised in our letter to NCC dated 13 January remain unresolved so we have written to them again.

To view the letters please click on the appropriate links below.

It is apparent from the support that the petition has received and the many comments that have been left that there is a possible appetite for the establishment of a body with a ceramic art focus which serves the national interest. It is our intention, over the next few days, to canvass the opinion of petition group members so ‘watch this space’!

Latest Response from NCC

Our Reply to NCC (7 Feb)

Outcome of Meeting with NCC, 4th January – Overview and Summary

 

On 4th January, Carl Gray and Katie Greenfield, representatives of the Save Rufford Ceramics Centre (RCC) Petition Group, met with Notts County Council (NCC) to discuss the petitioners’ concerns. We requested:

1. A 3-month stay of execution at The RCC (Rejected by NCC)

2. Clarification on the detail of NCC’s new model (Rejected by NCC)

3. To run an initial 3-month feasibility study for forming a National Ceramics Centre at Rufford, to build on The RCC’s reputation, embrace NCC’s local aims & objectives and open up new sources of funding for the whole community (Rejected by NCC)

It was apparent in the meeting that NCC’s representatives are in denial that they are custodians of a centre of international repute which is respected throughout the world.

However, we did achieve the following:

1. Residencies have been confirmed for 2008 and part of 2009

2. The workshop program will continue, although on a different staffing basis, we understand.

3. Earth & Fire has been confirmed for 2008 (although there is no reassurance for the future as it was stated that: “it will remain at Rufford as long as this site is deemed suitable for the number of visitors attending”)

4. Our most important success was to see the exhibition program potentially re-established – prior to the meeting on Friday only 2 exhibitions were planned (1 confirmed). Subsequent to the meeting a senior NCC employee has contacted a number of major artists with a view to their exhibiting this year, on apparently favourable terms.

Here is a detailed summary of what was discussed at the meeting: Meeting Summary

We have written an open letter to NCC, following the meeting: Letter to NCC

Whilst our major objectives have not been achieved the petition has gained commitment from the NCC for the areas listed above and made clear to us that NCC do not wish to host a major ceramics centre in the medium term. We are now determined to explore the possibility of creating a National Ceramics Centre for the UK and we hope and believe that we will have the petitioners’ full support.

Stephen Dee of Studiopottery.co.uk has agreed to work with us on this strategy. We will advise you within a few weeks of the next steps in our campaign.

We welcome your feedback and comments.

Petition Reaches 1,000

At 4.20pm today the Save Rufford Ceramics Centre Petition reached its first 1,000 signatories.

We would like to thank everyone who has added their name so far.

Carl Gray and myself, Katie Greenfield have been invited to County Hall tomorrow to discuss the future of Rufford.

If Notts County Council is willing to act, we believe that the opportunity exists to create a National Centre for Ceramics at Rufford which will embrace NCC’s local aims and objectives as well as reducing its financial burden.

The petition remains open for new signatories: Sign the online petition

Response to NCC by David Binch, Andy McInnes and Stephen Dee

Steve Bradley, Head of Arts Sports and Tourism at Notts County Council has published an Open Letter on the petition forum, in response to the petition to Save Rufford Ceramic Centre.

Here is an initial response to Steve Bradley’s letter, from David Binch, Andy McInnes and Stephen Dee.

Response to NCC Open Letter by David Binch, Andy McInnes and Stephen Dee

The response can also be found on the petition forum, where it is published in four parts: Petition Forum

Download copy of petition

The petition to Save Rufford Ceramics Centre has now reached 800 signatories. We invite you to download a copy of the 52-page petition and read your heart warming, moving and intelligent comments. We call on Notts County Council to stop the change program at Rufford and to involve us in finding a solution together.

Save Rufford Petition – 30th December 2007

The petition remains open for new signatories:

Sign the online petition