What we do

(top) Wolf’s Child, Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2015. Photo: Steve Tanner. (bottom) The People’s Tower, Norfolk & Norwich Festival 2014. Photo: Chris Taylor.

Convening is at the heart of what we do. We believe that bringing people together in conversation has the power to inform, inspire and challenge people to do things differently in their own organisations, in our sector and in our communities. 

We convene space in regional Chapters and in UK-wide meetings, to bring together the breadth of voices/leadership (freelancers, small orgs, large orgs and policy makers) within the arts and culture sector, where challenge and possibility can lead to shared priorities and collective responses. What Next? comprises 12 regional Chapters operating across the UK, who meet regularly with their own local community. We also host regular UK-wide online meetings. 

Our convening leads to:

  • Advocacy: Shaping policy proposals & UK-wide & local strategies. We build the capacity (skills, knowledge & confidence) and access of those most impacted by policy (global majority, working class, disabled) to engage with policymakers in our sector and in government.   
  • Learning & modelling: Sharing and embodying systems leadership – We are a movement of peers in many different contexts with different specialist skills and experiences.  We build conditions for us to share good practice and to build systems leadership. 
  • Amplification: Championing actions that build equitable conditions for the arts & culture.  We work in close partnership with chapter chairs, sector organisations and other networks to champion and amplify campaigns across the movement. 

As a movement, we initiate conversations with policy makers, politicians, funders, academics and business people, and work with experts when we need to engage with specific agendas. We work collaboratively to write position papers and submissions to DCMS, HM Treasury, ACE, and other bodies about the value of culture to our society and economy, drawing on the consensus and arguments forged at meetings.

Activity we have delivered:

UK Wide Meetings: We produce and deliver bi-monthly UK-wide online meetings, these are programmed sessions on a wide range of themes. Recent themes have included:

Regional Chapters around the UK

Our Chapters across the country have continued to convene digitally and locally to shape and debate the future of the arts and culture. Examples of activity include: the Wandsworth Chapter delivering a programme focussed on Grief, Mourning and Remembering, the Bath Chapter focussing a series of sessions on education and learning, and the Brighton Chapter creating a ABCD plan for the future of culture in the city. We work with our Chapter Chairs to develop our peer-learning network.

What Next? has been a leading partner in the Freelance: Futures Symposia Consortium which looked at how to build more equitable conditions across the whole cultural workforce. As a core-consortia member we contributed to strategic planning and direction, design, logistics and marketing, as well as developing our own programme strands.

We produced and delivered a number of national meetings led by freelancers from across the sector, with Arts Council England, Freelancers Make Theatre Work, Migrants in Culture, Equity, the TUC, Culture in Crisis, and the Policy and Evidence Centre, Creative UK, the Welsh Government, and the Mayor’s Culture Team.

We also ran a Policy Roundtable with Lord Parkinson, the Minister for the Arts, and with the DCMS and Arts Council England, drawing from all of our sessions and from the themes and issues that had been raised across the symposia. One of our North East Chapter Chairs, Leila D’Aronville, chaired and curated a session on freelance networks.