A five-year Memorandum of Understanding will commit to turning Bristol into a national centre for arts and technology.

Photo of MoU being signed
(l-r) UWE Bristol Vice-Chancellor Steve West and Darren Henley, Chief Executive of Arts Council England, signing the Memorandum of Understanding.

Arts Council England (ACE) and University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) based on a “shared commitment to developing the creative economy”.

The five-year agreement is the second MoU that ACE has signed with a university, following a similar agreement with De Montfort University in May, and follows an agreement with Bristol City Council last year.

“There is no overall Arts Council England strategy to developing MOUs,” an ACE spokesperson said, “rather we develop them as required – if they are useful to us and a partner and help us achieve our strategic goals.”

National arts centre

Alongside general commitments to collaboration, open communication and accountability, the MoU makes the development of Bristol as a national centre for arts and technology a key strategic goal.

This will further existing links between the Pervasive Media Studio at Watershed, Bristol Robotics Lab, and the university’s Digital Cultures Research Centre and Centre for Fine Print Research (Bower Ashton Studios). ACE and UWE Bristol will also collaborate with National Portfolio Organisations to identify and sustain “innovative arts technology practice” in the city.

Talent development

In addition, the MoU commits the two organisations to place-making, new projects such as a national design festival in Bristol, and a focus on talent development and identifying challenges leading to a lack of diversity.

It differs from the agreement with De Montfort University, which was characterised by a commitment to continuing professional development, in that it will not see UWE Bristol offer specifically targeted accredited modules for ACE staff or provision for ACE staff to visit the university as guest lecturers.

Speaking about the new agreement, Louise Jennings, Associate Dean of Strategic Partnerships in UWE Bristol’s Faculty of Arts, Creative Industries and Education, said: “The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding is a really exciting moment and acknowledges the anchor roles that UWE Bristol and Arts Council England have in the Bristol city-region to support place making and creative talent development.”

Phil Gibby, Area Director, South West for Arts Council England, said: “This is excellent news for cultural development in Bristol. Universities are important partners for us, as place makers, as custodians and as investors in culture. This collaboration celebrates a shared commitment to develop future talent in and for the city, and to champion Bristol as a centre for arts and technology. We’re looking forward to working together.”