Governments have been steadily placing more and more emphasis on empowering local communities. But how can that really work on the ground?

Naseem Khan has been directly involved with local politics and organisation since 2004. She has been chair of the Friends of Arnold Circus for five years – an unusual body that started as a small group of individuals resolving to rescue a vandalised bandstand and gardens in the local estate. Now it is a registered charity with 500 members, an outreach programme and events that aim to reflect the full community. In 2010 the Friends entered into an official Partnership with the Council over managing the space of Arnold Circus.

The arts and artists have been fundamental in the growth of the activity and of people’s voices – poetry, textiles, photograph, podcasts as ’Radio Arnold’. They also form the basis for another initiative – a pilot network, ’Taking Up Space’, formed of practitioners whose experience has shown the transformative role of the arts in encouraging social change.

’Taking Up Space’ currently has funding till April 2011 to see if a fit for the work can be found with Government’s ’Big Society’. Are there ways in which the distinctive contribution of the arts could be built appropriately into national policy – as a partner rather than a tool?

Naseem is also a trustee of St Hilda’s East Community Centre, Green Candle Dance Company, the Ministry of Stories and is a member of the Local Area Partnership steering group.
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