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The Cultural Spring: Evidencing the impact on local communities

Emma Horsman and Rob Lawson work for The Cultural Spring, as Project Director and Public Relations Support, respectively.

The Cultural Spring is one of 21 Creative People and Places programmes in England and is an exciting, ambitious project, which aims to encourage more people in Sunderland and South Tyneside to experience and be inspired by, the arts. The ultimate vision is for arts and culture to be an expected and accepted part of everyone’s lives within these local communities.

“Since 2015, The Cultural Spring has awarded more than £90,000 to local residents, grass-roots groups and local organisations,” says Rob. “These grants have allowed many people to participate in events, to help start-up groups, and helped [locals] to produce and create their own artistic work.”

The Cultural Spring has received funding from Arts Council England and is driven by four partners: The University of Sunderland; The Customs House; the Sunderland Music, Arts and Culture Trust and Sangini – with the aim of igniting a passionate response from locals across Sunderland and South Tyneside.

Your Art

One example of The Cultural Spring’s many projects is Your Art, which creates opportunities for people to get involved in arts and culture, through helping groups to develop their own artistic ideas, and to support people to lead and programme their own arts events.

Local community groups can apply for Your Art funding in two stages:

Stage 1: Up to £400 to support trying out new ideas or getting new activities off the ground.

Stage 2: Up to £1,000 for more developed ideas with activities already planned.

Case Study: Roker Community Pantomime

Your Art funding enabled a local community in Roker, Sunderland to produce a pantomime. The panto, Sunderella Meets Dick Pittington, was delivered through a collaboration between Forget Me Know Wellbeing CIC, actor Thomas Potts and Roker United Reformed Church. The group received £1,000 in funding from The Cultural Spring’s Your Art fund.

Forget Me Knot Wellbeing’s Director, Deborah Doyle, said: “The Cultural Spring funding meant we could afford to help deliver a much better show; the funding was a huge boost for us, a vote of confidence in us and what we’re trying to do. It was a true community production, with people of all ages and abilities involved.”

How does The Cultural Spring evidence the impacts of their programme on the local community?

Groups receiving Your Art funding are asked to provide evaluation materials demonstrating the impact of the funding on their work, as well as how they met their original objectives for the project. The Cultural Spring also ask for feedback, images and film material, where appropriate.

Says Rob: “We have seen, over the course of the past four years, a number of groups and activities emerge and become self-sustaining through our initial support.”

A lasting impact…

“Evidence has shown time and time again that arts and culture can benefit both mental and physical well-being,” Rob continues. “Participation in arts activities can be particularly effective in combating social isolation.”

“We’ve also found that residents’ engagement in Your Art activity has often led to further, deeper involvement in the arts.”

It is vital that relevant arts activities are delivered in Sunderland and South Tyneside; as such, the community is involved in deciding what happens and what they want to engage with at appropriate, local venues. Decisions on Your Art support are taken by a panel of residents based across the two boroughs who have participated in Cultural Spring activities or projects.

Concludes Rob: “We hope our programme would have a lasting legacy in the communities and that, through Your Art-funded projects, those communities are more confident in engaging in the arts and have the ability to lead and manage their own projects.”

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