The Case for Culture North East
Case Studies 20 May 2020
  • Top Stories

TIN Arts: all of our programmes had to stop

Martin Wilson, Director at TIN Arts talks with the North East Culture Partnership about the impact of COVID-19 on their organisation and how they have adapted to the new landscape. __ TIN Arts are passionate about dance, the performing arts...

Martin Wilson, Director at TIN Arts talks with the North East Culture Partnership about the impact of COVID-19 on their organisation and how they have adapted to the new landscape.


TIN Arts are passionate about dance, the performing arts and the difference these can make to people’s lives. Our vision is that everybody has access to the arts. We achieve this by removing barriers and increasing access to high-quality dance and performing arts.

When lockdown hit, all of our programmes had to stop. This included:

  • All activity in our dance space in Durham City where over 120 people of all ages and abilities attend each week to take part in dance and performing arts activities. This included our GeTIN2… programme. This is arts training for adults with a learning disability or autism and would usually take place Monday- Friday
  • All activity we lead in schools and community settings across the North East of England
  • Our Clown Doctors programme in hospitals in Newcastle and Sunderland

We also needed to furlough 12 of 14 staff members immediately reducing our capacity. Naturally, this left us in a difficult position, we had a very limited capacity, but a responsibility to our community.

But, most importantly many of our participants are amongst the most vulnerable and isolated in society so we knew we had to set about identifying solutions that could be mobilised quickly and effectively.

Complex challenges

The challenges to overcome were numerous and varying!

Arts Training that would ordinarily take place for people with a learning disability or autism:

  • How to involve this group in digital-based activity when many have limited access as well as face financial barriers
  • Many have limitations other than their primary disability including hearing and visual impairments
  • Families can be difficult to communicate with and in many ways are the gatekeepers to effective communication with participants

Clown Doctors programme with a specific focus on patients at the Children’s Heart Unit at Freeman Hospital:

  • Our Clown Doctors unable to physically visit young people on the hospital wards
  • Difficult environment to reach into digitally with many young people in isolation and in some cases unable to access technology as part of infection control
  • The very essence of the programme is about live interaction and play and does not lend well to distant connections through digital means

Seeking solutions

Our first step in identifying solutions was to speak with funders to understand their levels of flexibility and adaptability.

We spoke with freelance artists connected to TIN Arts (in particular the Clown Doctors programme) to work together to identify solutions.

We looked at our own capacity, skill sets and the resources available to us to understand how best to address the issues we were experiencing.

We then addressed our two major pieces of activity.

Arts Training:

  • Launch of a new TIN at Home programme in which we create new content on a weekly basis, making it available either on a private YouTube channel or burning on to a DVD to post to participants
  • Plus, we launched an extension of TIN at Home called The Creative Couch. This reached out further to adults across County Durham with a learning disability or autism who were not connected to TIN Arts but would benefit from being sent arts-based activities to do at home

Clown Doctors:

  • Supported by the Children’s Heart Unit Fund we rapidly built a new online platform called The Beat Squad offering new content created and generated by the Clown Doctors for children and young people in hospital so we could maintain a virtual presence where possible
  • This is also made available to patients of the Freeman Hospital who live across the UK and are listed patients of Freeman Hospital due to the specialist nature of the Heart Unit
People dressed as clown doctors

The Clown Doctors, 2019

Resources required

To deliver the TIN at Home programme we un-furloughed two part-time staff members, and they set about creating and distributing content on a weekly basis.

Feedback so far has been incredibly positive, and we have since launched additional online sessions for these participants using Zoom which is proving very popular.

The Creative Couch programme has only just been publicised (end of May) and already has 28 people signed up with new enquiries being received on a daily basis.

Interestingly for our Clown Doctors programme, The Beat Squad, we’ve had people sign up from across the UK – which is widening our reach and audience more than ever before.

Martin Wilson is a Director at TIN Arts, a social enterprise based in Durham. Find them on Facebook and Twitter:

TIN Arts website:


Read more case studies from North East organisations by clicking here.

People dressed as clown doctors
Sign up to our newsletter

North East Culture Partnership

The North East is thriving. Don't miss out on all our latest news and events. Sign up today for updates.


  • Our twitter feed is unavailable right now. Follow us on Twitter