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See, touch, listen, experience: how arts organisations supported by Arts Council England are opening the eyes and ears of youngsters to the cultural riches of the North

  • Date: 28 April 2014
  • Artform: All
  • Area: North
Pupils from Grangetown Primary School with author David Harmer Northern Children's Book Festival 2013 - pupils from Grangetown Primary School with author David Harmer, David Charlton

Our mission at the Arts Council is Great art and culture for everyone. We have five goals to help us achieve this. The aim of Goal 5 is to ensure that ‘every child and young person has the opportunity to experience the richness of the arts.’ To this end between 2012 and 2015 Arts Council England, North is investing £183 million in arts organisations, museums and libraries that focus on creating high-quality arts and cultural learning experiences for, by and with young people of all ages - from early years to those in their early twenties.  

Download the full case study, or read it online here:

Making sweet music

Several organisations are making a difference to children’s lives by giving them access to first class live music experiences.

Three of the country’s six In Harmony projects are based in the North and there is already positive evidence that each of the three schemes in the North is making a difference in the community it serves.

In Harmony Liverpool, is now celebrating its fifth birthday and the feedback on its impact in those years is very positive: the percentage of children at Faith Primary School making ‘good progress’ (as per national curriculum levels) in reading increased from three per cent in 2009 to six per cent in 2013, and in maths from 35 per cent in 2009 to 66 per cent in 2013).

The other two In Harmony projects in the North - In Harmony Opera North and In Harmony Newcastle Gateshead  have been up and running for a much shorter time but are already benefiting schools and communities in a similar way.

Between August 2012 and March 2015 the Arts Council is investing more than £171 million of funding on behalf of the Department for Education in a network of music education hubs across England, to ensure that every child aged 5-18 has the opportunity to sing and learn a musical instrument, and to perform as part of an ensemble or choir.

Thirty four of the 123 hubs are in the North area. Among these, the Greater Manchester Music Hub is the largest – a partnership of nine Music Services. Its Partner Organisations include some of the city’s key musical institutions such as The Hallé, BBC Philharmonic, Chetham’s School of Music and the Royal Northern College of Music. As well as providing regular access to music tuition and wider music experiences for the children within the Greater Manchester area, the hub has successfully developed several regional ensembles for high-flying players in the two years of its existence.

Similarly, the Lancashire Music Hub, a partnership led by the well-established Lancashire Music Service, offers a clear progression route for its most talented young musicians, with its six county-wide ensembles and orchestras. 

Orchestras with highly developed learning programmes in the Arts Council England, North area include the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and The Hallé. The Hallé’s 2014 Music for Youth concerts on a World War I theme, offered children a multi-media experience.

Theatre that stimulates, nurtures, challenges – and entertains

Among the National portfolio organisations we support in the North are several theatre companies who bring heightened theatrical experiences to children and young people of all ages. Among these are the long established M6 Theatre Company, which is touring two different shows for young children in 2014, both of which explore the concept of Change: Grandpa’s Railway and Someone’s Moving.

Theatre Hullabaloo, based in Darlington puts consultation with its young audiences at the heart of all the work it develops and the two pieces they are touring in 2014 are no exception. Luna is the result of detailed consultation during which nursery children in Darlington were asked what they thought of the moon. Tiny Treasures, is the outcome of a very different collaboration, with Young Carers Revolution an organisation which provides empowerment and influence to young carers and young adult carers (aged 8-25) in York.

Burnley Youth Theatre offers a range of regular workshops and other opportunities for young people aged from two-25 in dance and drama.

Museums and galleries that fascinate and educate

A number of the museums and galleries we support in the North give young people hands-on experiences of local history and of the visual and literary arts. They also widen the learning and creative opportunities for children through their close links with schools and colleges, and by offering continuing professional development schemes to teachers.

Seven Stories, the National portfolio organisation based in Newcastle, is the only place in the UK dedicated to the art of children’s books. It houses the original manuscripts and illustrations of over 100 writers and artists and welcomes over 70,000 visitors a year to its exhibitionsevents and learning programmes.

The Hepworth Wakefeld gallery runs a number of schemes for children and young people. But it also reaches out to them via a comprehensive Continuing Professional Development programme for teachers. One important strand is the Creative Learning Network.

mima, the Middlesborough Institute of Modern Art, is developing a strategy to embed young people at the core of its work.  Crucial to this approach was the setting up of a unique Creative Apprenticeship, with the aim of combining a long-term training opportunity with a clear focus on young people’s programming and involvement in decision making.  The two apprentices achieved great things for mima including their involvement in the setting up of mima young friends and curating According to Us.

The Arts Council run a Museums and Schools programme, funded until 2015 by the Department for Education to the tune of £3.6 million. The programme partners regional museums with national museums and is enabling 10 regional museums and schools partnerships to work at increasing the number and quality of visits by school children. Three of those ten consortia are in the North West, centred on Barnsley, Pennine Lancs and Redcar. The Pennine Lancashire Museums Consortium, for example, is supported by Sir John Soane's Museum and the V&A Museum in London, and is working collaboratively across eight museums. And across in Tees Valley, Redcar Museums with Middlesborough, Hartlepool, Stockton and Darlington Museums are supported by the National Portrait Gallery.

Bridge that gap: Arts Awards and more

The Museums and Schools programme also receives input from Bridge organisations, the organisations we fund to act as facilitators, bridging the gap between arts bodies and schools to provide an environment in which cultural education can flourish both in and out of school. For example, Curious Minds, the Burnley-based Bridge body, is working with the Pennine Lancashire Museums consortium to increase the number of children gaining the Arts Award.

Acting as leading agencies for the Arts Award - the scheme managed by Trinity College London in association with Arts Council England - is one of the key roles of the Bridge organisations. The three arts bodies in the North who have made the highest number of Arts Awards since 2010 are the Customs House in South Shields, York Theatre Royal and The Lowry In Salford,

The Customs House embeds Arts Awards’ five levels into all its projects with children and young people and has for the past three years, set itself - and achieved -  the ambitious target of ensuring 200 young people supported by the organisation achieve an Arts Award each year.

York Theatre Royal has been delivering Arts Award for the last five years. During this time the scheme has been made available to at least 420 young people and to date a total of 143 awards have been made: eight Gold, 83 Bronze and Silver and 52 Explore. In 2013 the theatre was presented with the Arts Award Best Practice award by Cape UK, the regional Bridge Organisation, and over 90 children and young people are currently undertaking the scheme.

Recent Arts Award projects at The Lowry, have included The War Horse Arts Award Explore log book - a resource developed in partnership with Tameside Council cultural services, with support from Curious Minds, Trinity Arts Award and the National Theatre. The resource will allow young people across the United Kingdom, who go to see the production on its national tour, to bring their experiences to life in documentation and achieve an Arts Award Explore qualification.

The full range of current activity delivered by The Lowry’s Community and Education Team can be found here. One important strand has involved working with young carers. In 2013 the team developed a film in partnership with Salford Young Carers called We're Not Different, We Just Do Different Things starring the young people alongside Maxine Peake. 2013 saw the development of another short film, this time a documentary: Invisible or Ignored.

Grants for the Arts fuels vibrant festivals

Grants for the Arts, our open application funding programme, supports a wide variety of arts-related activities, from dance to visual arts, literature to theatre, music to combined arts. Here in the North two important festivals particularly aimed at young people receive support in this way.

Juice Festival, held for 10 days every year across Newcastle Gateshead, presents inspiring events created by, for and with children and young people.

The Northern Children’s Book Festival is the largest annual reading celebration for young people in Europe. Over two weeks every year authors and illustrators meet children in schools and libraries across the North East.

In 2013 more than 13,000 children took part in these events, which are organised and run by all the public libraries between the Tees and the Tweed, with practical support from The Sage, the North East Bridge organisation.

2014 sees the 31st Northern Children’s Book Festival running from 10-24 November.