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Bridge organisations in the East help connect children and young people to arts and culture

  • Date: 4 December 2012
  • Area: South East
Girl holding painting

Faith, 7, who completed Discover Arts Award as part of the Summer Reading challenge in a library, 2012. Credit: Thea King

The Arts Council has long put children and young people's chances to experience art and culture at the forefront of our work - from schemes like Artsmark, Arts Award and Find Your Talent, to the legacy of Creative Partnership.

Since April 2012, we have funded a network of 10 'Bridge' organisations through our national portfolio to connect children and young people, schools and communities within the art and culture sector.

There are two funded Bridge organisations in the East; Royal Opera House (ROH) in Thurrock and Norfolk and Norwich Festival (NNF). The former will receive £730,000 in funding between 2012-2015 with the latter receiving £500,000 during the same period. Like other Bridge organisations nationally, ROH and Norfolk and Norwich Festival share common responsibilities such as building and facilitating networks across the arts, culture and education, ensuring ongoing dialogue and being the first point of contact for schools that are developing their arts and cultural offer.

Both Bridge organisations will also help National portfolio organisations and other arts and cultural organisations, including museums and libraries, bring the cultural experiences that they offer to more children and young people and also help organisations identify investment opportunities from local authorities, local businesses, trusts and foundations.

Moreover, they will also help develop the numbers of children and young people engaging with arts and culture through Artsmark and Arts Award, support the Arts Council's ambition to raise the quality of work for children and young people, and support the work of the new Music education hubs and National Plan for Music Education.

Royal Opera House

ROH Bridge is working with professionals in the arts, educational and cultural sectors to provide opportunities for children aged 0-19 across Essex, North Kent, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.

In the past year ROH Bridge has created and toured a series of Artsmark roadshows across the East region under the title of 'Count on Culture'. The events targeted a variety of education settings and encouraged creative learning, championed Arts Award and raised awareness of Artsmark. The ROH Bridge also worked with libraries across the summer to enhance their children and young people offer using Arts Award and music workshops.

Other work included running an 'Understanding Commissioning' event in partnership with Kent County Council and Medway Local Authority. Over 20 arts organisations attended, spending the day exploring the challenges and opportunities of what commissioning involved. ROH Bridge hopes to take the day forward in the New Year with a 'meet the commissioner' event, helping to strengthen the understanding and relationship between culture and health when looking at commissioning with this sector.

In terms of projects, ROH Bridge is currently recruiting for a person or organisation to design and manage their Young Cultural Ambassadors programme in Hertfordshire. Working with five or six schools, the programme will develop up to 100 young cultural ambassadors who will be championing arts and culture in their region. 

ROH Bridge has been awarded Artsmark training agency status with a remit to inspire and empower teachers to apply for the Artsmark kitemark. As well as being a training agency for Artsmark, they're also now a training agency for Discover and Explore Arts Award. That means ROH will currently deliver four levels of arts award advisers training.

They are also working in partnership with Signals Media Arts Centre and Frobisher Primary School to undertake action research activity in Clacton, Essex. The project will explore how poetry and film-making can develop children's literacy skills and seek to evidence the impact of this creative project on Year 6 children's SATs attainment. 

Sally Manser, Head of the Royal Opera House Bridge Programme, said: "As arts infrastructure is under threat from austerity measures, we try to operate a creative pincer movement that both builds school demand and increases supply of  cultural engagement opportunities for young people living in the communities we serve. Our partners share our enthusiasm and we are excited at the thought of what we plan to achieve together."

Norfolk and Norwich

Norfolk & Norwich Festival's central aim as a Bridge organisation is to provide a direct link or 'bridge' between those working with children and young people, schools and communities with arts and cultural organisations.

Children in Great Yarmouth are being given the opportunity to explore their interest in the arts thanks to a pilot Arts Award project supported by NNF Bridge. Arts Award Discover has been offered to 30 young children (aged 5 to 7) with the aim of schools across the region widening their Arts Award offer.

Emily Ward, programme manager for Artsmark and Arts Award, said: "The opportunity for the children to do Arts Award Discover will help them to set out on a journey of engagement with and exploration of arts and culture."

NNF Bridge has also been instrumental in driving The Great Yarmouth Cultural Education Partnership Pilot (CEPP) which brings together organisations that have a shared goal and vision to provide high quality cultural and education provision for children and young people.

The Great Yarmouth CEPP has devised a plan of action which includes the chance for members to network and share. There will be a shared platform for the communication of cultural education opportunities to schools and also to children, young people and families outside of the educational environment, as well as the structure for cohesive programming between cultural organisations which may also lead to joint grant applications.

As part of a Heritage Lottery funded programme Downham Market High School pupils will be able to complete an Arts Award. An exhibition will be touring museums and other community venues in Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and Norfolk depicting aspects of Fenland life;  'The early history of the Fen communities,' Shops, Pubs and Trades,' 'River, Marsh and Mere,' 'Living on Land and Water' and 'Tales of the Fen People' and will tour around 38 sites in the region during 2012 and 2014.

Downham Market High School pupils will be undertaking Arts Award by involved in the production of the museum displays and performing a play which has been specially commissioned for the project about the food riots. The play 'Bread and Blood' will be performed at Downham Town Hall on the 23rd and 24th November, following which a shortened version will be performed on location and shown as part of the exhibition.

To find out more about the Bridge, visit