A new consortium of arts and community organisations has come together in South East Northumberland to secure a £2.4million national funding boost from Arts Council England.
The money will be used towards an ambitious £3million, three year programme of community-led high quality arts activity involving national and international artists alongside those already living and working in the area.
The consortium, led by the Woodhorn Trust, includes Northumberland County Council, Queens Hall Arts, NHS North of Tyne, Northumberland College and Connect 4 Change and is backed by local and regional arts organisations. It is also supported by the playwright Lee Hall. His play The Pitmen Painters is based on the story of The Ashington Group of artists whose work is on permanent display at Woodhorn.
The project is designed not only to deliver lots of opportunities to make and experience art but will also have long-term impacts on improving health and wellbeing and building pride and togetherness within the local communities.
The Northumberland Consortium was one of just seven to be successful nationally in a highly competitive bidding process. It will start with a six month development phase talking to local people and finding out what “Great Art” means to them. Following the completion of the development phase there will be a programme of arts activity on a scale never before seen in this part of the north east region.
Lee Hall, champion for the bid said, “I am absolutely delighted the Arts Council are backing this brilliant and inspirational project to bring Art of the highest quality to the people of Ashington and South East Northumberland.
The project is tremendously exciting and innovative. Instead of bringing people to the Arts, it will bring Art to the People, allowing residencies of excellent artists in many fields to work together with local people. It seems a hugely fitting that the project was inspired by the work of the Ashington Group of Painters; ordinary working miners with no experience or education in the
Arts who created such an extraordinary body of work which is celebrated worldwide. Allowing ordinary people to participate in Arts projects with the highest aspirations fits perfectly with their belief that Art is for everybody, and the most ordinary of lives can be made extraordinary through the power of Art.”
Cllr Neil Bradbury, portfolio holder for culture at Northumberland County Council said:
“This is tremendous news for the county, particularly the South East of Northumberland. This investment from the Arts Council will make a massive difference to local people. Lots of areas competed to gain this grant and it is a great achievement to have been chosen. I would like to pay tribute to the team at Northumberland County Council and Woodhorn who put the bid together.”
Geof Keys, artistic director of Queens Hall Arts said: “This amazing project will have a lasting impact on the arts infrastructure in South East Northumberland. We will create a network of non-traditional venues in which to make and experience art such as shops, GP surgeries, libraries and sports centres.
There will be interventions by carefully-chosen high quality artists and organisations from near and far working alongside existing groups and within communities to produce exceptional work.”
Jan Thompson, Public Health specialist at North of Tyne NHS said, “We are excited to be part of this project and in particular supporting greater understanding of the impact of arts on people’s well-being. We are well aware of the many benefits that arts activity can bring from the development of self-expression and self-esteem, to opportunities for social contact and participation and/or to providing a sense of purpose and meaning and improved quality of life.”
In addition to the Arts Council England grant, funding has been committed by Northumberland County Council and NHS North of Tyne with other partners also making in-kind contributions.
Work on the development phase of the project will get underway in September 2012.