Meet the childhood friends transforming access to creative careers

Mae Yip and Samantha Hornsby
15 Jan 2024

Sam Hornsby and her best friend Mae Yip were sick of seeing young people experience the same lack of access to the creative industries they went through 20 years ago. So they did something about it.

Scottish Youth Music Initiative funds 52 community projects

A Keep the Beat participant, she wears a cowboy hat, pink hoodie and glasses
09 Jan 2024

The scheme, backed by the Scottish government, provides grants of up to £30k for music-making projects delivered outside of schools.

Arts Council England backs Darlington live music scheme

08 Jan 2024

A scheme to offer young people in Darlington opportunities in the live music sector has received funding from the Arts Council England (ACE).

The Forum Music Studios have been awarded £36,754 by ACE for the project, alongside £1000 from Creative Darlington, which is operated by Darlington Borough Council, towards running costs.

Launched by a community benefit society, The Forum Music Studio's “Young Blood” programme will run throughout 2024 and comprise three strands: Creators, Promoters, and Live, with professional support and mentorship.

Creators will offer weekly music skills sessions to 13- to 17-year-olds, while Promoters has been designed for 16-24-year-olds and will provide the opportunity to organise a live event with a budget under guidance from industry professionals.

The programmes culminate in Young Blood Live, a monthly gig for teenagers that will be held at The Forum.

Alison McKay, Director of The Forum Music Studios, said: “The music industry was heavily impacted by COVID-19, so it’s a privilege to be able to invite future generations to get involved in the Young Blood scheme and to be able to share their passion for live music.”

Rising popularity of arts degrees among Chinese students

21 Dec 2023

A report published by admissions service UCAS says UK universities should take advantage of rising interest in creative arts degrees among Chinese students.

In the last 10 years, Chinese students’ interest in creative arts and design subjects has more than doubled, going from 4% of UCAS acceptances in 2013 to 11% this year - making it the fourth most popular undergraduate subject for Chinese students.

Business has been the most popular degree subject among Chinese students for the past decade, but has fallen from making up 43% of undergraduate acceptances in 2013 to 26% in 2023.

China is the UK’s largest undergraduate global market, accounting for one in every four international acceptances via UCAS.

More Chinese students currently apply for degrees in the UK than students from Wales or Northern Ireland.

The UCAS report says that to remain competitive in the global market, higher institutions should proactively promote more subjects to Chinese students, such as the creative arts.

“The UK has a flourishing creative arts sector with world-leading TV and film, fashion, design and music industries so it’s encouraging to see growing numbers of Chinese students motivated to study in the UK due to the value of our vibrant arts and culture,” said Sander Kristel, UCAS Interim Chief Executive.

“This presents a significant opportunity for universities and colleges to promote the unique offering of our creative courses.”

Dance not taught at one in three primary schools

19 Dec 2023

A third of UK primary schools are not teaching dance, despite it being part of the National Curriculum, a report has found.

Ofsted’s latest subject report on PE also found that in two-thirds of the schools, dance is not taught to all pupils or that the dance content is “not well organised”. 

In its recommendations, the regulator advised schools to include “carefully sequenced and taught” dance lessons in both primary and secondary schools.

Eve Murphy, Founder and CEO of Dance to School, said: “Dance is a statutory requirement of the National Curriculum at both Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2, yet a worrying proportion of primary school teachers identify dance as an area for development in their school."

A survey conducted by Dance to School has found that 83 per cent of teachers lack the confidence, subject knowledge, and resources to deliver dance as part of the curriculum.

“We know from research that dance is linked to and can impact wider cross-curricular themes, as well as helping children to build confidence, creativity, and relationships," said Murphy.

"I see some incredible examples of dance in practice and the joy it brings to children. However, in those schools that aren’t teaching dance, it’s a negative spiral with teacher confidence continuing to waver.”

Contact's Artistic Director steps aside amid financial concerns

Exterior of Contact Theatre, Manchester lit up at night
18 Dec 2023

Iconic theatre sets out plans to tackle rising costs and place it on sustainable financial footing.

Peers urge greater opportunity to study creative subjects

13 Dec 2023

A cross-party group of life peers call for accountability measures to be reversed to help buck the decline of exam entries in creative subjects.

Theatre project for young people with care experience launches

12 Dec 2023

A theatrical ensemble for young people with experience with the care system has launched in Scotland.

WAC Pro aims to support professional development within the arts and provide young artists with creative skills. Participants will create 10 new pieces, consisting of five theatre productions and five films, with the support of industry professionals. 

Funded by The National Lottery through Creative Scotland, WAC Pro will offer its members a series of masterclasses, one-to-one guidance, a daily freelance rate and a budget for their productions. 

The project is a collaboration with Citizens Theatre, GMAC Film, Arts in the City and WAC Ensemble, a theatre group for people with experience of being in care. 

WAC Ensemble was formed in 2019, initially for 18-to 26-year-olds, but has evolved to support members who have aged out of the original parameters of the project.

Deni Smith, Arts and Culture Development Worker at Arts in the City, said: “All of us have creativity within us; however, there are often barriers that we face when exploring that part of ourselves – particularly if we are embarking on a career in the creative industries; and, for individuals with care experience, they can be faced additional challenges. 

“WAC Pro has been designed to alleviate some of these barriers through the package of support provided. For the Ensemble members, who each have lived experience of care, the project provides a paid opportunity to dedicate time to their creative ideas.” 

Creative children, stronger families

Young children playing
11 Dec 2023

Ben Dickenson is on a mission to create a National Centre for Children’s Creativity. He passionately believes in the power of play to build stronger families.

Call for DfE to address music education funding shortfall

07 Dec 2023

The Musicians' Union has written to Education Secretary Gillian Keegan calling for urgent financial support for music education hubs.

An open letter from the union highlights the potential impact of increased employer pension contributions on the finances of hubs, stating that it could lead to "extreme financial difficulties" for the organisations that run hubs. 

It says that, in turn, this could result in a drastic reduction of what hubs will be able to deliver.

Chris Walters, MU National Organiser for Education, said: “In its National Plan for Music Education, the government has asked the music education sector to deliver more than ever, and yet it has offered no increase in funding for well over a decade. 

"On top of this, it is expecting the sector to self-fund a significant increase in mandatory pension contributions.

“We are simply asking that funding for music education be unfrozen and linked to inflation and that the government funds employers’ pensions contributions for teachers who are employed to deliver the vital work of music education hubs.”

Sector skills should be funded by employers, not ACE

Girl learning on a craft apprenticeship
22 Nov 2023

The announcement last week (14 November) of the closure of Creative & Cultural Skills (CCSkills) was probably inevitable, writes Pauline Tambling, but it tells a deeper story.

University students fight to save music department

20 Nov 2023

Students at Oxford Brookes University have launched a petition to save a music course after plans to axe it emerged last week.

The petition, which launched on 17 November and now has around 3,000 signatures, calls for university leaders to reconsider the decision, stating that it will impact both music students and the university's culture.

"We are deeply affected by the recent decision to remove the music course from Oxford Brookes University curriculum," the petition states.

"The music department is more than just an academic division; it is a key element of our university and home to non-music students who participate in societies and music groups. 

"Its removal would mean stripping away opportunities for cultural enrichment, personal growth and community bonding."

The petition adds that arts courses such as music "contribute significantly" to students' mental well-being.

In addition to ending the music course, the university plans to reduce the number of salaried academic staff across several programmes, including English and creative writing.

A statement issued by the English and creative writing team said up to 40% of their staff could go by the end of January.

“As a dedicated team of teachers and writers, we believe the humanities are the beating heart of any university. We get to know our students so well, and they love their courses," the statement said.

“When they graduate, they go out into the world as confident and creative individuals. We have brought great prestige to Oxford Brookes University as leading researchers, ranked the sixth best English and creative writing unit in the whole of the UK for this. 

“We are involved in projects and collaborations that enrich the local community and celebrate the diversity of literature and the arts. All of that is now under threat. This is going to be a very bleak season for all of us across the university whose jobs are now at risk.”

Young people as changemakers

The Agency national gathering at Contact, Manchester
20 Nov 2023

For ten years, The Agency has supported young people to create social change projects for their communities. Andrew Westle shares its journey over the decade.

Birmingham Hippodrome launches teacher support initiative

20 Nov 2023

Birmingham Hippodrome has launched a new programme for teachers and educators in the West Midlands in a bid to get more young people in the area engaged with theatre.

Teachers in the scheme will be invited to see live performances at the Hippodrome and attend talks, pre and post-show events and networking events where they can meet and connect with other educators, artists and creatives.

It is hoped that successful applicants will expand their knowledge and be keen to be advocates for the power of theatre for young people.

Zayle-Dawn Wilson, Head of Creative Partnerships at Birmingham Hippodrome, said: “Schools are facing significant challenges in the current climate. 

"In our last benchmarking survey, schools reported over 60% of teachers felt inexperienced in arts education, and over 50% unable to engage young people with the arts. Our vision is to support the education sector by inspiring teachers, to in turn support and inspire their young people.”

Birmingham Hippodrome currently works with 44 primary, secondary and SEN schools and colleges across the region, providing young people with the chance to experience and connect with theatre through the Hippodrome Education Network.

ACE commits £1.2m to young people's initiative in Sunderland

A Creative You crafts workshop for young people at Arts Centre Washington
20 Nov 2023

A multi-year programme providing free arts and culture activities to young people in Sunderland has been backed by a £1.196m grant from Arts Council England.

Autumn Statement: Creative industries urge action on arts education

Mature teacher working with art students during painting class at school
17 Nov 2023

Lack of investment in art and design education is having a 'damaging impact' on one of the UK’s most successful sectors, new campaign group warns.

Partnership offers hundreds of gigs for young artists

08 Nov 2023

A partnership between two organisations based in Manchester is offering hundreds of paid gigs to young emerging artists.

Live music marketplace GigPig and arts organisation Reform Radio are collaborating to help artists launch their professional careers.

Reform Radio says it will use its platform to engage young adults looking for new opportunities, working creatively with them over a sustained period to develop new skills for employment.

The station supported 316 young people last year and has a community of more than 500 artists working with the organisation at any one time.

Meanwhile GigPig, which already offers artists a free platform to find, play and get paid for gigs, will match artists up with Manchester venues each month. 

Reform Radio’s Station Manager Robin Guérard said: “The ultimate goal is to enable the city’s venues to discover new artists, in turn giving young artists a platform to establish themselves as professional artists; from where they can build their profile and connections to secure repeat work.”

“I truly believe that with more partnerships like this, we will improve the industry for all new and existing professional artists.”

Creativity classes boost confidence of pupils and teachers

06 Nov 2023

Teaching creativity in primary schools can help students and teachers improve their skills, according to new research funded by Arts Council England and the Freelands Foundation.

The year-long study, which was conducted by University of Exeter and worked with teachers from the Penryn Partnership in West Cornwall, found "notable increases" in both teachers' abilities to facilitate creativity and students' capacity to develop creative skills.

Teachers taking part reported “increasing confidence and practice” in teaching for creativity. Meanwhile, researchers found children took more risks in developing ideas and experienced a greater connection with knowledge and skills they had previously been taught. 

One teacher said: "This study has confirmed to me that making the time and space for creativity in the secondary classroom is vital if we want to equip teenagers with the kinds of skills that they so clearly need for the future."

Associate Professor Kerry Chappell, who jointly authored the report, said the findings gave “insight into how it’s possible to teach for creativity."

She added: "The fact that our research synthesis was also able to demonstrate widespread developments in both creative teaching and students’ creative skills shows that the Creativity Collaborative project has impact and could be scaled up nationally.”

Liverpool orchestra partners with Cumbrian port town

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra strings section
31 Oct 2023

Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra will provide a three-year programme of concerts, community events and educational activities in Barrow-in-Furness, located nearly 100 miles to the north of Merseyside.

Henry Moore Institute to close for major renovation

30 Oct 2023

The Henry Moore Institute in Leeds will close next month for renovation works expected to last until next summer.

The refurbishment will include a new dedicated public engagement workshop, an improved welcome area and Research Library entrance, refreshed activity space and new toilets and baby changing facilities.

Meanwhile, solar panels will be installed on the roof.

Laurence Sillars, Head of the Henry Moore Institute, said: "These alterations will bring a significant step-change to how, and where, our programmes are experienced, retaining our world-renowned research facilities while ensuring that young people — our potential great creative thinkers of the future — feel at home. 

"We’re looking forward to reopening our doors next summer with revitalised spaces that better serve our visitors and the vibrant communities of Leeds and beyond.”

The institute will close to the public from 27 November.

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