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Connection, communities and collaboration are essential ingredients for working with families, writes Anna Dever, Director of a new Investment Principles Support Organisation within ACE’s National Portfolio.

Children in a library throwing newspapers into the air

In a time of immense change for both the cultural sector and families, re-thinking how we make creative opportunities accessible to a range of ages is more important than ever. 

Perhaps in recognition of that, Family Arts Campaign was successful in its application to become an Investment Principles Support Organisation within Arts Council England’s Let’s Create portfolio. 

The Family Arts Campaign is a national initiative that supports the arts and cultural sector to create more accessible and engaging experiences for families. Our core mission is to ensure every child and family has access to high-quality creative and cultural opportunities, regardless of their background or where they live. 

The campaign supports arts professionals to understand and support the diverse needs of families, particularly vulnerable groups, families at risk of exclusion, or for those who may not think arts and culture is for them. 

Leadership in family arts

In the lead-up to our national Family Arts Leadership symposium, we’ve asked speakers to reflect on why connection, communities and collaboration are essential for effective cultural leadership.  

When senior leaders champion family work, we can see the impact of inclusive practice across all departments and offers. If cultural organisations are able to fully welcome families, they are broadening their remit to all ages – from very young children to parents, carers and grandparents too.

We invite leaders to sign up to our Family Arts Standards - a set of guidelines to codify best practice when working with families. We know that if arts providers actively follow and promote these standards across their communication, facilities, partnerships, programme and training, they are twice as likely to see a return on families visiting their venue or activity.


Initiatives that partner with organisations outside the cultural sector often lead to the best, most impactful family work. Through our 2022 Fantastic for Families Awards, we saw inspiring work from arts leaders developing new connections to support families that were previously unheard or underserved. 

From arts centres working with food banks, galleries creating links with mental health charities to museums hosting family events in job centres, creative connections helped to open up opportunities for families. 

By connecting with partners outside the cultural sector, leaders invite fresh thinking, additional expertise and new networks that can strengthen their impact for families and open their organisation and team up to new ways of working.

In our forthcoming leadership symposium, we’ll be reflecting on different leadership styles, approaches and techniques that can result in a better workforce and better outcomes for families. 

“Heroic leadership is hopeless - heroic leaders die in battle after all. It is a recipe for burnout and cynicism.  A collegiate and relational approach will ensure that the work is not high risk, that leaders and practitioners are supported in the work and that space is created for new ideas and new people to step in.” Josie Moon (Writer, Educator and Arts Practitioner - Family Arts Leadership event speaker).  

Yorkshire Sculpture Park Family Walk. Photo: David Lindsay, Yorkshire Sculpture Park.


It is crucial that arts organisations not only focus on building great quality work for families but also reflect on their social practice and deepen their knowledge of family needs within their community.

Our Family Arts Regional Networks help organisations work together to better support and understand families within their communities. We encourage networks to question their work as a community, asking: Who are the families in need? What do you know about them? How can they be supported? 

“The voices of our audience are not something to be scared of, as though it somehow challenges, interrupts, or threatens our work with constant change. It is the treasure in the room that we get to draw on. Engaging in this way is richer, more enjoyable, and more meaningful than the alternative. It invites true harmony - a multitude of lines complementing one another, instead of one dominant voice.” Zoë Challenor (Founder of B’Opera - Family Arts Leadership event speaker). 

By listening to the diverse views and voices of families, we’re able to build a better understanding of their needs and reframe our offers to create supportive, inspiring environments, like the recent work of the NSPCC, which involved working with local families to reduce the barriers to engagement in Grimsby:   

“Many families discussed the need for more low-cost, non-judgemental, ‘neutral’ spaces for activities and spending time together and that is exactly what we have done, getting alongside partners and the community. We have supported the wider partnership’s vision for greening the marshes, ensuring the community is a nicer place to spend time in the outdoors. This provides more vibrant spaces for families to spend time together and connect with one another.” Lisa Smith (Strategic Service Manager, NSPCC - Family Arts Leadership event speaker).  


Creating positive change, and re-thinking leadership approaches to family work is not without its challenges, particularly amid funding pressures and pressing priorities. Yet, when families and the cultural and care sectors are all feeling the pressure, could collaboration be the ultimate solution to realise common goals?

How can arts leaders find the sweet spot – the balance, that enables great family work, while finding new avenues for income and support for the wider organisation? We’ll be tackling this question at the leadership event. 

“Collaborations beyond the bubble bring different perspectives on the value people place on the arts, on the frequency they actually engage, and on the effects art in its many forms has on lives. Also, at strategic level, they can bring new funds and ideas into the mix, extend the reach of the arts sector – which is, despite all the hard work and all the achievements, still much narrower in its inclusivity than is needed.” Mark Robinson (Founder of Thinking Practice, Author of Tactics for the Tightrope: Creative Resilience For Creative Communities - Family Arts Leadership event speaker).

Anna Dever is Executive Director of the Family Arts Campaign. 

You can find out more about Family Arts Campaign and join them and leaders from across the arts and cultural sector at their national leadership symposium Collaboration, Connection and Communities on 22nd June 2023 at the MAC, Birmingham. For tickets and more information, click here.

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Anna Dever headshot