Read about projects funded by the Cultural Investment Fund, their learnings and experiences.
Little magical experiments
Above Bounds Theatre Collective
Little Magical Experiments has been the first research through practice project we have completed at Above Bounds.
The Covid-19 Crisis has caused us to make work differently, using digital mediums to connect to our audience: children, young people and families in Plymouth.
From March 2020-September 2020, we worked reactively, creating content fast to provide activities for our audience (and ourselves) whilst on lockdown. But this new way of working seemed to work well for us and the Cultural Investment Fund was a way of us investigating the future of theatre/arts for families, to ask them directly if they enjoyed these new digital mediums and to see if these digital forms would lead to in-person engagement in the future.
Working with an NPO partner to support the project has been immensely helpful, especially in keeping us on track, supporting us in developing the research framework, updating our branding and providing us with artistic support for the work we make.
Through CIF, we have led 15 online workshops for families, directly asking them about the future of theatre for families in the City, we have led an online talk with other Family Arts Leaders in the City which we hope will lead to further partnership working, have worked with Barbican Theatre ReBels to create a story to go with our street performance Fishco Disco and have created a brand new piece of pop-up street theatre (a story taken from one of our lockdown films) The Silly Squirrel, which will perform in Plymouth in the Summer.
Even though at the beginning of the project we knew what we wanted to investigate, we didn’t have any set outcomes and instead had the freedom to research and respond based on the evidence. This has been such a refreshing way of working and I hope by working in this way, we have built the basis for a strong arts and culture scene for families in Plymouth.
We will be sharing our learning through a report, which will be published in June 2021, hoping to encourage artists and organisations in Plymouth to put families at the heart of their cultural activity, and not as an add-on.
Moths to a flame
Art & Energy CIC
This award, and the work that it has enabled, has been a revelation to us. The Cultural Investment Fund supported us to undertake tasks which, as an emerging organization, we had not previously had proper time to undertake: gathering feedback, reflective evaluation, action learning, testing ideas and in-depth dialogue around our goals and aspirations both as individuals and as a CIC.CIF has resulted in a distinct shape-shift at this formative stage, the resultant Art and Energy CIC has a clearer role and purpose in relation to the social and environmental changes needed in the face of climate change.
CIF has strengthened existing relationships and led to new connections. The resulting conversations were hugely validating, giving us a much-needed confidence boost and connecting us to the Plymouth community in a way that would otherwise have been impossible against a Covid-restricted backdrop. We are now partnering with RIO, The Box and Literature Works to co-deliver elements of the Moths to a Flame project. We are also delivering creative activities encouraging behaviour change in partnership with Plymouth City Council as part of the Plymouth Climate Action Plan and the new electric vehicle charging points.
We are now clearer about how we can work with the cultural, energy and community sectors. As such we have initiated new networks of organisations and individuals that align to the Fab City manifesto and Plymouth Culture Strategy. We aim for a model that places Plymouth on the map, with potential for the seeds of change to spread across the UK and further afield. This growing movement lays the ground for Plymouth to become a cultural centre showcasing renewable energy, a low carbon future and the power of collaboration between sectors.
Now’s Their Time
Ciara Eastell Consulting
Now’s Their Time focused on exploring how emergent talent within Plymouth can best be supported to flourish at a time when new ideas, energy and diverse perspectives are needed in all our cities.
Following interviews and workshops with individuals working at all levels within the cultural sector across the city, Now’s Their Time found that nurturing a leadership ecology in the city where opportunities for individuals – irrespective of their background or level of experience – were signposted and made available was perceived as more valuable than the development of a formal leadership programme.
Though emergent talent was the initial focus for Now’s Their Time, the project found that there is also a need to support a wider ecology so that all leaders (even those in established and senior roles) were able to benefit from having an opportunity to reflect on, and build their leadership practice. Without that support themselves, they are unlikely to be able to nurture and sensitively support the development of grassroots and diverse talent.
Tools like action learning sets were seen as one way of supporting individuals both to develop their own strategies around leadership development and to build wider and long lasting networks. High quality coaching and mentoring were also identified as having the potential to help guide individuals through their leadership journey. National Portfolio Organisations in the city also indicated their willingness to make available workshops and content from their own programmes to potential leaders as a learning and developmental resource. Tools like this could be packaged together as a new and dynamic leadership framework for the city – one that has a clear name and brand that speaks to and reaches individuals who have huge potential and talent.
With a new Cultural Strategy now in place, as well as a turnover of senior leadership roles in many of the key cultural organisations in the city, Now’s Their Time found that now really is the time for Plymouth to create this compelling new leadership framework for the city. This will take some modest funding; a commitment from decision makers across the city to a more developmental approach to leadership development and further work to develop an evaluation strategy.
Spaces to speak
In partnership with Talking on Corners
Listening with care to Black and Brown creatives and organisations has helped us begin to clarify the work that needs to be done in Plymouth, and how that can be undertaken in meaningful and sustainable ways.
Through the project’s process we recognise that there is an appetite for dialogue in the city to raise the voices of Black and Brown creatives. However, fear, uncertainty, and systemic racial hierarchies are major barriers to significant change. The extent to which everyday experiences of racial micro aggressions occur within the arts sector, and the emotional impact of this, surpassed our initial assumptions.
A core piece of learning has been that adopting an open listening approach is as important as taking action, and crucially goes hand in hand with a focus on Black joy.
The programme has been a really great starting point for our business as it has given us a bit of breathing space, support, development time and resources to really think about our aims, our end users and directly engage with the people we want to be helping, rather than trying to form the business based on the assumed needs of the community.
We started the programme with a lot of ideas buzzing around, and through the workshops and conversations, we have managed to hone our ideas into something we feel is really valuable to the community and can be transferred to other communities, places, and activities we carry out. This has challenged our initial business idea and has improved on our wider offering. We have also developed a key partnership with a local community, who we will continue to work with even after the programme finishes.