Working in partnership – Start in the East Midlands

​Guest Blog from Lydia Lewison, Children & the Arts.

Posted: March 10th, 2017

Guest Blog from Lydia Lewison, Children & the Arts. Photo credit: Sam Kirby

Working in partnership – Start in the East Midlands

“No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.” — H.E. Luccock

2016/17 sees the beginning of a three year partnership between The Mighty Creatives and Children & the Arts.We are working together to make a big impact on the life chances of nearly 1,000 children across the East Midlands.

14 schools are benefitting from inspiring cultural programmes from three cultural partners this academic year: New Walk Museum and Gallery in Leicester, Nottingham Contemporary and Derby Theatre.Each programme follows Children & the Arts’ model but is tailored by the cultural partner to the needs and circumstances of the school, its teachers and children.

Research from the Cultural Learning Alliance shows that participation in structured arts activities improves cognitive ability and self-esteem and is a key driver for social mobility. However, young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds are less likely to engage in the arts outside school, pressure on schools means that arts education is no longer a priority, and lack of funds limits visits to cultural venues and engagement with professional artists

That is why we work with the schools who need it most: schools who serve disadvantaged communities, who don’t have the resources to provide the creative education they want for their students and who are not currently engaging with their local arts venue.

Each project is influenced by the programme and expertise of the cultural partner, and by the needs and circumstances of the school, but all children are benefitting from:

  • at least two visits to the local arts venue to see high quality performances or exhibitions.
  • behind the scenes access to meet artists, director and actors to ask questions about their artistic experiences.
  • creative workshops with professional practitioners, where pupils develop their own responses to the work that they’ve seen.
  • a finale event that presents the young people’s creative work and celebrates their achievements
  • the opportunity to work towards an Arts Award.

Schools are also encouraged to build on the benefits of the Start programme by beginning their journey towards an Artsmark.

Partnership working is at the heart of our approach. Everyone contributes their experience and expertise – the lead teachers on the project, the freelance artists, the venue education team, Children & the Arts’ project managers – to create inspiring and sustainable projects that have a big impact on the cultural landscape of a place.

In focus: Start at Nottingham Contemporary

At Nottingham Contemporary, 400 young people from 4 primary schools and 2 secondary schools have been supported to explore the galleries and connect with exhibition themes in hands-on activities.

They have experienced inspiring artwork that has challenged their preconceptions of what art can be.Marguerite Humeau’s opera of elephant voices delighted the children, but this moving exhibit also encouraged them to reflect on our interaction with the natural world and human concerns of family, belonging and loss.

These experiences were translated into creative responses in the Studio and Space, and then developed back at school with the guidance of Nottingham Contemporary’s Associate Artists. Work produced includes, sculpture, installation, spoken word, textiles, sound and poetry, all explore the themes of identity, emotions and the senses and connections to the natural world.

All 180 of the primary school pupils are completing Arts Award at Discover level, with a bespoke log book and support from Associate Artist Sian Watson Taylor.

The workshops at the gallery were fantastic. The students really enjoyed experiencing the exhibitions. The project feels as if it’s already making a difference to their confidence and communication skills - which is amazing!"Teacher, Start at Nottingham Contemporary 2017

Children & the Arts and The Mighty Creatives are currently looking for four new cultural partners to deliver Start projects in the East Midlands.The deadline for applications is Friday 31 March.To find out more, please visit

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