Worcestershire Arts Partnership Blog

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

WAP Newsletter April 2017

WAP Newsletter April 2017


Inspiring Futures through the Arts


We had some great news at the end of March. Our funding bids to the West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) were successful. This has been the second year that WAP has received funding and we are hugely thankful for the OPCC for showing faith in us.


The Project's History

The project came about after we engaged with The Cultural Commissioning programme, led by The Arts Council of England and the National Council for Voluntary Organisations.  Its aim was to create greater understanding by the arts sector of the outcomes of Public Sector Commissioners. I attended some of the training that was available and that led to WAP working with The Elmley Foundation and colleagues in Hereford to run an event at The Courtyard Theatre in September 2015.

The event was a success and featured many guest speakers including the Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for West Mercia. Following this, the OPCC invited us to apply for a grant to reduce crime. In February 2016, we submitted an application which was successful.


Finding artists

With Debbie Birch, as Project Manager, we quickly went to work finding artists across a range of artistic disciplines who had some experience of working with similar client groups.

We called our programme Inspiring Futures through the Arts because ultimately that is what we wanted to do; to make a difference to people's lives and inspire them. We appointed the following artists:

·        Ruby Jennings who is a sculptor working with found metal materials, with lots of experience of small and large scale sculptures and who has worked with many excluded groups including young male NEETs (Not in education or employment).

·        Laura McFall who is a drama and creative writing practitioner, again, experienced in working with excluded groups, and who had a background in social work.

·        Jest a Minute who as a drama company also have a background in working with targeted groups including prisoners.

·        Miraculous Magic who use magic and illusion to develop confidence and skills in adults and young people.

·        The Worcester Arts Workshop working with Caged Arts.  After the initial taster sessions, WAW and Caged Arts chose not to move into phase two, but the main artist who we did work with from this grouping was Kay Mullett. Kay is a Ceramicist with a social work background and experienced in working in care settings.


Reaching those at risk of (re)offending

Alongside finding artists, Debbie and I sought people at risk of offending who would take part in the project.  We soon realised we needed to work closely with criminal justice organisations – we couldn’t do this alone.  Relationship building with a new sector takes time.  Our network of similarly funded partners (the Sports Partnership, Energise and more) were finding the same.  How do you encourage Probation services, Hostels, Drug Rehabilitation services and others that it is worth investing time in Arts/Sports/life-coaching?  We at WAP decided the only way to do this was to offer them, and their clients, arts tasters, and this is how we started to unlock the doors.


Tasters were held at West Mercia Community Rehabilitation Company (WWMCRC – this was Probation) HQ, Willowdene Care Farm (where some Worcestershire probation service users are taken on a Thursday and Friday), and the Youth Support Service’s Employment Group for those who have offended or are at risk of offending. After these half hour tasters, service users and their group leaders effectively chose with which artists they wanted to work.  A series of weekly workshop sessions were then set up.




It was a pre-requisite that all artists attend training. This was run by a company called Young Solutions and all our artists undertook training on Outcome Star Evaluation using the Justice Star. This evaluation is key to showing the progress of each service user against certain criteria such as managing emotions, managing money, self-esteem, work/employability, accommodation, and is undertaken at least twice, showing progress before and after the arts interventions.  Artists also attended OPCC funded safeguarding training.  Supporting our artists is something that we know is important in such a project and we would like to build on this next year.  An artists’ review session at the end of the year proved incredibly helpful, as well as giving us a chance to thank them all for their brilliant work. 


Facts and figures – what we did

Workshops have proved hugely successful and each of our artists and groups have had some great results.

·        c.40 people at risk of offending attended arts taster sessions before full courses began

·        8 separate courses took place.  These were…

o   Drama with WWMCRC’s Senior Attendance Centre group

o   Sculpture and metalwork with Senior Attendance Centre group

o   Sculpture and metalwork with Youth Support Service Employment Group

o   Drama and creative writing with Youth Support Service group

o   Magic with WWMCRC group

o   Creating writing with WWMCRC group

o   Drama with WWMCRC group

o   Ceramics at Willowdene for Worcestershire WWMCRC service users

·        Over 70 separate arts sessions were held. 

·        Encouraging regular attendance was one of the steepest learning curves.  The nature of the client group meant that encouraging regular attendance at anything, even where clients were mandated to attend, was often problematic.  So when we realised that 20-25 people DID attend our arts sessions regularly, we were thrilled.     



Evidence of success

All of the Outcome Stars completed have shown progress in 9/10 areas of the Outcome Star, especially strong in self-esteem and managing emotions.  Importantly, many of the Service Users also began thinking of themselves as artists.


Qualitative feedback collected by the artists and offender managers at each session has also been great feedback (eg: Quote from Probation Officer - “Because of this project, she is now engaging with other services. She was completely not engaged before the drama project and now she is engaging with her offender manager”……quote from service user ‘I’m in my own bubble mostly, but this session has helped me grow stronger and realise I need to have boundaries and feel in control and get to know people slowly and over time before trusting’)


Participants at one of our creative writing courses produced a magazine of their own writing, which they themselves called ‘Reboot’.  At the back of this magazine, they contributed their feedback on the course: ‘Made me not so fearful about own imagination – taught me not to be uptight’; ‘most enjoyable probation course ever done’, ‘rewarding’, ‘useful for releasing floodgates’, ‘made me get my feelings out – hopefully helps’, ‘free to be myself’, ‘I’ve been onto the BBC writer’s room and will seriously consider contributing’


Susanah Stennett, Head of Service at West Mercia CRC, wrote a letter of support for the next year’s funding application, which said ‘Our organisation is proud and grateful to have been a partner in Inspiring Futures through the Arts.  Our service users have undertaken creative writing, drama, magic, metalwork and ceramics; their feedback and that of their Offender Managers is that many have increased in confidence and motivation as a result as well as improving their engagement with intervention.  Some have found new and positive interests for their everyday life’.


We employed a filmmaker called Nicola Prestage and her company, Tiger Features, to make a film of the project, with consents from participants in place.  Nicola has been great, herself experienced at working with similar client groups and helping people feel at ease.  Whilst the final, full version is being edited, a taster of the project can be seen here:   https://youtu.be/96mUJ4-zU28

We will share the full film as soon as it is available.


Finally, some of the service users are going on to take arts placements, training and further interventions. 


Thanks must go to all the artists involved, the OPCC, the WWMCRC and the Youth Support Service and to Worcestershire County Council who provided some match funding.

We are delighted to have received funding to run another year of adults creative sessions – and with relationships now in place we hope to do more and to build on the successes of year one.  We are also really pleased to have the opportunity to provide arts interventions with 13-16 year olds at risk of offending, working mainly in the north of the county.  More details about both these projects will follow in due course as they get underway.

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