South Tyneside and Sunderland Cultural Spring arts project praised for efforts during covid pandemic

A project aimed at spreading arts participation has been praised for meeting targets, despite the pandemic.
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Sunderland and South Tyneside’s Cultural Spring is well on target to meet ambitious targets – even amid covid.

The project, is only halfway through its third three-year phase, but has already achieved some targets despite many unforseen difficulties.

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Funded through Arts Council England the organisation has developed free, hybrid workshops with activities taking place in people’s homes with online and telephone support. Other workshops were shifted entirely online.

The Cultural Spring’s Emma Horsman, left, with Emma Scarr dropping off craft packs.The Cultural Spring’s Emma Horsman, left, with Emma Scarr dropping off craft packs.
The Cultural Spring’s Emma Horsman, left, with Emma Scarr dropping off craft packs.

Local artists were commissioned to create craft packs, delivered free to people’s homes. Extra funding was secured to support those suffering loneliness and social isolation with more craft packs. Non-digital projects also featured.

The Cultural Spring was launched in 2014. Its partners are University of Sunderland, the Customs House, Sunderland Music, Arts and Culture (MAC) Trust, women’s health organisation Sangini and the Cultural Spring Charity. The project has worked with more than 50,000 people.

A report, covering April 2020 to August 2021, from evaluation consultancy CoLibra, gives huge praise.

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It said: “The Cultural Spring’s range of arts and cultural engagement opportunities provided vehicles for connections to be made, created a sense of ‘all being in it together’ and the much needed safe, calm spaces and time out where individuals could temporarily immerse and distract themselves from the stresses caused by covid-19.”

Emma Horsman, project director for Cultural Spring, said: “Our team worked incredibly hard to pivot from our in-person activity to online delivery; then ensured anyone wanting to access our activity but had no digital access could also take part.

“We firmly believe our work took on extra significance during the lockdowns and we made a genuine difference to people’s lives, particularly those feeling lonely or isolated.

“We welcome the report from CoLibra. It’s reassuring to see that they recognise our approach was one that worked well.

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“I’d like to thank all of the community champions who have been involved in our decision making panels and the artists and creative companies we’ve worked with over the last few months. They’ve had to change the way they worked too.

“I’d also like to thank Sunderland Council’s East and West committees; and South Tyneside Council’s CAF programme for helping to fund our work.”

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