Family arts packs shared via community food banks
As a particularly rural Family Arts Network, Cumbria has faced some unique challenges and opportunities during the Covid-19 pandemic. The region is highly dependent on income from domestic and international tourism during the summer, which was severely impacted in 2020.
Organisations are also very spread out geographically, which can make it more difficult for Network colleagues to meet in-person. During Covid-19 however, Holli noted that her Network colleagues, like many others, had become much more reliant on communicating digitally and via phone. So Holli started a Whatsapp group for Network communication, a handy way for colleagues to stay connected.
Many arts organisations in Cumbria have very few staff or are entirely volunteer-run. Although this can present its own challenges, it has also meant that some volunteer-run Network members have been less impacted by revenue losses from Covid than larger, staff-run organisations.
Like the Manchester and Bristol Family Arts Networks, Holli has used the Covid-19 crisis as an opportunity to reach out to new kinds of organisations, families, and parts of Cumbria that would have been more difficult to engage previously. Holli saw a growing appreciation amongst local people and organisations about the importance of the arts during lockdown.
The Cumbria network has also focused on building new relationships with non-arts organisations such as schools, libraries, and like in Manchester, a local foodbank to reach families. Holli and her network partnered with North Lakes Foodbank over the summer to produce and distribute family arts packs for families in the deprived area of North Lakes, which has traditionally been underserved and excluded from many Cumbria-wide initiatives. They have been able to reach 50 vulnerable and less-engaged families through this project.
The success of the art packs at the Foodbank has been used as a model to successfully launch a similar initiative with Key Stage 2 pupils, distributing school art packs and accompanying digital PDF resources to Cumbrian primary schools to engage local children and their families.
Holli looks forward to increased engagement with new types of families and organisations translating into greater engagement with local arts programmes after the pandemic.
20 April 2021