Yemi Bolatiwa:
Collaboratively creating arts packs to reach new families

Based at Z-arts, Manchester Ambassador Yemi runs one of the largest Family Arts Networks in terms of the number of member organisations.

As a densely-populated city with a large entertainment and tourism economy, Manchester was hit particularly hard by the Covid pandemic. As with other Networks, Manchester member organisations had to cancel in-person activities and quickly create new forms of family engagement that could take place remotely. This led to the development of new relationships with non-arts organisations that serve deprived and underserved families, including the South Central Manchester Foodbank.

In August, Yemi produced a 12–page booklet featuring content from 5 network organisations and venues, including Manchester Libraries, People’s History Museum, Manchester Museum, Manchester Art Gallery, and lead organisation Z-arts. The booklets formed part of 90 family arts activity packs and were distributed to families through the Foodbank.

Manchester Family Fun Summer activity booklet
Booklet from the family arts activity packs

Not only did the family arts packs allow Manchester network organisations to engage families with arts activities during Covid, they also reached different kinds of families through the Foodbank partnership than they might have otherwise, including families from Arabic, Urdu, and European language backgrounds.

Given the success of the initiative, the Manchester Family Arts Network have since gone on to create three more booklets and produced over 830 packs for the South Central Manchester Food Bank, local Hulme area and across Greater Manchester since they began. It is hoped that this new form of engagement with more vulnerable families will lead to more face-to-face participation post-Covid.

Evaluation has been a challenge during the pandemic, when normal ways of gaining feedback and data have been derailed. However, Yemi came up with creative and fun ways of capturing feedback from families digitally. Using the educational quiz platform Kahoot!, Yemi surveyed adoptive families in Manchester about their interests, perceptions, engagement levels, and barriers around arts and culture. The survey found that responding families were most interested in gallery and museum visits, followed by live music events, and creative workshops with other families. Nearly all families agreed or strongly agreed that arts and culture was important to their family, especially as an opportunity to spend time together, experience something new, and socialise. Most respondents attended family arts events once a month, and the main barriers to engaging more frequently included financial considerations, transport and location, accessibility needs, and being too busy. These findings are helping inform the Manchester Network’s approach to engaging and communicating with adoptive and other types of families in the future.

Despite the challenges of Covid-19, Yemi and the Manchester Family Arts Network found new ways to reach the most vulnerable families in a time of acute need. At a time in which audience data was challenging to collect, Yemi also gained new insights into family audiences and established new relationships with community organisations that will endure beyond the pandemic.

16 April 2021


Yemi Bolatiwa, Manchester Family Arts Network Ambassador

The Manchester Network is part of the Family Arts Network Ambassador Programme. Find out more about the Ambassadors and the Programme.

Other resources that might interest you

16 April 2021