Arts Award Case Study: The Customs House

16 January 2023

Delivering a regional Arts Award strategy

My name is Fiona Martin, I’m Deputy Director - Learning and Participation, at an arts centre in South Shields, South Tyneside called The Customs House. Together with Jane Gray and my colleagues at Culture Bridge North East, we have delivered the region’s Arts Award strategy since 2018. 

I have been an Arts Award adviser since 2009 and have loved using the Arts Award framework as a way of supporting children and young people to achieve their creative ambitions, and to be able to enable them to achieve such a bespoke and relevant qualification in the arts.  

I was an Arts Award trainer for over ten years, and during this time it was a pleasure to meet so many talented creative educators from the informal and formal learning sectors. It was so exciting being there at the start of people’s journeys with Arts Award and supporting them to start their process of planning their first projects.  

The ethos for our Arts Award programme for the region has always been embedded in inspiring and supporting organisations and settings to deliver activity that celebrates their creative practice, and enables children and young people to achieve in the arts, to remove barriers to participation, and to share the best practice from across the North East. It has been a delight to meet and work with so many talented practitioners, and to hear many wonderful examples about the often-transformative benefits of young people’s achievements with Arts Award.  

At The Customs House, we have delivered thousands of Arts Awards with schools, foster carers, youth theatre, Our Takeover Team, the library service, with work experience, our LGBTQ+ arts group, in artforms such as filmmaking, drama, dance, stand-up comedy, visual arts, craft, and heritage.  

We have been able to use Arts Award at Gold and Silver Levels as a way of training arts practitioners of the future, and to support young creatives to achieve their ambitions, be it in working as an Assistant Director, or planning and hosting an Under 19s Breakdance Jam.  

Arts Award can be planned and captured in so many ways. The common factor in organisations who thrive in their delivery are those who put children and young people at the centre of their Arts Award delivery, and those who are adaptive, flexible and encourage creative exploration through the Arts Award framework.  

With the close of Culture Bridge North East’s work, it’s an opportunity for organisations in the North East to take a lead on Arts Award, sharing the benefits of their experience and helping the amazing legacy to continue.  

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