#MyArtsAward: Supporting Arts Award - a partnership, by Val Tobiass

08 February 2018

#MyArtsAward: Supporting Arts Award - a partnership, by Val Tobiass

Today's #MyArtsAward week theme is partnership, so we're celebrating the role of Arts Award Supporters in a blog by Val Tobiass. Learning and Engagement Co-ordinator at Berwick Visual Arts.

I first heard of Sunderland being described as the first Arts Award Supporter city a couple of years ago and thought it was a superb idea. I wondered how transferable that could be on a smaller scale to a town such as Berwick-upon-Tweed. 

Some time later, some of the cultural organisations in the town had discussions with our Culture Bridge North East Area Manager, Mel Carter, about the idea of taking a similar consortium approach to delivering Arts Award, but there was no capacity at that point to take things forward.

With another hat on, I co-ordinate the North Northumberland Creative Schools Cluster on behalf of Northumberland Arts Development; the Cluster holds termly meetings that are attended by schools and cultural organisations in the north of the county. It provides a forum to share cultural activities, as well as for schools to find out about new opportunities. It is through this forum, and with the support of Northumberland Arts Development, that we've been developing the Berwick Arts Award Discover Trail.

At the start of the project I gathered lots of examples of Arts Award trails and booklets created by galleries and museums up and down the country, and also talked to a Claire Newton, who had developed an Alnwick town trail illustrated by Daniel Weatheritt, about her approach. Having researched different approaches, we decided a trail booklet would work well if it highlighted all the Berwick Arts Award Supporter organisations. But it could also work as a simple place for children to record all their evidence for achieving Arts Award Discover. 

Schools using the booklet do not need to visit each organisation to complete Arts Award Discover, rather it highlights what creative places are available in the town and provides inspiration for their Arts Award journey.


Six cultural organisations are involved in the project and all are registered Arts Award Supporters: Berwick Visual Arts, The Maltings, Berwick Museum & Art Gallery, Berwick Film & Media Arts Festival, Berwick Record Office, and Berwick Library and Tourist Information Centre. This project has given us the opportunity to share different levels of understanding about what Arts Award is and could be for the organisations involved. As all the Berwick organisations involved have tiny staff teams, capacity is an issue, but the consortium approach is allowing us to work together to share cultural opportunities to schools collectively.

We are on to our final proof and have been working with Berwick-based illustrator Katie Chappell to create the artwork. Katie has recently completed her MA in Illustration at Edinburgh School of Art. I have worked with Katie before and knew her style was just right for a booklet for school children. The fact that she knows Berwick so well and the organisations to be featured was an added bonus. 

We are creating a 16-page A4 booklet which has a centre spread showing a map of the Arts Award Supporters involved. Everyone has been delighted at the style and feel of the booklet. To test it out before it goes to print, a class of Year 3 pupils at Holy Trinity First School have been working towards their Arts Award Discover using the first proof. They visited the recent Drawn from Life: People on Paper exhibition at the Granary Gallery, and undertook a Charles Avery inspired workshop with artist Gill Walton as their Taking Part element of Part A of the award. Shelagh Peck, their teacher, said using the trail had created an excellent opportunity to talk in depth with pupils about what art is and where to find different art forms in Berwick.

We are planning to launch the trail to schools before the Easter holidays, and the printed booklet will be accompanied by teachers notes and a simple website. We look forward to seeing how schools and the Berwick Arts Award Supporters will use the trail booklet to increase cultural learning for children in North Northumberland.

Many thanks to Val for sharing this fantastic example of partnership working to help young people achieve Arts Award. Read another great example from our archive about how Arts Award and Artsmark can work in partnership, by The Duchess's Community High School. We've also recently launched the new Artsmark Partners programme and you can join us at an event to find out more next month.