Between 2018 and 2021, the Foundation has supported the Local Trust in the development of the Creative Civic Change partnership programme (CCC), which supports community-led social, economic and environmental change in local areas harnessing the power of the arts and creativity. The Foundation has contributed with a grant of £600,000.
Created partly in response to the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation’s Inquiry into the Civic Role of the Arts, Creative Civic Change aims to explore the role that arts, artists and art organisations play in community life. CCC are interested in the dynamic between artists and arts organisations and communities when local people take the lead. The programme challenges top-down modes of engagement and pushing artists and arts organisations to work in a new way with communities in which power is shared and everyone’s expertise is highly valued.
Modelled on the Big Local programme, CCC offers flexible, long-term funding, in-area mentoring and a substantial peer learning programme to 15 communities across England. Residents are in the lead every step of the way. Whatever the local priorities, the programme will help these communities use creative methods to achieve them.
Preparing the ground
Since October 2018, 15 communities across England have been on a radical journey to transform their places through creativity. As part of the Creative Civic Change (CCC) initiative, each area has benefited from £200k of funding, given with full trust to local residents to control. In addition to this funding, each area has been given the time, support and resources to realise their vision, whether its transforming public spaces, celebrating shared histories, or bringing people together.
This first report, ‘Preparing the ground’, reflects what has been learned at the start of this journey, as communities worked together to shape plans, create connections and plant the seeds of creativity. It focuses on what was happening between the project starting in 2018 and COVID-19 and the first lockdown in March 2020; it describes the different neighbourhoods taking part in Creative Civic Change; outlines their activities and priorities, and shares learning and reflections from the projects themselves, their Critical Friends, and funders.
Growing through the storm
In August 2021, CCC published their second learning and outcomes report, which focusses on the response of CCC-funded communities to the pandemic. Analysed from the perspective of different stakeholders, the report surveys the successes and shortcomings of 15 projects across England, whose main feature is the handing over of power (funding and decision-making) to the local communities.
The community-based activities ranged from the practical delivery of groceries to participating in lantern parades and LGBTQ+ choirs. Residents mention how these brought them joy, fostered creativity and community spirit, and provided consistent mental health support. Local creatives were given funding opportunities throughout a fund-starved period. The report also emphasises the strengthening of connections and organisational relationships, with these community projects described as having a ‘ripple effect’ that enabled other local groups to benefit.
The last year has proven the vitality of the local funding model Local Trust has driven for the last 10 years. Vigorous and compassionate, these communities have continued to grow despite huge challenges. The key values cultivated across the projects include: keeping values at the heart of what you do; building trust; responsive action connects the grassroots to the wider political context; flexible budgets; awareness of digital inequality and team burnout.