The lifting of lockdown restrictions has allowed arts organisations in the UK to operate at full capacity again. Yet now, more than ever, we must resist the temptation to go back to business as usual. The pandemic has proven the unsustainability of governance models detached from the communities in which arts organisations are embedded. Indeed, it was organisations and projects that work with, for, and through their communities that proved most successful in delivering their mission during the trying times of lockdown.
In order to celebrate outstanding civic practice during the pandemic, we launched the Award for Civic Arts Organisations. With funds of £150,000, the inaugural edition rewarded four organisations in the UK that demonstrated the vital role that the arts play in society. Since accepting the Award in March, the four organisations have continued working towards this mission as part of their longer-term strategy. As we near one year since we opened for applications, we are taking a peek at their current work:
Heart n Soul: Beautiful Octopus Club (Sep – Nov)
Heart n Soul’s iconic Beautiful Octopus Club is back. Created in 1995, this initiative is London’s longest running inclusive club, now online after nine years at the Southbank Centre. The autumn season will include a mix of online events including live music, dance, art, baking, poetry and radio. Working in partnership with venues around London, there will be music performances from Heart n Soul artists at Cafe OTO & Battersea Arts Centre, the Heart n Soul Choir and DJ Club Nights. This is an expansion of Heart n Soul’s platform to showcase the power and talents of people with learning disabilities, which earned them the main prize of the 2021 Award.
All events are online and free.
Museum of Homelessness: Secret Museum (27 Oct – 6 Nov)
Secret Museum sets out to reveal what happened to people on the margins during the pandemic. Set in an undisclosed location, the Museum of Homelessness’s initiative invites audiences into a movement of solidarity and underground organising, whose collective aim has been to save lives and uphold the rights of homeless individuals. At the centre of museum are objects and stories donated by community organisers, rough sleepers, and activists, which weave unfiltered stories about COVID homeless hotels and the proliferation of mutual aid that flourished in the last 19 months. Running for 11 days from 27 October, this event begins with a trail of clues on the streets of London and ends at the makeshift exhibition space.
The 90-minute experience is free of charge and runs between 27 Oct and 6 Nov.
Eden Court: Climate of Hope (24 Sep – 13 Nov)
Climate of Hope is a multi-art festival bringing climate action to communities in Inverness. After operating as a humanitarian aid centre during lockdown, Eden Court is mediating a series of artistic events that seeks to bring environmental engagement and awareness to the world of performative arts ahead of COP26. Events include live dance performance, theatre, and two environmental and global change film festivals. Supported by our £25,000 award, Climate of Hope directly aligns with the purpose of our initiative – that arts organisations develop their civic role – and our wider work on climate, as it seeks to highlight environmental issues and engage with the climate crisis through a lens of hope and action.
The festival runs between 24 Sep-13 Nov on a “pay what you can” basis.
The Whitworth: School of Creativity’s Nancy Rothwell Award (8 Oct – 9 Jan)
The Whitworth’s School of Creativity continues to evolve at full speed. Until 9 January, the winning and shortlisted pieces of the Nancy Rothwell Award, which invited school students to create biological specimen drawings, will be on display. Created for the post-lockdown reopening of the Whitworth, the School of Creativity has taken over a whole gallery floor to be used as a civic and experimental workspace to celebrate all forms of creativity. Through learning and play, this space seeks to reimagine how the Whitworth works with communities and builds meaningful relationships. The competition currently on display is a transformational example of how promote the value of observation, creativity and artistry in science learning and discovery.
Information about the second edition of the Award will be announced soon.