Making cultural education available to all
- Credit: Archant
The Norfolk & Norwich festival 2019 may have concluded for another year, but that doesn't mean the organiser's contribution to the local community is on hold until the festival returns in 2020, far from it.
Festival Bridge has been running since 2012, working year round to radically improve the level of cultural education on offer to young people in Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.
The group is one of 10 Bridge Organisations working nationally with investment from Arts Council England and the Department for Education.
"Bridge is here to support and advise schools and organisations when it comes to their cultural offerings, we help them do more and to expand what they're already doing," says Michael Corley, head of Festival Bridge.
Libraries, museums and heritage trusts are also on the list of organisations that are regularly supported by Festival Bridge.
Central to the initiative is the concept of 'festival spirit': "This is how we as an organisation think about what we do - we're creative, we're curious, we're inclusive, we're strategic and we're collaborative," explains Michael.
"We aim to see these elements across all the work we do."
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With the region facing significant education and social mobility challenges, the Bridge is working hard to ensure that all children and young people, not just those with the means to afford it, have access to culture.
To achieve its objectives Festival Bridge works with partners across the region, focusing especially on areas where support is most needed.
"We connect people and groups that can help each other and really benefit from working together. When resources are pooled they got a lot further," says Michael.
The group is led by the local communities it works within and takes a grassroots approach.
"We want to be instructed by the people and opportunities in the area, it's about evolving with the local community, not trying to dictate what they need," says Michael.
"It's as much about listening and understanding as it is about advising and instructing."
One of the group's biggest achievements is helping to create nine local cultural education partnerships that bring together key stakeholders to assess the needs and opportunities within an area and also develop new ideas.
The hugely successful Lowestoft Rising partnership is one of these. Projects worked on by the group throughout the town include the Turtle Trail, Watertight Words, Flipside Brazilian Festival, and several orchestral concerts.
"Being able to bring cultural events to places like Lowestoft is what Festival Bridge was created for," says Michael.
The work done by various groups in the area, with support from Festival Bridge, has seen £500,000 of investment brought into the town alongside gaining national recognition.
Festival Bridge also support participation in the growing Arts Award qualification, with over 6,000 Arts Awards being achieved by children and young people in the area last year, a vast increase on the 500 who were awarded in 2011.
"Above all, our work is flexible and responsive, and our festival spirit imbues our approach," says Michael.
"We're always keen to meet new organisations and find new avenues in which to help improve the opportunities on offer to children and young people throughout the region."
To sign up for the Festival Bridge newsletter and be kept up to date with how you can get involved with the group's work visit nnfestival.org.uk/festival-bridge