A popular arts project has been granted £500,000 to extend its award-winning work by three more years.

The Cultural Spring has been increasing the number of people taking part in arts and culture activities in Sunderland and South Tyneside since 2014. The project’s seasonal workshops, large-scale performances and support for community-based arts projects are funded through Arts Council England’s (ACE) Creative People and Places programme.

The Cultural Spring was given an initial £2m for its first three years and then successfully bid for £1m to deliver its second three-year phase in 2016. Now the project has been granted £500,000 to continue delivering activities into Sunderland and South Tyneside for three further years (2020-2023).

Michael Barrass, Joint Project Director for The Cultural Spring, said: “We’re thrilled to have been given this vote of confidence by ACE and look forward to continuing our work in South Tyneside and Sunderland.

“Since starting in 2014, we’ve helped change the way arts and culture are viewed in both boroughs. Not only are more people experiencing arts and culture than when we began, but more people within our neighbourhoods feel empowered to help their communities take decisions about what artistic and cultural activities they’d like to see locally.”

The Cultural Spring’s four partners are the University of Sunderland; the Customs House, South Shields, Sunderland’s Music, Arts and Culture (MAC) Trust and Sangini, a women’s health organisation.

Paul Callaghan, Chair of Sunderland MAC Trust said: “The MAC Trust is delighted that Arts Council England has funded The Cultural Spring programme for another three years. The Cultural Spring has involved so many individuals throughout South Tyneside and Sunderland in amazing arts and cultural projects, positively changing lives and communities and its wonderful that it is able to continue.”

Graeme Thompson, Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of Sunderland and Chair of The Cultural Spring steering board, said: “The Cultural Spring has made a real impact on the cultural landscape of Sunderland and South Tyneside. So many individuals and groups have benefited from the events and activities organised by the project team. It’s successfully engaged with communities but also played an important role in offering opportunities to local artists and performers. I am delighted the funding will secure another three years of this remarkable project.”

Ray Spencer, Executive Director at The Customs House, said: “The Customs House is proud to have been a key player in shaping the delivery of this exciting project. The next phase will continue to engage thousands of people across South Tyneside and Sunderland celebrating their diversity and creating great art.”

Rebecca Blackman, Director, Audiences and Engagement, Arts Council England said: “We’re delighted that The Cultural Spring have had their funding extended for a further three years. This is a testament to the great work the project has been doing for years, and the way they’ve been engaging the local community. We’re looking forward to continuing to working with The Cultural Spring, along with the other 29 Creative People and Places projects changing lives across England.”

There was less money available for this round of funding, and The Cultural Spring received the maximum grant of £500,000. Despite this, the project is planning to continue with most of its popular programmes.

“We plan to be continue with our seasonal workshop programmes in local community venues; with our Your Art fund which supports community groups to produce and deliver cultural activities and events, and with our popular Go and See visits, which give local people the opportunity to experience arts and culture outside of their neighbourhoods and communities,” explained Michael.

“In addition to these core activities, we hope to introduce a couple of new strands. One would aim to help reduce social isolation through arts and culture and another would help local artists and groups to collaborate more easily.

“What won’t change, however, is our fundamental objective of getting local people to take decisions about arts and culture delivery in their locality,” he added.

The project will also look to extend its partnerships with public and private sector organisations, and it is through these partnerships that any larger-scale activity would be delivered.

In the past, The Cultural Spring has delivered large-scale performances such as WordPlay, Fireflight, A Great Night Out and is continuing to work on next month’s 25th anniversary event for The Customs House in South Shields.

The Cultural Spring will extend its reach into six new wards in Phase 3, while continuing to support activities in previous wards where there is still a clear need. During its first two phases, The Cultural Spring focused on 20 wards in each phase – ten in Sunderland and ten in South Tyneside.

Find out more about the Cultural Spring project at www.theculturalspring.org.uk or for the very latest news follow the project on Twitter @Cultural_Spring

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