I am thrilled to share with you the news that Collingwood Learning has been awarded a grant by the Arts Council, from the DCMS Cultural Recovery Fund. This is a huge boost to our organisation and that of our partners around the world. For me personally, it is a big endorsement of our mission to use participatory arts as a learning tool.

Like many cultural and arts organisations, Collingwood’s live work in the UK and beyond has been temporarily curtailed by Covid-19. I say ‘temporarily’ as it is our long-term commitment to return to live work in schools and community settings. However, from the moment we had to shut down our tours last March, everyone here at Collingwood has been working to develop alternative means of engaging young people artistically and educationally.

It has been and continues to be tough. Pivoting an entire creative offer that reaches hundreds of thousands of young people a year across twenty odd countries, not to mention other projects here in the UK, has been quite a task. Engaging new technological partners, adapting policy and procedure, new facilities, developing skills sets, new writing, casting, filming, project plans, contracting, the list goes on! Above all was a need as a team to think differently about our work and immediately embrace new approaches.

In March and April we threw ourselves in at the deep end and by January we will have surfaced with a creative offer that includes an online version of Smashed – our flagship touring programme – that will be translated and adapted into a dozen country-specific versions around the world. Vented, a new UK storytelling e-learning platform will engage thousands of young people across the UK on social issues (much needed right now!). We will also have piloted a virtual live touring model, once again enabling us to bring live work to young people. Plus, the future of our award-winning Real Safeguarding Stories programme is secured.

There’s been a lot of noise lately about the value of the arts, both to the economy in the UK and as a vital component of our well-being as a nation. I can’t place any industry, job, or career above another. But what I can say is that thanks to this grant we are committed to both of those objectives and feel proud to be identified as an organisation that can.

Thanks to Arts Council England and DCMS for creating the fund and supporting us at this critical time. My thanks also to Lindsay, Katie, Katy, Lee, Jim, and Matt, along with the amazing freelance performers, our new e-learning friends, our loyal sponsors, our amazing international theatre partners, Kirklees Council, the other willing lenders of time and ideas that have kept us innovating!

Chris Simes
Managing Director, Collingwood Learning