Jane Wells shares how First Art’s wide range of opportunities for engagement helped members of Bolsover Poetry Group transition from grassroots participants to commissioners and performers.
First Art is a partnership that links cultural and community organisations working within the former coalfields of North East Derbyshire and North East Nottinghamshire.
It is a Creative People and Places project, funded by Arts Council England from 2014 - 2017 to increase arts engagement.
Since 2014, we have worked with members of the Bolsover Poetry Group to connect with our community and build meaningful engagement.
By listening and responding to their needs and interests, we have overcome the group’s initial scepticism about working with us and developed powerful advocates for the arts.
“We’ve been here before”
“Folks like them come and go”
“We’re not used to people like you coming to talk to people like us”
“People don’t usually bother about places like Bolsover”
“But... you proved us wrong!”
One of the first things First Art delivered was a series of community consultation events around the local area. The purpose was to meet local people, to raise awareness of First Art and to begin the process of involving the community in developing our strands of work.
The Bolsover event took place in early 2015 and we identified and invited key community players with the ambition that they would become our ‘Community Connectors’. It was a way for us to effectively plug into local people, get their views, spread the word and encourage contributions and engagement.
Several members of Bolsover Poetry Group attended that first meeting and made lively and valuable contributions that informed how we went on to work in Bolsover.
Following the group’s initial feedback that “folks like them come and go”, it was important to maintain communication after the consultation.
We encouraged people to sign up to our newsletter to keep up to date with what we were doing. The Bolsover Poetry Group continued to keep in touch with us in that way, which enabled us to build our relationship with them and make them aware of opportunities.
The Bolsover Poetry Group had previously been on a trip to Chesterfield Library to see poet Matt Black at an event to close his Derbyshire Laureateship.
First Art commissioned Matt Black to write poetry inspired by the local area and he performed at the consultation event. That gave members of the poetry group the opportunity to reconnect with him and they also kept in touch.
Download the full case study to read on:
Building trust and a ladder of arts engagement (PDF)