Groundbreaking arts engagement project announced in Leeds

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Over 40 arts organisations and community groups and arts organisations have joined to form Arts Together Leeds, the first arts engagement project of its kind in the UK.

The new consortium aims to make it easier for community groups to become actively engaged with visual arts, music and live performance in Leeds and the surrounding area while also facilitating the exchange of expertise, skills and resources between the city’s arts and community organisations.

The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation has donated £120,000 to the project over the next three years. Breaking down social and cultural barriers is a key aim of the project and the Esmée Fairbairn grant will help to establish ‘a more integrated and accessible arts offering for people who often encounter barriers to becoming involved with cultural activities’.

David Holmes from Making Space, a mental health befriending service, said:

‘The Making Space Theatre Group thoroughly love all performances that they go to see. Some of them live solitary lives, and the group gives them a chance to see productions they otherwise couldn’t attend either through lack of someone to go with or as it is often outside their financial scope, but they all agree that making theatre shows affordable to them has enriched their lives and gives them the extra confidence to mix with other people. They would love to be able to engage with other arts organisations and have greeted this project with great enthusiasm.’

Future plans include regular networking opportunities and a website and newsletter which will be developed later in the year to gather together the city’s arts-based activities in one easy-to-access place. There will also be a more co-ordinated approach to events such as Refugee Week.

Hannah Vallis, Programme Manager at East Street Arts, said:

‘We are excited to be a part of this citywide network and continue to explore how our work can reach new audiences. Through the project, we hope to collaborate with other organisations and develop innovative ways to share culture in Leeds.’

Ruth Hannant, Head of Creative Engagement at Leeds Playhouse, added:

‘We believe Arts Together’s coordinated and consistent approach to signposting and supporting access to cultural venues and events across the city will be of enormous benefit to the communities we work with. It supports our deep-held commitment to enabling people to increase their understanding, confidence and capacity to engage, and to build real cultural capital which enriches their lives.’

Arts Together currently comprises 5Ways, the Arts Development Team at Leeds City CouncilArtformsArts & Minds NetworkBAME HubBHI – Black Music FestivalBIASANThe Bridge, Caring for LifeCloth CatEast Street ArtsFeel Good FactorHOPSLeeds College of MusicLeeds Festival ChorusLeeds Grand TheatreLeeds InspiredLeeds Irish Health and HomesLeeds PlayhouseLeeds Refugee ForumLeft Bank LeedsLittle London ArtsLive Well LeedsLS14 TrustMeeting Point, Meeting Point Connect Project, Northern BalletOpen Source Arts, Opera North, People in ActionRed Ladder Theatre CompanyRETASRipon HouseSAA-ukSlung LowThe TetleyThe Theatre Company Blah Blah BlahVISCYorkshire Dance, and the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle (Henry Moore InstituteThe Hepworth WakefieldLeeds Art Gallery and Yorkshire Sculpture Park).


The Arts Together project welcomes applications from any arts organisations or community groups based in or around Leeds. Further information is available from madeleine.thorne@operanorth.co.uk.

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