Art Packs for Young People

CHILDREN from low-income families in and around Salisbury are being given a way to express their creativity by an arts group, thanks to a coronavirus fund grant.

Wiltshire Creative, which oversees Salisbury’s Playhouse, Arts Centre and International Festival, has been awarded almost £5,000 from the Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund to send out arty activity bags full of material and inspirational ideas to 1,000 families around the city.

The group has lost more than £500,000 in lost ticket sales after having to close down productions in March and cancelling the International Arts Festival. It came on top of a £300,000 loss in sales in 2018 because of the

A Wiltshire Creative team member packing some of the 500 activity packs sent out to low income families in and around Salisbury

shutdown caused by the novichok poisoning.

The bags, containing worksheets and art materials for a whole family, are being put together by Wiltshire Creative’s outreach team to replace holiday activities it was prevented from running by the lockdown.

Director Louise Dancy said concerns about young peoples’ mental health and wellbeing were behind the project. “It has been a consideration for a while for something we’d like to do in order to reach out to those families who aren’t always able to get out, even before lockdown,” she said.

“It is a widely maintained fact that engagement within the arts and culture sector is beneficial for health and wellbeing, especially in young people. It is proven to increase academic attainment, cognitive ability and transferable skills.”

The team is working with Salisbury City Council’s community workers, the Army Welfare Service, St Michael’s Church in Bemerton Heath, outreach teams at The Friary and Salisbury Women’s Refuge to identify families in need.

“By making the most of the relationships we had with such groups, we were able to get the materials into the families’ homes,” said Ms Dancy.

“Many of the families were stuck in flats with no gardens during lockdown and just providing that extra activity felt really important. Even now they are able to go out again, not all of the families are able to afford to do these kinds of activities together, especially as some of them have lost their jobs.”

Already 500 packs have gone out with the city council’s food parcels and via deliveries to the group’s other partners.

“We needed to invest in decent quality activities, which is why the grant from the Wiltshire Community Foundation was so helpful. The bags needed to have everything required for the activities we were suggesting so we couldn’t make the assumption that people would have glue or sticky tape,” said Ms Dancy.

“Our visual arts team put together activities that people might not have done before. Some of the packs had clay with an activity sheet so people could make something, and it would be air-dried so they wouldn’t need a kiln.

“We made sure the activities could be done by all of the family so no one was left out, it was very much all about things that the family could all take part in together.”

She said the feedback from families has been good. “We have been asked for more pre-school activities, which parents are needing more now that their older children have gone back to school,” said Ms Dancy. “ We’ve concentrated on families so far, but we think there may be a need for packs for older people who are shielding this winter.”

Find out more about the arts group at wiltshirecteative.co.uk.

The Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Response Fund has raised more than £1.1 million and distributed more than £900,000 so far in 200 grants to groups tackling the fallout from the pandemic across the county.

To donate to the Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund or to find out how to apply for a grant, go to wiltshirecf.org.uk.

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