Andy Dawson works as Service Manager at Inspire Youth Arts, which was launched, and is part-funded, by Nottinghamshire County Council. He is responsible for strategic planning and securing funds to deliver fantastic creative journeys for young people across Nottinghamshire. Andy’s key tasks include securing funding, networking to establish vital partnerships, overseeing around 40 arts projects, supporting staff to deliver those projects, budget management and developing and maintaining Inspire’s building as a community resource – which now hosts a 100-seat black box theatre and professionally equipped recording studio, along with rehearsal spaces. Andy’s main focusses are around dance, music and digital art. He also manages Inspire’s own record label.
Andy is often a lone voice of arts advocacy in senior management meetings. Despite this, he continues to secure funding by providing data and real stories of young people who have found their place in life through their art-work. He works tirelessly to remove barriers to participation, taking the projects directly to the young people as well as hosting projects in Inspire’s building.
The extraordinary work created by the team under Andy’s lead has raised the profile of the arts locally and nationally. Andy’s ambitious approach has enabled the development of nationally significant projects: Inspire’s Able Orchestra has performed with the Halle Orchestra, the BBC Philharmonic and at the Royal Albert Hall. This project involves Andy supporting and organising for a group of physically disabled young people to travel to and perform in London and Manchester, with his constantly can-do approach.
Other recent projects include: working with the Youth Criminal Justice System to deliver a photography project and hosting the launch of and the exhibition of the photographs. This enabled a group of young women to express their concerns and fears for their area. The project attracted the attention of the town mayor who committed to doing something about their concerns. Andy also worked with a group of homeless young people and has provided an arts strategy for a local Special Educational Needs College. He also encouraged a partner organisation to work with an estate in Mansfield which is a particularly vulnerable area. After his advocacy, they delivered a project there, giving adults and young people the opportunity to experience the arts and to come together as a community.
During Covid-19, Andy transferred project delivery online. He wanted to provide young people with an outlet and some aspect of normality. He supported tutors in their development of new skills to make this happen.
Many of Inspire’s young people, lots of whom felt hopeless at the beginning of their journey with the youth arts programme, have gone on to higher education in the arts and/or have secured work in an arts setting, both in the UK and abroad. Some of them now freelance for Inspire. One of the impacts Andy has secured over his 20 years of work is that no one ever wants to leave Inspire Youth Arts.
I love Andy’s passion for providing arts services to disadvantaged young people. As someone who desperately wanted to be a performer, but was discouraged – because of my disability - by many adults, I can see the huge importance of someone like Andy, who strongly believes in the power of art to heal, inspire, and help process difficult experiences. His long career and the wide-ranging nature of his projects is wonderful, and demonstrates a deep dedication to working with young people of all backgrounds. Andy has clearly transformed many lives for the better."
Effective advocacy for the arts is so important, and it’s fantastic to hear about people like Andy who are clearly so good and so passionate about what they do. It takes a lot of hard work and the right personality to connect to such a broad range of community members, and the results (as Andy has shown) are incredibly valuable."
The breadth and quality of Andy’s work must be exceptional when you consider some of the partners he has engaged. Playing with BBC Philharmonic and the Halle Orchestra at The Albert Hall is an extraordinary feat in and of itself but the real magic is what he’s gifting the players and his community- the ambition and permission to dream big because that sort of art, considered elite by many, is often exclusive, but not according to Andy. That is very special. In addition to advocating for individuals with special needs to be included. I attended an inclusivity workshop at The Globe where the facilitator opened with ‘no one is born disabled, society disables them’- to work across as many organisations as listed here and to secure the resources that facilitated performances in both London and Manchester is the work of a champion because putting that into practise is often met by roadblocks you didn’t even envisage. I love what Andy is doing and has done. A gift to any community but to the young people of Nottinghamshire, he has expanded their worldview by including them in the conversation and showing them possibilities beyond their borders."
It’s impossible not to be impressed by Andy’s many achievements but particularly his work with the Able Orchestra and his skills empowering his team to work independently and create projects that have such a wide impact."
Nice one Andy. It sounds like you are running a creative kingdom with open arms for young folk and people who don’t have the means. I especially like the focus on recording music, which is a daunting thing to tackle if you are inexperienced and don’t have the facility . It feels like you’re really getting in there, one-to-one, and helping people create from the ground up."
Andy Dawson clearly is a resourceful and passionate arts leader that drives change through arts and culture for young people and those most in need."
To quote RATATOUILLE, ‘Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.’ Andy Dawson clearly believes this, and he backs it up with data and personal stories of how art and creativity can transform people's lives, no matter who they are and where they're from. The sort of producer you'd love to have in your trench in a big fight, Andy's tenacity and good-humour shine through this nomination. What a wonderful champion of people, especially young people, in Nottinghamshire. Look after him."
Andy is a powerhouse, leading a small team which has a massive impact. He has built partnerships, inspired his team and the people they work with, and ensured culture has a real voice in the larger organisation"
Wow! Andy is outstanding. His work for young people and the arts in Nottinghamshire is far reaching. He is evidently a tireless campaigner for the arts and his positive attitude and big picture approach has led to significant impact in many areas. His dedication to continuing to support the artists he works with throughout the pandemic is commendable."