Waltham Forest’s Lorna Lee, 2018 HFTA Winner of Best Arts Champion – Officer writes:
Winning the Hearts for the Arts award as Local Authority Champion in 2018 marked a key moment in the continuing development of culture in Waltham Forest- a journey that began with the successful transformation of the William Morris Gallery from a little known niche museum into a thriving culture hub and continues apace as we move forwards having delivered an amazing year as the very first London Borough of Culture in 2019.
It was 2017, when I called in to see my Director expecting to discuss some of the details of a forthcoming festival, but was surprised when she told me, not only that the council had put my name forwards for a Hearts for the Arts award, but that I’d been shortlisted as local authority Arts Champion! Previous years had seen some step changes for culture in Waltham Forest, with the refurbishment of the William Morris Gallery and development of a borough wide arts programme, and it was great to see the impact this had made.
So you can imagine my delight when I received the news that I had been selected as the winner of the Hearts for the Arts award – from such a strong field of candidates. The personal recognition gave me a real sense of achievement and motivated me to drive ambitions further – as did the many messages of congratulations from partners, councillors and the local creative sector. However, the award also highlighted recognition of how the incremental changes to our cultural landscape had initiated a growing belief of the power of culture to change lives. It was a real boost for everyone involved, in the council and in the community.
2018 was going to be a busy year; the Hearts for the Arts award in January was swiftly followed by a further announcement – this time in City Hall, as the Mayor of London declared Waltham Forest as the first London Borough of Culture. Waltham Forest and its creative community, residents and schools came together to create a compelling bid – building on the networks and relationships which had been created over the years. With less than 10 months, we had to start to make the narrative come to life, through a year-long programme working with our diverse communities to tell the unique and authentic stories of our place in north east London. The Hearts for the Arts award brought new opportunities to develop networks and key partnerships- perfectly timed as we embarked on our most ambitious culture programme yet.
And what a year 2019 proved to be, with:
- over 1000 activities and events delivered
- communities, families and creatives engaged in every area of the borough
- every school in the borough participating
- over 6,600 hours of volunteer time to support events and activities
- 100 disadvantaged young people developing skills for a creative career
- plans to create a sustainable and vibrant legacy
The Hearts for the Arts award has been the start of an amazing period of cultural growth in Waltham Forest, and marks the important role that a local authority plays to empower and enable communities to come together and flourish through culture.
Kirklees Council’s Kirstie Wilson, 2019 HFTA winner of Best Arts Champion – Officer writes:
Winning the Hearts for the Arts award last year has been celebrated by our library service, Council, arts community and profession. And it’s an award that celebrates all of the fantastic work that our staff and volunteers do.
We know that we have developed an innovative, creative, community-focused library service in Kirklees, but it is heartening for the whole service to feel that others can see this too. Our confidence level has been raised and our plans continue to rise too.
I think the easiest way to show what I’ve been working on since winning the award would be to describe the last couple of days at work (although I’ve just had my appraisal and do have a comprehensive list to hand!).
I’ve been meeting with staff across our service to shape our plans for the Tour de Yorkshire (one of the stages finishes in Huddersfield on 2nd May). Bikes in every shape and size, art, performance, storytelling, music, book & local history displays, up’cycling’ – if you can name it, then it’s on our list.
While I was typing up our bike-related plans, 2 of our librarian team returned laden with resources. I’ve been working with the Lawrence Batley Theatre to create new opportunities and exciting joint projects. Our librarian team had just finished running ‘Zing’ – a series of successful sensory storytelling sessions at the LBT, helping to provide interest in the theatre outside of performances and create new audiences for us both. We’ve sent in a funding bid together and we were able to showcase Kirklees Libraries’ experience and commitment to the arts through my lovely Hearts for the Arts award.
Through our work with the LBT we’ve got Opera North visiting Dewsbury Library in a fortnight to do a whistle-stop version of the Marriage of Figaro. We’re all really excited about this one, local staff have run with the idea and their enthusiasm is infectious. So I had to finish off a last bit of planning, including the all-important topic of treats for the green room.
Then I updated the plans for our Pageturners Children’s Reading Festival – we’ve got a fab line-up of children’s authors and storytellers. We always like to have a good mix of authors – new, established, local and new to the area – and we’re well on our way.
After that I nipped over to Harrogate to hear more about the plans for Make Music Day, and came back armed with suggestions for our staff and volunteers across Kirklees.
Next day dawned and I was off to the Young Parents’ Network meeting run by Homestart. The network is organising ‘The Voice of Young Parents’ conference, and the meeting looked at shaping the timeline and guest list. It’s going to be a good one, featuring the voices of young people throughout the day.
Then I was off to a meeting with a member of the Kirklees Year of Music Team (our Year of Music will be in 2023, but plans and activity have already started – we’ve got pianos in 2 of our libraries and hoping for more over this yearJ) and a colleague from the Early Outcomes team. We’re working on projects focussing on music and rhyme for families with young children. Filming starts next week for our Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes project (local families will be filmed singing the rhyme in community languages spoken across Kirklees).
Back at my desk and I’ve got an e-mail with a possible gig date from Stewart Parsons who runs the Get it Loud in Libraries programme. We love being one of the Get it Loud libraries – Sunday matinees are our speciality – if you haven’t seen a gig in a library check out their website, it has to be done – a unique and safe space, fantastic acoustics, surrounded by books – what could be better!
Almost finished, but only after a phone call with a new theatre company who I’ve now booked for the Pageturners line-up.
Two randomly chosen days, but it will hopefully give you a taste of what I’ve been doing this year.
Kirklees Libraries are shiny and fab, and while we do lots of fantastic work for our local communities, we are just one example of what you can expect to find happening in every library service across the country. If you’ve never considered working with a library before, or considered them but decided they wouldn’t be interested or unable to work with you, then I’d urge you to think again. We’re already at the heart of your community and we’ll happily be the heart for your local arts offer as well.