The Cultural Springs: How the arts have brought the community closer together during lockdown

The past few days have seen a storm of controversy around apparent Government ‘contempt’ for the UK’s arts and creative industries (A&CI).
First, Chancellor Rishi Sunak provoked anger with comments which, while mis-reported, created the perception that ministers saw careers in A&CI as somehow ‘disposable’.
But then came a government advert which said in these hard Covid times, creatives like the ballerina in the ad (that’s her above) should abandon their careers for more ‘conventional’ work – like ‘cyber’.
The outcry against this apparently flippant dismissal of creative careers has been wide and furious.
Since SR News is based in the University of Sunderland’s Faculty of Arts & Creative Industries, we decided to explore the controversy through the eyes of those directly involved here in the North East.
Today, Alethea Farline spoke with Emma Horsman from Cultural Spring, who recently received a grant from the government so they can continue to operate. 
The Cultural Spring has helped the arts to thrive in the North East since it was founded in 2014

SUNDERLAND based, The Cultural Spring, have been delivering creative packs to families and individuals in isolation since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The organisation, and its partner agencies, have delivered over 800 packs to those in need across Sunderland and South Tyneside.

The Project Director, Emma Horsman, said: “We’re just trying to do what we can as well as encouraging people to get in involved on their own terms in their own space.”

Creative boxes are free and include everything needed to complete the project, with activities ranging from making lamps, needle felt work, or making a key ring.

The organisation has asked for artists to get involved and create boxes that appeal to diverse communities.

Mrs. Horsman said: “We got different responses and people thinking differently how to reach out to diverse communities. Rather than give packs all the same we have a more diverse offer.

“You want to offer something that resonates with them rather than something that doesn’t.”

Participants have ranged from families with young children to families with parents in care homes. Packs have included activities for men designed by male artists, for those who are isolating alone.

The Cultural Spring secured further funding from the Arts Council, and are now financed until 2023.

There has been concern about the arts industry and the impact that Covid-19 has had on the arts and cultural sector. In response, the government has recently announced a £1.57 billion investment package for the arts sector.

Mrs. Horsman said: “I think it’s great that there is funding coming through but my particular worries are for the freelance workers.

“There’s been a lot of recognition about the value the arts have. It’s a huge sector for the UK and the arts are known to have the power to regenerate communities.”

The Cultural Spring is a project to get more people in Sunderland and South Tyneside to experience and be inspired by the arts. Before the pandemic, activities ranged from workshops and events.

However, the pandemic has forced the organisation to change the way it works and has been continuing workshops online.

Mrs Horsman said: “Hopefully when we’re in a position face to face and having our workshops back it would be great if people got to have a workshop with the artist. It’s about connecting.”

For the Cultural Spring, the arts are more than providing activities to pass the time during lockdown. It’s about connecting and providing a sense of community through these unprecedented and uncertain times.

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