Arts Award: a partnership approach

I’m Jane; I’m a dark chocolate lover, period drama fan and an arts project manager.  I’m sometimes referred to by people as the Arts Award Lady, and I’m very happy indeed to be known as that.  I love Arts Award, for all sorts of reasons; one of them is getting to know, and work alongside fantastic Advisers.  I’m lucky enough to be an Associate with Blue Cabin, currently working on the Creative Care Home project, amongst other things.  I largely became involved with Blue Cabin due to my role as an Arts Award Trainer, Moderator and Support Lead in the North East; I’d worked previously with the fabulous Director of Blue Cabin, Jenny Young, and she asked me to become involved in Head Heart Hands Darlington with Arts Award.  It was through that project I met the very wonderful Val, from Harewood Hill Lodge.  She’d come to the Arts Award training session for foster carers and residential workers, and absolutely flew, supporting five young people to achieve Arts Award – she is a (very lovely) force.  From that terrific start, and seeing the difference it made, Harewood wanted all their children and young people to have the opportunity to do Arts Award, and so Creative Care Home was born.  In winter last year, with a snowstorm whirling around us, eleven staff and I got to grips with Discover and Explore during an in-house training session.  Since then, 14 children and young people have done Discover, more are on with Explore and a couple are starting their Bronze Awards!

The model we use with Blue Cabin builds in support, and so, I’m on hand via email and phone, and we have support sessions at Harewood, fuelled by tea, chocolate, grapes and flapjack.  I love working alongside Val, and all the new Advisers at Harewood who have leapt right out of their comfort zones and taken Arts Award forward.  It’s fair to say that not everyone was super keen at the start!  It’s a journey for all of us; for me learning more about the realities of day to day life for staff and children and young people at Harewood Hill Lodge; for them learning more about Arts Award and the arts opportunities that are available, and making connections with artists and arts organisations.  We’re sharing our expertise with each other, and building that relationship through creativity. 

Top Tips for a successful partnership approach:

1. Create a framework which is flexible – you need to have structure, but also need to be flexible to respond to and accommodate different needs and situations.

2. Give yourselves time together – to look things over, discuss how things are going, decide on tasks and next steps and problem-solve.

3. Take time to learn about, and understand, your partners ‘world’; it may be they’re working in a different sector with different pressures, their work days/ times might not match yours, access to e.g. emails might be limited etc.  

4. Acknowledge point 3 above, and make sure you’re considering those elements throughout the project; agree the best ways to communicate in between meetings/ sessions, attend wider meetings or any training that might be useful.

5. Be kind to yourselves, and celebrate the work that has been achieved, especially in moments where it might feel difficult, or you recognise difficulties or challenges your partners or the project are facing.

6. Always, always have tea and cake.


The other key partnerships, that I’ve not had time in this blog to mention are, of course, with the wonderful artists and arts organisations and our funders for providing opportunities, activities, visits and inspiration; thank you for helping to make magic happen.