Members of Ipswich Community Media CIC's "South Street Kids" project

Ipswich Community Media CIC and their two-year project South Street Kids runs weekly creative workshops in arts, music and media specifically designed for and by young people living in Westgate Ward in the centre of Ipswich. Children and young people from the local diverse communities including Roma, Polish, Portuguese and Lithuanian come together to build social connections within the project and beyond into the wider community.

The arts are hugely important to the project, and before the pandemic, the project would focus on taking young people to creative spaces they perhaps normally wouldn’t experience such as theatres, dance performances and more. The funding from the Trust meant they could provide subsidised tickets so young people could experience Museums, exhibitions and art galleries. The funding also meant the project could provide tablets for their members who didn’t own the technology in order to experience online sessions during the pandemic, addressing the digital divide between those who can afford technology and the internet, and those who cannot, a gap only exacerbated by the pandemic.

Undeterred by the pandemic, the project quickly moved their sessions online and have found great success in the freedom online sessions has allowed them. The project is still securing visits from actors, artists and singers, who facilitate a practical session in their particular skill for the members before taking part in a question and answer session. Recently, they even had Natty Speaks, an artist, perform for the members from his home in Mexico as well as Grace Savage, the female UK beatboxing champion.

Many people in the creative industries have struggled during the pandemic as most theatre, film sets, galleries, dance halls and other performative spaces have had to close due to the government restrictions and measures. This extended closure adds a real danger of exacerbating the inequalities facing people in the creative arts, as many people who come from lower socio-economic backgrounds have lost work and may be unable to stay in the creative industries, as they have been unable to rely on savings or family support.

There is also a danger of the lasting effects of the pandemic making the creative industry inaccessible for people of lower socio-economic backgrounds in the future, as the pandemic’s effect on the industry will likely cause less opportunities, reduced pay and a wider class divide as only those from wealthier backgrounds will be become financially able to pursue a career in the arts.

Cad Taylor, project coordinator said, “I feel very passionately that art and music can be seen as exclusive, particularly musical forms such as classical music. It can seem like something that if you haven’t had a lucky cultural start, you’d never be able to be part of ever again. So, we take it as a very serious duty to make it accessible for our members. More than ever, it’s up to us to give a beautiful, enriching, joyful experience of arts.”

Laura Norman, project coordinator said, “We know that theatre and art reflect back to us our stories and lives. It reflects a rich cultural make up of who we are as people. It’s really important we keep that going and keep questioning who we are. But the arts also changes people’s lives, not just making people actors, but allows people to think and work creatively across all industries, and thinking creatively about the world.”

Ipswich Community Media CIC and their project South Street Kids is funded through the Trust’s Active Communities programme, with money raised by Health Lottery East.

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