Nurturing Creative Partnerships in Lockdown

Nurturing Creative Partnerships in Lockdown

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Every challenge offers opportunity to grow. Head of Drama at Stockport Grammar School, Matt King-Sayce, seized this at the start of Lockdown#1 and has been working hard to develop new and existing cultural partnerships for his school through the last few months. Here he reflects on the positives inherent in pursuing partnerships.
“Lockdown was a wonderful time”, said nobody in the arts and culture sector, ever.
Let me paint a picture; it was early spring 2020 and I had been at my new school for about half an academic year.

I was on track to launch our Arts Award delivery, a few months into my school’s first Artsmark journey, and I’d been involved in setting up and hosting my Local Cultural Education Partnership (LCEP). I had also presented to Curious Minds’ CASE fellows about how they could align their work more closely to the needs of school and had led a series of sessions for middle and senior school leaders about how to embed creativity across the curriculum, following some work I had done with Robert Meadows and the Philip Barker Centre for Creative Learning.

I was certainly busy but, for the first time in years, I was loving working with so many creative partners. Then came Monday 23rd March and everything came to a grinding halt.

Lockdown was a learning curve for us all; affecting all aspects of our lives. As we navigated a void which led straight into the unknown, it would have been easy to park all of these partnerships for the time being, with the view to resuming them when life returned to normal. However, I decided to take a different approach and use this time to proactively develop and extend these partnerships.

What started out as me reaching out to share my experiences and resources with others, quickly turned into something else. I found myself reaching out to virtual communities to share ideas and resources. This lead on to an approach from a publisher with a request to write a review for a new textbook and also being asked to become a mentor for the delivery of GCSE and A Level Drama via Facebook. In addition to this, I was given the opportunity to work beyond my role at my school and connect with school leaders from around the world, in countries as distant as India and Australia, to discuss how to engage and lead staff through these challenging times. Closer to home, I became part of a focus group with the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, meeting via Zoom to discuss possibilities for live and live-streamed theatre performances during lockdown and beyond.
Having been through the process several times before, I felt confident to continue to work towards my school achieving Artsmark, and was able to use my experience to support another arts leader from a school I had worked with in a previous role with their journey and Statement of Commitment.

One partnership that absolutely flourished during lockdown was with Stockport College. This partnership is extra special, as the college is an important member of our LCEP and I worked with Teresa Baggaley, from Curious Minds to develop and strengthen our ties.
Stockport College is keen to use arts and culture to develop their students’ experiences on their Level 3 Construction courses. They are using Arts Award as a catalyst to drive this change. As an experienced Arts Award Advisor, I have been able to support key members of staff at the college through the initial application stages and training to become Advisors themselves. This is a role I am passionate about and, along with Teresa, I will be supporting the College staff through their training to their first moderation of the qualification. This partnership also been valuable for my school, Stockport Grammar. As part of Stockport College’s cultural partnership network, further links between our two organisations are developing. Excitingly, we will be contributing significantly to the 'MacFest' - a festival which celebrates Muslim culture and heritage - which Stockport college is hosting in March 2021. In this work, I am focused on making the impact of this festival transcend beyond those who identify as traditionally Muslim, inspiring the wider community.

It is without doubt that the past year has been a less than prosperous time for the cultural sector, and its effects will be felt for a long while. On reflection, though, the work I have been able to undertake with like-minded individuals has been like a beacon of light in rough seas. We have all worked hard, continuing to strengthen partnerships and working towards our common objective of engaging more young people in arts and culture. This is something, at least, to celebrate.
Curious Minds is currently in the process of scoping and setting up a Local Cultural Education Partnership in the Stockport area. The first meeting will take place on Thursday 25th February, 10:00 am to 12:30pm, and is open to all interested parties. This meeting will look at the regional and national picture for LCEP’s and the processes in place to develop this partnership.

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