A unique project to provide opportunities for thousands of North Essex children and families to get creative, eat a healthy meal and enjoy physical activity has received a £105k cash boost to extend its work.
Since 2017, Firstsite has held a school holiday club in Colchester prioritising children who are in receipt of free school meals. For 5 days a week during school holidays children and families can drop-in to the Gallery and take part in many different types of art such as drawing, painting and sculpting, enjoy movement-based activities like football, dancing or yoga and then have a nutritious hot meal. Each day, an average of 50 meals are served, with over 1,500 served in total. In the last 2 years the project has provided meals to over 250 families in Colchester - representing more than 10% of the families currently living in poverty in the town.
Now, funding from Tendring District Council (£5,411), Arts Council England through an Arts Council National Lottery Project Grant (£14,589), Awards for All (£10,000), and NHS North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (£75,000) will enable Firstsite to run an expanded pilot programme in Colchester and extend it into Tendring, in particular Harwich.
The 2017 Holiday Fun pilot was funded by Arts Council England and from Summer 2018 - Easter 2019 (10 weeks) it was funded by Children in Need.
Firstsite Director Sally Shaw says “The Firstsite Holiday Fun programme was designed to create the perfect day out for a child during school holidays. It combines, art, physical activity and nutritious food to help children stay happy, healthy and creative – fuelling bodies and imaginations in equal measure.”
The powerful contribution the arts can make to our health and wellbeing was firmly established in 2017 with a report by an all-party parliamentary group called Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing. The report, which followed a two–year inquiry, found that the arts can help keep us well, aid recovery and support longer lives, better lived. Crucially, the arts - by helping people live happier and healthier lives – can prevent health and social care problems, and therefore play a key role in preserving vital NHS funds.
Nick Hulme, Chief Executive, East Suffolk and North East NHS Foundation Trust, said “I’m tremendously proud to support Firstsite to deliver its Holiday Fun programme. This incredibly inspiring and innovative programme is the first of its kind in its area. As soon as I heard about what Firstsite was doing, I immediately wanted to offer support - Holiday Fun helps people experience the benefits of art and creativity, healthy eating and exercise, all in one building in Colchester or Tendring. Working with a creative and community-led organisation like Firstsite, means that together we can try completely new things to connect with more people, listen to their needs and help them to make healthier choices. This reduces the risk of long term health issues and ultimately helps our community live well together.”
Dr Ed Garratt, interim Accountable Officer for North East Essex CCG said “I am really proud that NEE CCG has supported the Firstsite School Hunger project. Working collaboratively and creatively together means we can fund food and fitness for kids and their families who most need our help. We know, by helping people live happier, creative, healthy lives – we can prevent health and social care problems, and make vital NHS funds go even further. This project is evidence of the long lasting impact thinking differently, and working together can have on our children’s health and futures.”
This funding boost also means the introduction of term time sessions in Colchester and Harwich for parents who would benefit from creative activities specifically designed to improve wellbeing and develop employability skills. Childcare is provided, allowing parents to take part in the art sessions which will focus around the employability skills of communication, team-working, problem-solving, self-belief and self-management. The families will then all come together for lunch. Each art session will be designed by artist susan pui san lok as an extension of her recent exhibition at Firstsite, A COVEN A GROVE A STAND which explored of the persecution and suffering of women during the Essex witch trials. The art sessions will continue susan pui san lok’s study of contemporary issues, also examined in the exhibition, which include gender inequality.
Ewan Green, Corporate Director for Regeneration and Planning at Tendring District Council, said “Firstsite’s Holiday Fun has had great results already, and I am really pleased to see it coming to Harwich - it is a great display of how our developing arts and cultural projects can make a difference in Tendring. This has come about because of our excellent relationship with Firstsite, and this partnership combined with our early offer of match-funding to the project was the key to getting other investment from organisations including Arts Council England and the North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group.”
Hedley Swain, Area Director, South East, Arts Council England, said “I’m really proud that we’re able to help Firstsite extend its Holiday Fun programme to support the health, wellbeing and creativity of more children in North Essex. The combination of funding by ourselves, Tendring District Council, NHS North East Essex Clinical Commission Group and Awards for All makes a powerful statement about the positive impact that arts, culture and creativity can, and does, have on people’s lives.”
Sally Shaw again, “We very much hope this is just the start of something much bigger. We are currently seeking funding to build on this pilot programme and increase our offer over the coming years. 2021 marks Firstsite’s 10th anniversary and at that point we are hoping to announce a new vision for the Gallery that will be inspired by the outcomes and learnings from Holiday Fun.”