This year has been particularly tough on those reliant on face to face community arts services. Extraordinary Bodies’ Connecting Communities is filling the gaps that Covid-19 has exposed. The project links groups across the country in a shared, digital experience of creativity, performance and artistic leadership.
Since October, our creative team has been working with diverse community groups where in-person work has become a near-impossibility. Funky Llama and Our Space in Plymouth, Skylight in Rochdale and Extraordinary Bodies Young Artists in Poole support between them a range of elders, adults and young people with extraordinary talents.
A cultural emergency
The National Lottery’s Emergency Fund funds Connecting Communities, because that’s what we consider this to be: an emergency. Progress in social justice is achingly slow, and the hard-won steps we have all fought for are in danger of slipping away. Society must refuse to let that happen. Not only that, but we cannot settle for our previous achievments. We must take this moment as an opportunity to at last shape the arts world the way it should be: as truly fair and representative. Cultural recovery must include communities that might otherwise be left behind. They are key to shaping a new, better, arts world.
Our Co-Artistic director Jamie put it this way back in September:
“This is a one-off opportunity to build back inclusively, nurture the expertise of those with lifetimes of problem-solving and negotiating barriers and ensure public subsidy equates to public benefit… The arts have an opportunity to create a radical blueprint for this and initiate the changes needed to survive and flourish. We are at a crossroads.”
Reshaping the arts
Part of change is ensuring that people who have been marginalised people have a voice at the table. That they speak and are not merely spoken about. Our Unexpected Leaders programme identifies, coaches and places in positions of influence a wide variety of people you might not usually see in a boardroom. Connecting Communitiesis one of the ways our Unexpected Leaders can become confident advocates for their communities and take up positions with lasting influence on policy and programming.
We’re excited to share what comes from Connecting Communities creatively. We’re even more excited about the opportunity it gives for genuine, long-lasting change in those areas. As the world starts to get back on its feet, equal representation cannot be an add-on, but must instead be the thread that runs through all systems – from boardrooms, to grassroots projects.
Many thanks to the National Lottery for making this possible, and to the amazing people who are sharing their stories, challenging our expectations and playing a vital role into the cultural recovery.