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Hearts for the Arts Shortlist: Colette O’Brien, Liverpool City Council

Shortlisted in the inaugural National Campaign for the Arts/What Next? Hearts for the Arts Awards 2017 for Best Local Authority Arts Champion – Officer.

Colette O’Brien, Director of Children and Young People’s Services at Liverpool City Council, champions the right of every child and young person to experience the art and culture. She is determined that every child and young person in Liverpool will access a minimum of five cultural and arts experiences at every key stage of their education, and communicates this aim strongly to schools and arts partners.

As chair of the Liverpool Cultural Education Partnership she has moved arts up the agenda both within the Council and outside. She is supporting a local strategy that is joining up to do more to include all children and young people in the arts, no matter what their background. This partnership spans local authority children’s services and culture departments, school improvement services and Head teacher associations, the arts and cultural sector including museums and heritage, Arts Council, the local music hub and Curious Minds, the Bridge organisation for the North West.

Colette’s positive relationship with head teachers and other professionals, and the respect and loyalty she inspires, is helping professionals to drive forward a cultural strategy for Liverpool’s children and young people, in practical and meaningful ways

This is having an impact on the number of partnership schools are developing with arts organisations and on learning outcomes for children and young people. For example, the work of Aerial Trust in creating a film to raise children’s and young people’s awareness of Child Sexual Exploitation; the Everyman Theatre’s work with Youth Offending Team and with Looked After Children; TATE Liverpool’s partnership with two Liverpool secondaries focusing on mental health and wellbeing; and the work that DaDafest is developing with Special Schools that is raising confidence, self-esteem and skills.

Colette’s intervention and leadership has led to positive change in Liverpool’s communities – an openness and trust and willingness to share resources and collaborate, and an increase in the numbers of children and young people accessing art and culture.

What the judges had to say:

Deborah Bull, former Royal Ballet Principal Dancer: “Colette’s ability to bring people together and the trust and engagement she inspires is making a huge difference to young people locally and impacting positively on issues way beyond arts and culture, such as mental health and youth offending.”