Rachel Wood © Alan Hamer
Rachel Wood © Alan Hamer

Hearts for the Arts Winner: Rachel Wood, Oldham Borough Council

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

Rachel has worked for Oldham Council for over 20 years, starting as a box office assistant and rising through the ranks from Assistant Arts Officer, secondment to the delivery of two European funded projects, to her current role as Arts Development Officer.

With strong local knowledge and great communication skills, Rachel is aware of and responsive to the needs and aspirations of her communities, partners and local artists. She works in a collaborative manner to devise and deliver programmes of work which reach across communities and which deliver impact for people of all ages and abilities.  The quality and success of her work on the European Regional Development Funded Carnival Arts project, working on a skills development programme with women from priority neighbourhoods, was recognised with Oldham Partnership’s receipt of the Award for Sustainable Communities for Arts Participation in 2007.

For over fifteen years, Rachel has developed Oldham Council’s in-house theatre company for people with learning disabilities. Chrysalis meets weekly and works with a range of artists to create performance pieces which are showcased locally. In 2012 their project “A Star Supper’, which toured to local primary schools, received an Inspire Mark as part of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad programme.

In the past year Rachel has worked on community initiatives including, for example, the Limehurst Arts Society, a new model for delivering grassroots community arts in partnership with Regenda Housing and the Chapatti and Chat project with Oldham’s Public Health team and the CHAI women’s group. This latter project aimed to raise awareness and educate in the prevention of diabetes in adults from South Asian communities through the development and production of a healthy cookbook inspired by traditional Pakistani and Bangladeshi recipes.

She has worked closely with Gallery Oldham on the development of their highly successful Early Years programme, Go Baby!, engaging with parents and babies from across Oldham’s diverse communities.  An experienced events manager, Rachel recently faced her biggest challenge to date when tasked with developing and delivering the opening spectacle for Oldham’s new cinema in the restored and iconic listed Town Hall building. ‘On the Shoulders of Giants’ involved Rachel working across the whole Council, with Senior Leadership, Odeon cinemas Senior Management and a range of local partners including Oldham Theatre Workshop to deliver a fantastic spectacle for the people of Oldham to celebrate this momentous occasion. She worked tirelessly, cheerfully and with an unerring professionalism.

What the judges had to say:

AL Kennedy, comedian and writer: “Rachel has shown long term commitment to arts activity, running a number of programmes in key areas with intelligent strategy and success.”