Llimehurst Arts © Alan Hamer
Llimehurst Arts © Alan Hamer

Hearts for the Arts Shortlist: Oldham Council, The Limehurst Arts Society

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

Limehurst Village is one of Oldham’s most deprived wards, with significant economic and social issues including high levels of benefit dependency, poor health, and a very high number of young parents – and low engagement in the arts and culture. Led by Oldham Council’s Arts Development team in partnership with social landlord Regenda and residents, the Limehurst Arts Society is an ambitious project aiming to integrate art into the fabric of the community through a sustained programme and new model for grass roots activity.

Since April 2016, 1,079 residents have engaged with initiatives, with additional audiences of around 19,000 people. International street artists and professional theatre makers have animated streets and public spaces, opening up the programme to the whole community and building relationships with residents who may never have engaged before. A quarterly arts newspaper, created by artists working with society members, is delivered to every house on the estate. Further strands of activity are aimed at raising aspirations and providing skills development. An accredited training course is being delivered to enable residents to run arts workshops with schools and community groups, and ongoing personal development support runs alongside this.

Support for the local economy is being delivered through formation of the Limehurst Craft Enterprise, with the long-term plan of establishing a self-sustaining social enterprise for local artists and makers, gradually introducing “membership fees” matched by small and gradually decreasing amounts of funding from partners, as the membership model becomes embedded.

The project is a key strand in Regenda’s commitment to transform the lives of local residents. It is the first time they have commissioned arts on this scale and a significant development from the small one-off arts projects of the past. Regenda managed properties across the North West and has the potential to become a major commissioner of socially-engaged arts work.

What the judges had to say:

AL Kennedy, comedian and writer: “This is a good example of public and private involvement with genuine efforts at community integration.”