Hearts for the Arts 2022 Shortlist – Claire Starmer

Birmingham City Council's Claire Starmer has been shortlisted for Best Arts Champion - Local Authority or Cultural Trust Worker in the 2022 Hearts for the Arts Awards

As Birmingham City Councils’ Culture Officer, Claire Starmer is involved in the management of grant programmes – from defining aims & outcomes, assessing applications & supporting funded organisations through project delivery to evaluation. She is based in both the culture team and the adult social care team – forging links and connections, and also setting up collaborative work, with the public health department.

Claire has been central to increasing the profile of the arts – and the impact of the arts – across Birmingham City Council, beyond the (small) culture team. Working closely with the Adult Social Care and Public Health departments, and being an active ambassador for the arts’ ability to impact on health & wellbeing outcomes, Claire has encouraged a recognition of the value of arts-based solutions to health & social care objectives. This has led to significant levels of direct commissioning of arts organisations from both Adult Social Care and Public Health departments – as well as more collaboration and dialogue about arts and health work, and the development of an evaluation toolkit.

Claire has helped to pilot and create long term grant opportunities with Social Care funds that sees artists working directly with people most in need. She’s done this by providing colleagues with evidence of the difference that can be made by an alternative approach that improves wellbeing and creates better community structures for care. Claire has successfully demonstrated in one of the most under resourced parts of the council the need to work differently and use that money to better support people. That work has seen the arts now being seen as a valuable and key tool in the social care model and no longer the nice bolt on where there might be some spare cash or others bring funds to the table.

Recently, around the delivery on the Little Amal Birmingham event Claire championed the activity taking place in Erdington rather than the city centre in order to see this enormous international project go to a location where it would engage people much more reflective of the city. Claire understood and had robust internal conversations about budget spent on hospitality and activity for refugee and sanctuary seeking communities rather than VIPs and grand infrastructure. She backed expenditure on a broad team, not all experienced before the project, to support those ideals of diversity. And Claire personally got involved in the day to help people have the best experience.

Claire is an absolute advocate for the arts in all her activity and despite working in a very complex and large local authority keeps finding a way to push forward and keep arts and culture on the agenda for the Council.

What the judges said:

“Integrating arts and culture with social care objectives is one of the holy grails of local government culture teams. Claire has taken a unique opportunity and is making the most of it for her community, making sure that underserved parts of the community are given a chance to participate and shine. Great work!”

 “Claire is clearly a very well-loved and valued colleague which is unsurprising given what she has managed to achieve in her role. It is great to hear how she has elevated the reputation of arts within the City Council and how she has used her experience and expertise to support diversity within the cultural offering, as well as to support groups and organisations during the pandemic.”