Creative Citizens Programme, Mid & East Antrim

Mid & East Antrim Borough Council – The Creative Citizens Programme

Shortlisted in the 2018 Hearts for the Arts Awards for Best Local Authority Arts Project Encouraging Community Cohesion.

In 2015 the Arts Service of Mid & East Antrim Borough Council decided to take a new approach to programme delivery. Instead of direct Arts programming the team decided to put a call out to local people in the Borough to show off their creativity and ask them what they are doing that’s creative!

Over 150 events were happening, and over 50 local groups came forward to partner on the programme. The team’s assumptions and beliefs about cultural participation and infrastructure were totally challenged and the new Creative Citizens Programme was born.

As a result, the staff have become more enthusiastic and feel better equipped to engage more openly and directly with the artistic, creative and cultural interests of local residents. This change in perception has impacted the way they are further developing their practice to promote and develop arts and cultural participation in the Borough.

A new partnership was developed through the Creative Citizens programme between Queen’s University Belfast , Voluntary Arts Ireland, and Mid and East Antrim Borough Council’s Arts Service with each partner coming together with the shared goal of developing a greater understanding of how local government in Northern Ireland might work to sustain and develop cultural infrastructure, specifically through building understanding of the cultural interests, activities and needs of local citizens.

The Creative Citizens Programme exists to

  • Encourage and further advance active involvement in creative cultural activity
  • Give local people the chance to explore the value of creative citizenship
  • Develop audiences for arts, cultural and creative activity
  • Re-design spaces and services engaging with local and regional arts in a new and exciting way.

The programme in 2016 was so big it ran for 4 months! In 2016 11 new partners were involved from DCAL to British Film Institute with participation figures at 20,000.

Part of the programme included 9 of our local Churches who partnered with us for this year, with an Arts & Events Trail around the Churches over 2 special weekends in May. Each Church has selected a painting from the Methodist Art collection to exhibit in their own Church as part of a walking Arts Trail to encourage local people to not only view the works, but to visit all our various local Churches. This was a huge project in terms of community cohesion and good relations through the Arts, with people from all denominations visiting each other’s churches in one of the biggest cross community projects the Borough has seen.

Total engagement figures for the programme were 4,000 people visiting people and churches of all religions. 126 local volunteers from all walks of life and different Churches signed up as Arts Ambassadors for the programme, helping out at the major exhibition and various programmes of events and mixing with each other. As well as involving thousands of local people the programme offered new opportunities for people to experience the arts for the first time and maybe in unusual places. This is why the Creative Citizens programme works!

The Programme was awarded the first All-Ireland Carnegie Trust Award for Arts, Design & Well-being. The programme has featured in Papers delivered at arts conferences including ‘The UN Future of Places III Conference in Stockholm’. The programme partners delivered a presentation about their work at the NI Government – Knowledge Exchange Seminar in 2016.

What the judges had to say:

“It’s very difficult for an authority to let go, so their approach to engaging the community was brave and clearly paid off. As a result, the project looks to be sustainable, having generated capacity and energy within the community itself.” Local Government Association