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Arts Council funding helps Mansfield reach new audiences

Posted onPosted on 29th Feb

New figures show that Mansfield District Council has enticed bigger and broader audiences to its theatre and museum since becoming an Arts Council England National Portfolio Holder.

The NPO status, approved in 2022, meant the council was awarded over £1.7m from Arts Council England (ACE) to deliver creative and cultural activity in the community.

The grant is delivered over three years in payments of £579,304 and used to provide various projects at Mansfield Museum and Palace Theatre. These funds include new creative partnerships, collaborations with community groups and welcoming new artists to take residency in the town.

To be eligible for the funds, the council had to demonstrate it could contribute strongly to the ACE Let’s Create project, a 10-year vision that allows everyone to experience high-quality cultural experiences in England.

Since the grant was awarded a year ago, the council’s Cultural Services has:

  • Run over 100 events, including shows, workshops, touring artworks, creative learning activities, family workshops, exhibitions, performances and educational activities
  • Sold over 3,254 tickets and have achieved a cumulative attendance of over 230,000 people to events in the museum, theatre and across Mansfield.
  • Consistently engaged with audiences who are less likely to access arts and cultural experiences nationally, with 5% of people attending a particular kind of cultural event for the first time.

Surveys of audiences have demonstrated that people attending for the first time were most likely to be aged 45 to 49 along with significant increases in attendance from people over 40, especially age groups 55 to 59 and those aged over 74. The most common age group among audiences has been 35 to 39 in the past year.

Eight out of 10 attend with friends or family and are local to Mansfield. There has also been success in reaching more audiences among people who identify as deaf, disabled or neurodivergent.

Coun Stuart Richardson, portfolio holder for Regeneration and Growth, said: “We cannot stress highly enough how crucial this ACE funding has been in providing exciting cultural opportunities in Mansfield.

“NPO status has improved the quality of life of our residents by enabling high quality culture to be enjoyed locally and by greater and more diverse audiences. It is well documented that having access to culture has a variety of health and wellbeing benefits for people who engage with creative pursuits.

“It has also provided possibly life-changing opportunities for people interested in making a career within the arts sector, and positions Mansfield as a centre of cultural and creative development and excellence in north Nottinghamshire.

“This can only enhance our efforts across the district to encourage wider inward investment and opportunity, and change perceptions people have about this district that take it well beyond the idea of Mansfield as a former mining town.”

In a report to the council’s Overview & Scrutiny Committee (Communities and Services), Cultural Services manager Sian Booth updated councillors on how the council was meeting its service delivery obligations attached to the NPO status,

She said after the meeting: “We are well on target to meet our cultural obligations as a National Portfolio Holder. The third quarter of the year has seen notable progress in our commitment to the ACE investment principles particularly in relation to ambition, quality and environmental responsibility.

“In the final quarter we aim to focus on the need for our work to be artistically dynamic particularly in relation to priority communities, and ensuring that our work is even more inclusive and relevant to a broader demographic.

“In the past year, we have been especially effective in improving the health and wellbeing of highly vulnerable and often isolated communities in a range of projects and initiatives.”

Her report detailed eight areas of cultural activity focusing on:

  • Projects in priority communities, including a scheme to give younger people a voice.
  • Educational work, including new engagement with schools the theatre and museum have not worked with before.
  • A scheme to encourage new talent, with seven associate artists recruited in mediums ranging from visual arts to music, dance and writing, and a project to enable young people to contribute to an exhibition at the museum in the year ahead.
  • A Diverse Careers programme encompassing apprenticeships and a new Cultural Services Youth Panel, plus a project with professional companies to develop the Youth Voice work.
  • Work to improve the relevance of the museum’s collections, with Young Curators and 12 volunteer curators recruited.
  • An ongoing programme to improve the carbon footprint of the district’s cultural activities.
  • A Mansfield and the World programme to showcase world class culture in the district. This has included an art exhibition by internationally acclaimed disabled artist Jason Wilsher-Mills a performance of Tin Man by Ballet Lorent, the first presentation of contemporary dance in the theatre.
  • A strategic audience development campaign with special promotions to try to broaden audiences across untested markets such as encouraging young people to classical music and contemporary dance events, and enhanced marketing campaigns for drama and comedy drama.