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University and Birmingham Arts Partnership to lead Bridge programme


The investment by Arts Council allows the creation of an ambitious new region-wide partnership between the University of Wolverhampton and Birmingham Arts Partnership.

This builds upon the foundations laid by the University through its existing Bridge organisation Arts Connect, which came into being in 2012.

Arts Council England will support 10 bridge organisations across the UK, who each use their experience and expertise to connect children and young people, schools and communities with art and culture.

The new partnership will enable the Bridge programme to extend its reach and impact in enabling more children and young people to engage with arts and culture in the West Midlands.

ACE will invest just over £1m in the new West Midlands in 2015-16, with a commitment to invest annually up to 2018.

Rob Elkington, Director of Arts Connect, commented: “Today’s announcement is a vote of confidence in our plans to grow Arts Connect into a region-wide partnership. Working alongside leading Birmingham Arts Partnership, our ambition is to energise and support everyone who shares our belief in the right of children and young people to rich arts and cultural experiences.”

He continued, “Over three years, the Bridge programme will: work to develop the capacity of the arts and cultural sector in its offer to young people; support and develop cultural education networks; improve the quality of arts education in schools and promote the cultural sector as a career choice for young people. It will also work to improve and increase professional development opportunities for artists in the region.”

Andy Howell, Strategic Director of Birmingham Arts Partnership said, “Supporting arts and cultural education in schools is at the heart of the work of each member of the Birmingham Arts Partnership and of the Partnership in general. We are delighted to be working with the University of Wolverhampton in ensuring the continued development of the region’s arts education through the Bridge Programme. The development of creative talent is key to the economic, social and cultural development of our region. BAP — together with the University of Wolverhampton — is determined that we strengthen arts and cultural education across the region during the life of the programme and beyond.”

Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wolverhampton, Professor Geoff Layer, said: “It is fantastic news that we have been successful as part of this application process. As the University of Opportunity we strongly believe in giving as many people as possible the chance to have access to and truly experience art and culture. This funding will allow Arts Connect to further develop its work in the region with schools and organisations and continue to inspire people of all ages.”

Birmingham Arts Partnership consists of Birmingham Royal Ballet, The Drum, CBSO, Sampad, Birmingham REP, Birmingham Museums Trust, mac birmingham, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Ex Cathedra, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham Opera Company, Birmingham Hippodrome, DanceXchange and Town Hall/Symphony Hall.

The University of Wolverhampton and Birmingham Arts Partnership will now work together to develop the next of the Bridge programme. It is intended that detailed plans will be shared publically in spring 2015.


For further information contact Helen Annetts, PR on behalf of Arts Connect WM on 07779026720.


1. Arts Connect West Midlands is part of a national network of 10 bridge organisations, funded by Arts Council England using its experience and expertise to connect children and young people, schools and communities with art and culture. Arts Connect WM are committed to ensuring that young people shape the development and delivery of their work as a Bridge organisation. It is crucial that the voices of young people are heard at a local and regional level and that young people are included in the development of networks and programming activity. Put simply, the aim of our work is to encourage and support children and young people to experience and be inspired by high quality arts and cultural experiences; irrespective of where they live or their social, educational or financial circumstances. Arts Connect West Midlands works right across the West Midlands including the urban local authorities of Birmingham, the Black Country, Solihull, Coventry, Stoke on Trent and Telford & Wrekin as well as the shire counties of Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire and Warwickshire. For further information, see our website.

2. The Arts Council believes that every child and young person should have the opportunity to experience the richness of the arts and culture. Arts Council England champions, develops and invests in artistic and cultural experiences that enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to digital art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2011 and 2015, we will invest £1.4 billion of public money from government and an estimated £1 billion from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country. 

Date issued: Tuesday 1 July 2014

For more information please contact the Media Relations Office on 01902 32 2736 or 01902 518647.

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