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Director of centre for cultural education honoured for work with young people

A portrait of Rob Elkington

Rob Elkington, Director of Arts Connect, which is part of the University of Wolverhampton's Faculty of Arts, Business and Social Sciences, has been awarded an MBE in the King's Birthday Honours List for services to young people.

He will receive the Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) at a ceremony held at Buckingham Palace in the autumn.

The UK Honours system recognises the achievements of a wide range of extraordinary people across the United Kingdom. An MBE is an award given by the King to an individual for outstanding service to the community or local 'hands on' service.

Rob has been working as leader in the field of arts and cultural education in our region for over 30 years with a focus on developing creative opportunities for children and young people by working with teachers, schools, artists and arts, culture and heritage organisations.

He started his career as part of a startup social enterprise called The Play House, an educational theatre company working with schools and communities to impact on language development and health education both in the UK and internationally. Rob was a Director of the Creative Partnerships team in Birmingham (New Labour’s national creativity in education programme) and was awarded a prestigious Clore Fellowship in 2008. He then worked for the Royal Shakespeare Company as Head of Education Partnerships, leading on national learning partnerships, teacher development and developing University partnerships in the United States.

In 2013 Rob joined the University of Wolverhampton as Director of Arts Connect, to lead the regional ‘Bridge’ team and to develop its impact on young people’s opportunities across the region. When the Bridge strategic programme finished in 2023, Arts Connect had worked with over 900 schools and over 600 artists, creative, cultural and heritage organisations in the West Midlands and had secured £15m of new investment into creative work for young people.

Arts Connect is now a centre for cultural education, working for children and young people and an Enterprise, Knowledge Exchange and Research Centre in the School of Creative Industries at the University of Wolverhampton.

Rob has served in many roles in school governance and is a Trustee of Victoria Park Academies Trust in Smethwick, Writing West Midlands, the Cultural Learning Alliance and will chair the Black Country Music Hub.    

He said: “I am delighted to have received this honour and the recognition that goes with it of the life enhancing and life changing value that education, arts, culture and creativity can give young people, especially so for those who are furthest away from opportunity.

"This has given me a cause and focus that has driven me in my career. I have been blessed to have worked with and learned from, some incredible leaders and role models and been surrounded by some mighty teams, especially here at the University and my Arts Connect colleagues over the last decade. Everything I have achieved has been as a result of the collective, so this recognition is for them too.”

Anyone looking to study in the School of Creative Industries should look at the wide range of courses available in the School of Art and the Screen School. Book in for an Open Day to take a look at our facilities.


Editors Notes

Arts Connect

Who Are We and What Do We Do?

Arts Connect are a centre for cultural education working for children and young people.  For over a decade we have run projects and programmes that improve opportunities and access for the creative development of young people and expand the skills and knowledge of the teachers, artists and arts organisations who work with them. We are part of the University of Wolverhampton and we focus our work in the Black Country and the wider West Midlands.

What are we trying to do?

To lead change for young people, especially those who face the highest barriers to access.

Our work is focused on expanding and improving creative and cultural opportunities for children and young people. We work to influence system change, where the arts and creativity are placed at the very heart of the curriculum and at the very heart of civic and community life.

How do we do this?

We work in partnership with teachers, schools, colleges and universities, artists, arts, cultural and heritage organisations and community organisations.

We deliver programmes that nurture, grow and impact positively upon children and young people’s creativity, knowledge and skills.

Where do we work?

We focus the majority of our work around the University’s geographical footprint, mainly in the areas of Dudley, Sandwell, Telford, Walsall and Wolverhampton and the wider West Midlands. But we’re always interested in opportunities to work more widely with partners that share our ambitions.

University of Wolverhampton

Arts Connect are part of the School of Creative Industries at the University of Wolverhampton.

We also work as part of the Enterprise, Knowledge Exchange and Research Centre activity of the University and support its commitment to community development.

For more information please contact the Corporate Communications Team.

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