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CEO Weekly Blog – w/c 21 Jan

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I’ve definitely felt my New Year energy start to drop this week, but a couple of things have helped boost it.

We were delighted to be shortlisted for the Cultural Charity Award by the Creative Learning Guild, specifically for our work with children and young people in care. A partnership with Stockton Borough Council and Blue Cabin CIC, with support from Culture Bridge North East, More Stuff Like This Please is about taking on a corporate parenting role and making sure children and young people in care don’t miss out on accessing cultural activity. We have learnt so much about working in this field, not least from our international partners at the Museum of Art and History in Santa Cruz, but we are already seeing the positive impact on everyone involved – not just the young people but also staff and practitioners who are gaining new skills and perspectives. The external recognition from the Creative Learning Guild is a fantastic endorsement of everyone’s work on this programme.

This wasn’t the only national award shortlist Stockton featured on this week – it appeared twice on the Hearts for the Arts shortlist, which celebrate the role of local authorities in supporting the arts. I have long championed the support and commitment of Stockton Borough Council to arts and culture, especially at a time when local authorities are being forced to cut all but statutory services. Alongside the 1245 Sunflower project, shortlisted for Best Local Authority Project Promoting Community Cohesion, it was brilliant to see Stockton’s Chief Executive, Neil Schneider, shortlisted for Best Local Authority Champion. Neil has overseen a huge culture-led regeneration of Stockton, and is now rightly receiving national attention for the visionary way he and other officers are reimagining the high street. Throughout my time at ARC, Neil has been a massive supporter of our work and this feels like a fitting time to say a huge thank you.

It was notable that alongside Stockton’s nominations, other North East local authorities featured too. Five out of the 15 shortlisted in various categories are North East based, testament to the ongoing commitment to culture that exists in this region. I’ve been a Board member of the North East Culture Partnership since its inception in 2014, and am constantly reminded of the level of support for culture that exists compared to other areas of the country. The partnership brings together all 12 local authorities, as well as the five regional universities and other cultural stakeholders, and supports the sector’s delivery of Case for Culture, a statement of our ambitions for the next 15 years. Despite the political divides that exist across the region, the NECP continues to enjoy support from all of the region’s local authorities, underlining the shared belief and understanding of the important role arts and heritage can play in social and economic regeneration that exists in the North East.

Although I enjoyed my visit to London this week, and will be returning for a couple of days next week, as my train drew into Darlington on Wednesday evening, I felt glad to be back.