WHEN the onset of Covid occurred in early 2020, the arts sector experienced a severe blow. Theatres and similar venues were forced to halt their productions, while those involved in creative endeavours along with their supporting production teams found themselves in a state of suspension. The outlook appeared bleak.
However, amidst the seemingly desolate landscape of recurring lockdowns, there emerged individuals who not only possessed a resolute determination to persevere but also carried the confidence and bravery to initiate fresh undertakings.
A shining embodiment of this optimism for a more promising post-Covid era can be found in the directors of Crave Arts, situated in Worcester – It’s a story of hope and achievement, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Steve says: “Debbie and I met at Worcestershire County Council in 2008 where we both worked as managers in Cultural Services.
“We realised that we got on, had similar values, and shared a desire to enable more people to benefit from engaging with the arts. In 2020, we decided to create our own company to lead and initiate projects that were important to us, and Crave Arts began.
“We took our time getting the company ready – you can’t quite take the local authority out of us! – and we did a fair bit of planning but also some project work too.”
Right from the start, the young company established some very definite aims. Steve said: “Crave Arts was established to provide high quality participatory arts and heritage activities for communities and the wider public; support people’s health and wellbeing through engagement with the arts and heritage; and provide specialist support services to those working in or with the arts and heritage sector.”
How is this achieved? “We apply for funding to deliver creative projects that enrich people’s lives. There are often opportunities for artists to work on our projects,” said Steve.
“Crave Arts delivers our work in partnership with other organisations and provide services such as evaluation, fundraising, training and business planning to organisations.
“We feel we are still at the beginning of our business journey. Most small businesses collapse after a year, but because our outgoings are not too high -though they are there – we got through the whole Covid thing reasonably unscathed and are now approaching our fourth year.”
The era of Covid undeniably posed challenges for everyone involved in the arts, yet Steve and Debbie emerged from this period with a sense of gratification and accomplishment.
Throughout that time, Crave Arts undertook a series of impactful initiatives. They conducted creative writing workshops and presented new writing performances in collaboration with Worcester Theatres, a partnership as an Associate Company. Additionally, they spearheaded a project centered around combating loan sharks, engaging with communities to raise awareness about illegal money lending.
Among their accomplishments was the establishment of a ‘Community Living Room,’ a venture funded by The National Lottery, which provided a nurturing space for communal engagement. Furthermore, Crave Arts facilitated business training events catering to both cultural and non-cultural organizations, including Sanctuary. Lastly, they provided invaluable mentoring support to artists, contributing to the growth and development of the artistic community.
Steve added: “We have a very busy period coming up, including working with Ledbury Poetry Festival and Paradise Multi Media, evaluating two very different arts projects, as well as applying to the National Lottery Heritage Fund to explore the history of electricity in the city.
“We are delighted to be going back into the justice sector to deliver arts activities to adults on probation. And in addition to all this, we’re also working with a local author who has written a play about Worcester’s legendary 18th century female soldier Hannah Snell which, all being well, will be staged by Worcester Theatres in the city next year.”
If you want to find out more about Crave Arts please visit www.cravearts.org.uk, follow them on social media @ArtsCrave (Twitter) and @CravingArts (Facebook) or feel free to email either Steve or Debbie on firstname.lastname@example.org. Crave Arts’ geographical focus is Worcestershire and the wider West Midlands.
An inspirational story, indeed. And it seems to me that with people like Steve Wilson and Debbie Birch at the helm of organisations such as Crave Arts, the future of creative endeavour in Worcestershire, the West Midlands – and perhaps beyond – is in very safe hands.