Happy 2016!

2015 was a brilliant year; we took Secret Diaries on tour, took part in and facilitated panels, workshops and events in association with Contact, The Lowry, Royal Exchange Theatre, 24:7 Theatre Festival, Girl Gang and Hebden Bridge Town Hall.

We received replies from MPs across the UK after sending a set of recommendations for changes to the curriculum drawn up by young people in a workshop we ran for WHY? (What’s Happening for the Young) Festival. We shared a work-in-progress of our new theatre work – Declaration to supportive new audiences at Plaines Plough’s Roundabout at The Lowry, The Civic in Barnsley and Action Transport Theatre.

We were humbled to be nominated and shortlisted for an LGBT Foundation Hero Award by some of our Kickstarter backers for ‘Community Organisation of the Year’ and had an amazing time at the Award Ceremony on Thursday with all the other nominees.

In 2015 our work reached twice as many people as 2014 and we have started to build relationships with new audience members, partners, organisations and venues. It’s been a year of tremendous growth for us, and this year we’re planning on continuing growing with support from The Lowry.

At the end of last year we started a partnership with The Lowry as a ‘Developed with the Lowry’ Company (imagine us doing a happy dance around the room with this news!). This means that for the next 12 months, along with Animikii Theatre, Sophie Willan and Colour the Clouds, we will be creating and developing a new piece of theatre. Our new work is a contemporary theatre piece  called Declaration which explores ADHD, diagnosis, mental health and wellbeing. It will be developed in consultation with medical professionals, ADHD and mental health support groups, including 42nd Street and Creative Recovery. Alongside Declaration we’ll be putting our energies in an exciting period of organisational development.

Being a ‘Developed With’ Company is a bit of a dream! It means we get to work with the incredible team at The Lowry and other supported artists to develop and reach some of our goals. This year we will:

  • Create, develop and premiere ‘Declaration’ in June at The Lowry Studio Theatre
  • Run workshops to support emerging artists
  • Design and deliver community events and workshops
  • Develop our educational programmes and work with young people

These developments are all going to be made with support from the ‘Developed With’ team and after our first few months in house we can confirm, it really is a wonderful, supportive, dynamic family of people. (We are hoping for a few family day trips together… Blackpool anyone?!)

Over the years, Art with Heart has developed from a one woman band with little funding to a hearty team of three with national tour funding under our belt. We’ve been through a lot of changes in the last couple of years which have made us stronger and wiser. We plan to never stop learning, always ensure that our work is honest, useful and challenging and use our standing in the arts community to support and develop artists and audiences.

For Spring 2016 we’ve got a lots of exciting irons in the fire! We’ve received funding from Manchester City Council to run events for Hate Crime Awareness Week and International Women’s Day. Our Hate Crime Awareness Week workshops will be taking place with Co-operative Academy Manchester in Blackley where we developed our Secret Diaries Education Programme. We’ll be working with Year 9 students on LGBT awareness, acceptance and the importance of reporting Hate Crime. Our International Women’s Day project ‘Ordinary Women, Extraordinary Tales’ will take place at Manchester Central Library on 3rd and 4th March. We’ll be collecting stories of extraordinary women from across Greater Manchester who noteworthy women who have, or are, changing the world for the better.

On Saturday 13th Feb we will be part of Queer Contact as Sarah hosts the Queer Contact Youth Debate with Bev Craig (Manchester City Council), Myrtle Finley (The Proud Trust), Chloe Cousins (Rainbow Noir), Pete Bampton (LGBT Foundation), John Hamilton (George House Trust) and Grahame Robertson (Albert Kennedy Trust) on the panel. We love hosting this event every year, and this year is no different. If you’ve got a question you would like to put forward please tweet them to us @artwith_heart #QYD.

We’re going to be part of the first Girl Gang event in Manchester which we’re really excited about and has already sold out and added an extra date! We’re really pleased to be working with Handmade Cinema and Pull Your Finger Out Productions again on it after we were part of it in Sheffield last year.

And to finish up, we’ve just announced another pretty big challenge! To support our work for Declaration and working with community and mental health support groups, Sarah is taking on a 10k! She went for her first run in her whole life in August and on 28th Feb will be running the Manchester Winter Run 10k! If you would like to show her some support on social media please do and share our Kickstarter link and pledge if you can.

Sarah will be running a FREE running event at the LGBT Foundation’s Sugar and Spice event for real beginners. All you need is trainers (they don’t have to be running ones) and there is even free cake at the end! It’ll be a great opportunity to meet other women who are beginners and may not feel confident to run in public. Have a look at Sarah’s running blog if you’re not sure (we hope that will convince you that it really is for you!) www.runlikeafatgirl.wordpress.com

Phew! So, just to round up this round up… Thank you for supporting us in 2015, we hope to see and have a brew with a lot more of you in 2016!

Sarah and Rachel