Sunday, 31 October 2010

Like a Magic Cup - Vital Communities

Vital Communities is a bit like a magic cup

Art is radical. Art can prevent children from turning into bored, alienated, aggressive teenagers. It can break down barriers between generations and ethnic groups, provide new skills, improve self-confidence, expand horizons and help rebuild communities.

That’s what Vital Communities, a unique five-year arts and research project has achieved and demonstrated.

My friend, filmmaker Dominique Chadwick has followed the project over the past five years and produced “Spotlight” - a film analysing the workings and effects of Vital Communities upon children, their families and communities. She presented her film at the Cambridge’s Festival of Ideas last week.
 Vital Communities brought film, dance, drama, visual arts, literature and other creative activities to children in primary schools in ten diverse communities across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. It then extended the activities to the children’s families and communities.
“Spotlight” shows that Vital Communities has increased participating children and families’ enjoyment and engagement with the arts.  It has helped them develop new skills, increased their self-confidence and given them a sense of well-being.  And the project also acted as ‘social glue’ in the community, creating links between different generations and diverse ethnic groups. These results were found in all ten locations, regardless whether rural, urban, affluent or deprived.  Vital Communities also had a strong 'ripple effect', in which participating children, parents, teachers and artists passed on their skills to those not involved and encouraged them to join in the activities.


"Vital Communities is a bit like a magic cup. When you take a drink, you can do anything!"  Year 1 child, Peterborough.

"Parents, teachers and more crucially the children themselves said they became happier and more creative as a result of taking part in Vital Communities," says Susan Potter, the project manager. "Working alongside people of different ages and diverse cultural backgrounds encouraged these children to be more imaginative, responsive, open and tolerant towards others."

The project, which attracted the attention of UNESCO and other national and international organisations, was originally planned over 15 years, but had to stop this year for lack of funding, sadly.

For more information on Vital Communities and links to the progress and final reports, click here.

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