It's hats off to the students at the University of Bedfordshire who have been keeping their creative sparks going during the pandemic.
As part of Universities UK’s (UUK) latest campaign, the university is highlighting how it has contributed to creative excellence despite limitations and disruptions caused by Covid-19.
The campaign is showcasing recent creative talent and achievements in universities to help urge the government for a fair value assessment of creative courses in higher education. The initiative will also help to build awareness of how universities are producing the much-needed talent, innovation and skills required for the UK’s creative industries to remain world-leading.
’Creative Sparks’ launched on Thursday and the University of Bedfordshire’s ‘Luton: Brimming with History’ exhibition has been selected as one of the campaign’s leading examples of creative brilliance in the East of England. Displayed in windows around Luton’s Hat District, the exhibition featured a variety of research-based pieces by second year Art & Design and Photography students which explored the heritage of the town’s hat-making trade.
Dr Carlota Larrea, Head of School of Arts and Creative Industries, said: “I have been impressed with the resilience and dedication of our staff and students during the pandemic, and with the growing links between the University and its local communities. These links encourage essential creativity and collaboration.
“In the last two years we have continued showcasing student work, be it online or physically. This is because we are well aware of how important arts and culture are for people – particularly during tough times – to explore, make and enjoy.”
Emma Gill, Arts and Culture Project Manager, who works to help the university support local creatives and initiatives, said: “Our university is a proud anchor institution, with a broad portfolio of support activity in the cultural sector. The support we provide is important to ensuring career pathways are opened for students and local creatives alike, developing the skills needed to boost the region’s creative industry and economy.
“The Arts and Culture Projects team alone has raised over £900,000 for project funding over the last five years, including nearly £500,000 during Covid-19. We have worked with 9,000 local young people, students, and community members and delivered over 500 skills development programmes. By getting to know the local sector through this activity, the team has linked local creatives to teaching opportunities within the university, delivering over 200 hours of practical industry-focused workshops to undergraduate and postgraduate students.
“I am personally proud that behind each of these successes is a relationship that has been established between the university and an individual student, graduate, community member or local organisation, and a tailored journey that we went on together. Universities and the creative industries are deeply intertwined and together we can contribute a great deal to the creative and cultural sector locally, regionally and nationally.”
Other projects include: Pertinacity: In October 2021, Art & Design students put on a stunning display in the Hat Factory Arts Centre as their ‘Pertinacity’ exhibition filled the gallery with unique pieces all created during the pandemic and lockdowns. Seven postgraduate students from the fields of Graphic Design, Photography, Architecture, Interior Design and Fine Art, who had recently completed their courses at Bedfordshire, showed inspirational determination to put on the exhibition in the face of the pandemic.
Emergency arts funding: Since the first UK lockdown, the University of Bedfordshire’s Arts & Culture Projects team have been working in close partnership with local authorities and key local charities, including The Culture Trust, RevoLuton Arts and Bedford Creative Arts, to offer emergency support to community practitioners who have found themselves financially and operationally affected by Covid-19. Over £300,000 of funding has been injected into the county’s creative industries thanks to the University, including £54,070 from Arts Council England following successful bids supported by the University’s Arts & Culture Projects team. Click here to read more
Art for good: Two university students volunteered their time and expertise to give a local Barnardo’s charity centre a colourful transformation. Raluca-Mihaela Grosu and Marta Plizga from the School of Art & Design created a stunning external wall and patio display, giving families who use the centre the opportunity to use a new climbing wall and play a giant game of Snakes and Ladders.
Professional production partnership: The university’s School of Art & Creative Industries has announced a strategic relationship with video content management and delivery platform, Octopus TV. Film, TV and Media students have been able to direct, film and edit professional content with industry insiders for Octopus TV to broadcast. One of the interviews which students were able to film was with the award-winning Hollywood director, John Stevenson, who discussed working with stars including Jack Black and Angelina Jolie, and why he thinks animated film, Kung Fu Panda, was such a success.
Heritage Impact projects: The Arts & Culture Projects team has been busy working on programmes funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund aimed at enhancing community heritage projects, developing cultural partnerships and building the capacity of local practitioners and organisations to continue delivering their fantastic work. The Heritage Impact projects offer a number of supportive benefits for local creatives, including training programmes, stipends for living and project expenses and help with submitting competitive project grants. Applications to the next round of the programme opened in January 2022.
Keep on dancing: The university’s Dance Beds summer school went mobile in 2021 with university academics and students visiting schools directly to deliver exciting dance workshops. In total, 178 hours of dance were taught to over 200 pupils in the area. The summer school was established through the support of Arts Council England and the university’s Research Institute for Media, Arts & Performance (RIMAP) and is dedicated to developing and supporting young dancers in every genre from Bollywood to Hip Hop.