Future Fires: Culture Champions was a unique training programme, where participants over 50 could learn producing skills and be supported to deliver their own events and projects within their local communities.

The programme was inspired by Contact and their Future Fires young producers’ programme. Recognising that age was a barrier to participation in the arts, accessing training and to producing new work, we decided to develop a short training package that would begin to remove these barriers and would give participants the confidence to put their own ideas into practice.  

Contact worked with Culture Champions project coordinators alongside Arts for Recovery in the Community (Arc) to design a bespoke training package that could be delivered online. The sessions covered basic event production, project management and supported participants to develop their own project plans. Sessions included project development, time-lining, networking, marketing and evaluation

Participants were drawn from across Greater Manchester and has little or no experience of running their own events, with any previous knowledge being largely self-taught: 

I have been making Theatre and performing for 20 years but my admin and project management are self-taught to say the least! So when I received details of the course I knew it was perfect for my development. 

At the end of the course, participants were invited to apply for a micro grant to fund their project ideas. The application process was supported by Arc and this provided an additional learning opportunity in how to structure a funding application. 

Nine applications were received and resulted in five projects being funded which include a radio play, a walking art project to support mental health, an open studio artist tour, bus pass explorer tours and a commemorative textile panel. 

 Six people completed the course during the second pandemic lockdown and their feedback demonstrated the appetite and need for such opportunities. 

The course was really well organised and conveniently on Zoom over 3 evenings. There was a lovely group of people with really diverse ideas who were all fun and generous with suggestions and support.  I have already put my project, a radio drama for seniors, into operation and I know that I will benefit from the course well into the future. 

[The most useful thing about the project was] learning about socially engaged practice and how artists and the community work together.