A unique project to provide opportunities for thousands of North Essex children and families to get creative, eat a healthy meal and enjoy physical activity has received a £105k cash boost to extend its work.
Since 2017, Firstsite has held a school holiday club in Colchester prioritising children who are in receipt of free school meals. For 5 days a week during school holidays children and families can drop-in to the Gallery and take part in many different types of art such as drawing, painting and sculpting, enjoy movement-based activities like football, dancing or yoga and then have a nutritious hot meal. Each day, an average of 50 meals are served, with over 1,500 served in total. In the last 2 years the project has provided meals to over 250 families in Colchester – representing more than 10% of the families currently living in poverty in the town.
Now, funding from Tendring District Council (£5,411), Arts Council England through an Arts Council National Lottery Project Grant (£14,589), Awards for All (£10,000), and NHS North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (£75,000) will enable Firstsite to run an expanded pilot programme in Colchester and extend it into Tendring, in particular Harwich.
The 2017 Holiday Fun pilot was funded by Arts Council England and from Summer 2018 – Easter 2019 (10 weeks) it was funded by Children in Need.
Firstsite Director Sally Shaw says “The Firstsite Holiday Fun programme was designed to create the perfect day out for a child during school holidays. It combines, art, physical activity and nutritious food to help children stay happy, healthy and creative – fuelling bodies and imaginations in equal measure.”
The powerful contribution the arts can make to our health and wellbeing was firmly established in 2017 with a report by an all-party parliamentary group called Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing. The report, which followed a two–year inquiry, found that the arts can help keep us well, aid recovery and support longer lives, better lived. Crucially, the arts – by helping people live happier and healthier lives – can prevent health and social care problems, and therefore play a key role in preserving vital NHS funds.