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Unity Arts 20M21
This exhibition, in our new School of Creativity, is the culmination of a two-year project led by Unity Arts, a youth and community arts organisation using creativity to challenge inequality and remove barriers.
Unity Arts 20M21 Partnership is an alliance of youth and play organisations including; Unity Arts, Old Moat Youth Outreach Project and Community Minded with WELSafe drug and alcohol education service, working across the M20 and M21 postcodes of Withington, Old Moat and Chorlton.
Unity Arts was founded in 1994 by volunteers in response to the murder of Stephen Lawrence and acts of anti-semitism in Manchester. It started with the Unity Festival, an anti-racism arts and music festival whose programme celebrated diversity for 14 years in Chorlton Park, attracting more than 20,000 people at its height. From that came ‘Unity Arts and Sounds’ which brought youth and community workers together with artists to provide opportunities for young people at risk.
This exhibition also highlights the recent work of an award-winning partnership between Unity Arts and Manchester Secondary Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) which began in 2002. The PRU recently secured Arts Council England accredited Artsmark Platinum status putting it amongst the 2% of schools to do so.
It also won the TES Creative School of the Year Award in 2020 with the judges impressed by; “the extraordinary focus on children facing education disadvantage, and the willingness to spend personal time and energy on activities that sadly aren’t recognised in the accountability measures but are often the things that matter most.
April 2020 saw the launch date for the 20M21 Partnership Cultural project, an inter-generational partnership between the Age Friendly Whitworth Artivists group and young people Unity Arts. The plan had been for a programme of face-to-face art activities, but lockdown made that impossible. Thankfully funders Young Manchester and Curious Minds kept faith in the project and a new programme was drawn up utilising quickly learned online skills and tools.
Theatre and gallery visits had been among the intergenerational activities planned for the Cultural Project but were made impossible by the pandemic.
The alternatives devised included Art in a Bag projects. These involved putting art materials and instructions, all sanitised, into a bag and then delivering them out to the homes of families who registered. Colour of Nature was set as a theme and participants were able to join the Whitworth’s Artivists and Unity artists online for tips, inspiration and guidance.
When lockdowns eased face to face workshops were held, bringing together the skills of youth and community workers with those of visual and performing artists. This is a formula employed by Unity Arts and Old Moat Youth Outreach Project for many years and it has contributed to the creative life of Chorlton Park, Beech Road Park and Old Moat Park. The workshops included the pebble mosaics, paper flowers, paper bag portraits, umbrellas and tyres as well as themed installations. These took place at after school and holiday projects, murals and mini festivals as part of the 20M21 project.
The 20M21 partnership has worked with Friends of Beech Road Park, Friends of Chorlton Park, Hardy Artists, Manchester Secondary PRU, Chorlton High School, Barlow Moor Community Association, Friends of Field of Os Pocket Park and Emmeline’s Pantry.
Our School of Creativity is a new experimental, shared workspace to celebrate all forms of creativity and to test out new ideas. A space to learn together, through play, making and doing. The ambition of the space is to reimagine how we work with communities, schools, artists and other partners to build strong, meaningful and lasting relationships. This collaboration with Unity Arts is the first of many displays to celebrate these local creative constituent partnerships.
1 April – 29 May 2022