Festival Bridge: Let’s Create - Art packs for children and young people

Festival Bridge is one of ten Bridge Organisations working nationally with investment from Arts Council England and the Department for Education. The aim of Bridge Organisations is to connect the cultural sector and the education sector so that children & young people can have access to great arts and cultural opportunities.


Festival Bridge is one of ten Bridge Organisations working nationally with investment from Arts Council England and the Department for Education. The aim of Bridge Organisations is to connect the cultural sector and the education sector so that children & young people can have access to great arts and cultural opportunities.

During lockdown there were children across the country with little or no access to digital tools to support their creative learning at home. In response to this, Arts Council England funded Let’s Create packs through the National Lottery. Over 25,000 packs were distributed across the country through Bridge organisations and their local partners, such as museums, local authorities, schools, food banks and other charities. 

The Let’s Create packs were filled with art supplies and creative resources. The packs aimed to keep children and young people engaged and creative during the COVID-19 lockdown and ensure that children who are currently most in need of support did not miss out on the health, wellbeing, and educational benefits of creativity while away from school.

As one of Arts Council’s Bridge organisations, Norfolk & Norwich Festival Bridge worked with partners including Norfolk City Council to develop and disseminate practical creative art packs, including both materials and resources, for children and young people across Cambridgeshire, Norfolk, Peterborough, and Suffolk.


The challenge

Festival Bridge has been working with partners to ensure children and young people across the region have access to the most valuable creative and cultural experiences. Their partners, which include schools, work with children living in areas of deprivation and disadvantaged, marginalised communities.

Festival Bridge had to find new ways of ensuring children and young people had access to creative content while many were no longer attending school. The key areas they identified needed to be addressed were:

  • Digital poverty; where children and young people did not have access to IT equipment and network connections that would support home learning
  • Reaching parents, carers and children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) especially where they were no longer in formal education settings
  • Supporting teachers and parents with virtual schools
  • Ensuring the community of refugees and asylum seekers could access creative educational material.

Their other areas of focus were children living in food poverty, those speaking languages other than English and those in care and looked after children.


The solution

Festival Bridge were able to call on existing and new partners; Local Cultural Education Partnerships, 64 Million Artists, Norfolk City Council and freelance creative practitioners to address the challenge.

Together they created, packaged and distributed two creative inspiration packs featuring everyday creative activities that can be done in the home, requiring few or no additional materials, suitable for a wide age range and with activities especially chosen for their variety and quality.

The packs included art supplies and creative resources. They were funded by National Lottery Funding from Arts Council England as part of a national Let’s Create initiative and supported by financial and in-kind contributions from Norwich City Council and other sources, including Paper Rhino, a design agency in Peterborough who put their expertise at the team’s disposal.

The aim of the packs was to ensure that children who were most in need of support did not miss out on the health, wellbeing, and educational benefits of creativity while away from school. In East Anglia, rural isolation and digital poverty are significant issues, and the disadvantages faced by many young people were only polarised by the pandemic. Many young people were in danger of falling through the gaps completely.


The impact

The first pack was distributed in mid-May to over 7,500 families and priority was given to families who might not have access to digital resources. In little over a week, a database of delivery partners was assembled, and the connections made by this form the basis of new relationships locally and regionally. The second pack featured new activities commissioned from 25 local professional artists, giving them much-needed work at a difficult time, plus content from partners such as Norwich University of the Arts, and was delivered ahead of the summer holidays to up to 18,000 families who received printed packs. Each pack has also been downloaded several hundred times from the website.  

Young people had the option of using the Let’s Create packs to get an Arts Award Discover award.

It was possible for Festival Bridge to reach families, children and young people by working with existing networks and partners. They were also able to support local artists by commissioning them to develop content for the packs.

The main conclusion of the COVID Let’s Create initiative so far is that, in the age-old debate about whether a society should fund hospitals or theatres when money is tight, it is now very clear that both are needed in order to succeed. Feedback from foodbanks, job centres, and health settings consistently shows that the professionals of those sectors have embraced the Let’s Create provision as a vital intervention, complementary and equally important to the medical and nutritional input of those sectors. 

Indeed, “without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns” – Edward de Bono. Therefore, it is imperative that the creative sector be embraced by any other sector wishing to make progress, and that society goes forward with creativity for all at its heart.’

Fraser Wilson, Senior Manager, Festival Bridge Norfolk & Suffolk


How is the new approach being sustained?

Festival Bridge is considering the ways in which they can continue to provide a new and coordinated provision directly to children and young people. It will be fundamentally important to embed the relationships with other sectors that have been central to their Let’s Create work so far. Their ability to respond rapidly and provide creative content for children and young people during lockdown has been acknowledged by Norfolk County Council and engagement in culture is now part of the LEP’s COVID recovery plan.

“Norwich City Council has a long-term commitment, in the broadest sense to investing in arts and culture. The transformative benefits of cultural investment in the city have been demonstrated repeatedly. A recent example has been the ‘Let’s Create’ programme, that has helped to sustain communities and individuals during the COVD19 quarantine. Investment in arts and culture is central to our recovery plan and the Bridge are integral to that recovery process.”

Cllr Alan Waters, Leader Norwich City Council.
Key Cities – Cultural lead.
Member of the Cultural Cities Enquiry 2019


Lessons learned

The key lessons learned by Festival Bridge are to:

  • Do – act quickly to address the challenge
  • Connect – with those most in need
  • Develop- direct relationships with people and agencies working with children, carers and families
  • Collaborate. This crisis has shown that people turn to arts and creativity in difficult times to find inspiration. The arts deserve to be at the centre not only of COVID recovery but of the life of every person in the country. The value and role of creativity therefore needs to be embraced by all sectors, not just “the arts”.