Scheme which boosted Lowestoft's cultural offering makes funding plea

Children leading the parade at the First Light Festival

Children leading the parade at the First Light Festival. - Credit: Adam Barnes

It is an innovative partnership that has been hailed as an "exemplar" nationally.

Having been run across Lowestoft since 2017, the Local Cultural Education Partnership for the town is being celebrated.

But to ensure that heritage, culture and arts continues to be alive and kicking in Lowestoft, a funding call has gone out this week.

Estimating that "around £750,000 worth of additional cultural activity" has been brought to Lowestoft schools in this time, the Lowestoft LCEP has been running under the Arts Council model.

Phil Aves, from Lowestoft Rising.

Phil Aves, Lowestoft Rising partnership change manager. - Credit: Nick Butcher

The chairman of the Lowestoft Cultural Educational Partnership, Phil Aves, has hailed its "massive success."

Mr Aves said: "We are looked upon by the Arts Council as an LCEP exemplar.

Pupils from Lowestoft in rehearsals for the Commonwealth Dance showcase 2022.

Pupils from Lowestoft in rehearsals for the Commonwealth Dance showcase 2022. - Credit: Mick Howes

"We worked out that in Lowestoft, taking each group of children over the years, that we've reached 10,000 children since we launched.

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"The partnership has touched every school."

The First Light Festival

The First Light Festival. - Credit: Malachy Luckie

While there are too many initiatives to list, among the many highlights and achievements over the years are involvement with the Grit Festival, the First Light Festival, supporting the North Suffolk Sport and Health Partnership's schools dance festivals and organising a special visit from the Dippy the Dinosaur head to 12 schools in the town last summer.

First Light, together with the Natural History Museum and the LCEP visited schools across Lowestoft with the 3D head of Dippy the Dinosaur during a week-long series of workshops last July.

Children at the First Light Festival

Children at the First Light Festival. - Credit: Adam Barnes

Mr Aves said: “The Dippy workshops were a great way for 600 Year 5 children at primary schools across the town to learn more about dinosaurs and Diplodocus in particular.

"Nowhere else had that privilege."

Recalling the establishment of the LCEP for Lowestoft, Mr Aves said it was set up in response to a call from schools for greater access to arts, culture and heritage. 

He said: “The teachers were saying - we're culturally void, we've been so focused on getting the core subjects better, and in doing so we've forgotten about all the culture, the dance and the music.”

The First Light Festival

The First Light Festival. - Credit: Malachy Luckie

Since being set up in partnership with the 28 schools in Lowestoft, Mr Aves has hailed its "massive success."

"The schools have embraced it from the beginning.

"We have a partnership of schools that linked in with the providers - such as the Marina Theatre, Seagull Theatre, First Light Festival, Suffolk Artlink, Britten's Pears Arts.

Pupils from Lowestoft in rehearsals for the Commonwealth Dance showcase 2022.

Pupils from Lowestoft in rehearsals for the Commonwealth Dance showcase 2022. - Credit: Mick Howes

"Initially, when the LCEPs began, there were nine pilot areas - including Great Yarmouth - but there are 106 now.

"We've built it, developed it and now it is so important that the Arts Council are sending people here to see how we do it.

Pupils from Lowestoft in rehearsals for the Commonwealth Dance showcase 2022.

Pupils from Lowestoft in rehearsals for the Commonwealth Dance showcase 2022. - Credit: Mick Howes

"I am genuinely proud of what we have all achieved. The schools are genuinely grateful and we love to see the smiling faces on the children.

"We have grown massively and it is a real celebration - the schools still want culture and we want to deliver it."

However, to continue this great work, funding is now no longer available from the Arts Council - given the growth and development of other LCEP areas.

Mr Aves said: "With the funding not readily available any more we are looking to find ways that we can be helped. 

"We need to find the funding to keep delivering these key projects - this is a real challenge."

Keen to hear from people, organisations and councillors locally, Mr Aves added: "It is nice seeing the difference this has made to this town, so hopefully people can see the benefits of it and we can find the funding.

"For example, the schools also asked for good quality CPD training for teachers and staff.

"So we worked with the 21 primary school headteachers across Lowestoft and funded The Princes Trust Institute to come to Lowestoft to deliver four high quality CPD
days - training teachers to give them the confidence to teach singing in schools with music sessions as well as history, science and geography sessions.

"We would like this to happen again, and for the Princes Trust to come back to assist the staff."

Banksy effect

With more and more street art designs cropping up and showcased across Lowestoft, spray can painting workshops have been successfully organised by the LCEP.

The First Light Festival

The First Light Festival. - Credit: Malachy Luckie

Mr Aves believes that the visit from world famous artist Banksy can "spark further debate."

As the image of a child digging a sandcastle on the side of the former Lowestoft Electrical store on London Road North - which was created for the town as part of Banksy's Great British Spraycation back in August 2021 - is understood to have since been sold off by the building's owners, Mr Aves said: "Perhaps those that sold it should give something back to the LCEP for the children of the town?

Preparing for the removal of the Banksy artwork in Lowestoft last month.

The Banksy artwork in Lowestoft prior to removal. - Credit: Mick Howes

"I understand that they have now sold the Banksy and we have asked the owners of the building to make some kind of contribution to the Cultural Education Partnership for Lowestoft to help all children in all schools access more cultural activity.

"It would be a donation back into Lowestoft on behalf of the town's children to help with culture."

To pledge support or find out more about Lowestoft Rising and the Cultural Education Partnership visit its website.