Up for Arts National Roll-Out: Evaluating Impact

Up for Arts is a partnership project, delivered by BBC Radio and Voluntary Arts, which stimulates engagement in creative activity among older and isolated people by working through the medium of radio and with local cultural partners to organise and promote ongoing participatory arts and crafts activity – and to produce on-air content for broadcast. Since 2009 Up for Arts has been operating successfully in Merseyside, and subsequently in Lancashire, Cumbria and York.

In 2016 NEA documented the contribution that taking part in Up for Arts makes to the lives of isolated and vulnerable people and their communities. We then helped secure trust funding to roll-out the Up for Arts approach to further BBC local radio stations around the UK, with the goal of encouraging more people to get involved in creative activities as a way of sustaining and promoting good mental and physical health.

In 2018 we were commissioned to evaluate the impact of the two-year phased roll-out of Up For Arts around the UK – starting with projects based at BBC Radio Stoke and at BBC Radio London – with a view to helping to build the evidence base as to the effectiveness of regular arts participation in reducing social isolation and contributing to improving people’s health and wellbeing. The project subsequently expanded into Wales, Humberside, Coventry, Devon, Leeds and Lincolnshire – and has forged innovative partnerships with the BBC’s festival of the spoken work, Contains Strong Language, and with BBC Music.

NEA’s July 2020 report evaluating the first two years of the national roll-out can be accessed here: NEA Up for Arts – Phase One A4 document WEB

The initial two year project has now been extended for a further 3 years, enabling a period of further expansion and consolidation around the UK. During this period we will continue work with Voluntary Arts and the BBC to track the impact of the Up for Arts approach as it reaches into new communities. Of course the pandemic has meant that there has been a much greater emphasis on creative activities that people can do in isolation, in small family groups or online, and this will be reflected in our evaluative methods.

For this project we are working in collaboration with the Sidney De Haan Research Centre for Arts and Health at Canterbury Christ Church University.

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