Hats off to the students at the University of Bedfordshire who have maintained their creative sparks during the pandemic.
As part of Universities UK’s (UUK) latest campaign, the university highlights how it has contributed to creative excellence despite the limitations and disruption caused by Covid-19.
The campaign showcases recent creative talent and achievement in universities to help urge the government to assess the fair value of creative courses in higher education. The initiative will also help raise awareness of how universities produce the talent, innovation and skills needed to keep the UK’s creative industries at the forefront of the world.
‘Creative Sparks’ was launched on Thursday and the University of Bedfordshire’s ‘Luton: Brimming with History’ exhibition has been selected as one of the leading examples of creative brilliance from the countryside in the east of England. Displayed in storefronts around Luton’s Hat District, the exhibition featured a variety of pieces based on the research of second-year art and design and photography students exploring the heritage of the town’s millinery trade.
Dr Carlota Larrea, Director of the School of Arts and Creative Industries, said: “I have been impressed by the resilience and dedication of our staff and students during the pandemic, and the growing connections between the university and its local communities. These connections encourage essential creativity and collaboration.
“Over the past two years, we have continued to showcase student work, whether online or in person. This is because we are well aware of the importance of arts and culture for people – especially during difficult times – to explore, create and enjoy.
Emma Gill, Arts and Culture Project Manager, who works to help the university support local creations and initiatives, said: “Our university is a proud anchor institution, with a broad portfolio of support activities in the cultural sector. The support we provide is important to ensure that career paths are opened up to students and local creatives, developing the skills needed to boost the region’s creative industry and economy.
“The Arts and Culture Projects team alone have raised over £900,000 for project funding over the past five years, including almost £500,000 during Covid-19. We have worked with 9,000 young people, students and community members and delivered more than 500 skills development programs. By learning about the local sector through this activity, the team connected local creatives with teaching opportunities within the university, providing over 200 hours of hands-on, industry-focused workshops to undergraduate and postgraduate students.
“I am personally proud that behind each of these successes is an established relationship between the university and a student, graduate, community member or local organization, and a bespoke journey we have embarked on together. Universities and the creative industries are deeply connected and together we can make a great contribution to the creative and cultural sector at local, regional and national level.
Other projects include: Pertinacity: In October 2021, the Art and Design students presented a stunning exhibit at the Hat Factory Arts Center as their “Pertinacity” exhibit filled the gallery with one-of-a-kind pieces all created during the pandemic and shutdowns. Seven postgraduate students in the fields of graphic design, photography, architecture, interior design and fine art, who had recently completed their courses in Bedfordshire, showed an inspiring determination to organize the exhibition in the face of the pandemic.
Emergency funding for the arts: Since the first UK lockdown, the University of Bedfordshire arts and culture projects team have worked in close partnership with local authorities and key local charities including The Culture Trust, RevoLuton Arts and Bedford Creative Arts, to offer emergency support to community practitioners who have found themselves financially and operationally impacted by Covid-19. Over £300,000 of funding has been injected into the county’s creative industries through the University, including £54,070 from Arts Council England following successful bids supported by the Arts & Culture Projects team at the ‘University. Click here to read more
Art for Good: Two university students volunteered their time and expertise to give a local Barnardo charity center a colorful makeover. Raluca-Mihaela Grosu and Marta Plizga from the School of Art and Design created a stunning outdoor wall and patio, giving families using the center the chance to use a new climbing wall and play a giant game of snakes and ladders.
Professional production partnership: The university’s School of Art & Creative Industries announced a strategic partnership with video content management and delivery platform, Octopus TV. Film, TV and Media students were able to direct, film and edit professional content with industry insiders for Octopus TV to broadcast. One of the interviews the students got to film was with award-winning Hollywood director John Stevenson, who talked about working with stars like Jack Black and Angelina Jolie, and why he thinks the animated film, Kung Fu Panda, was such a hit.
Heritage Impact Projects: The arts and culture projects team worked on National Lottery Heritage Fund-funded programs aimed at enhancing community heritage projects, developing cultural partnerships, and building the capacity of practitioners and local organizations to continue to do their fantastic work. Heritage Impact Projects offer a number of support benefits to local creatives, including training programs, stipends for living and project expenses, and assistance in submitting competitive project grants. Applications for the next program cycle opened in January 2022.
Keep dancing: The university’s Dance Beds summer school has gone mobile in 2021 with scholars and students visiting schools directly to deliver exciting dance workshops. A total of 178 hours of dance were taught to more than 200 students from the region. The summer school was established with support from Arts Council England and the university’s Research Institute for Media, Arts & Performance (RIMAP) and is dedicated to developing and supporting young dancers across all genres , from Bollywood to Hip Hop.