Birmingham’s Friction Arts nominated for major award

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A Midlands arts organisation is in with a chance of scooping a £100,000 prize after being nominated for its community outreach work during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Birmingham-based Friction Arts has been shortlisted for the first Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (UK Branch)’s Award for Civic Arts Organisations, one of only 10 civic arts organisations across the UK to be chosen from 260 applications.

The award, in partnership with King’s College London, ‘highlights and celebrates civic arts organisations and their response to the pandemic’ and ‘shines a spotlight on the vital role that arts organisations play in sustaining a thrilling, creative, and connected society, particularly during challenging times.’

To reach the shortlist acknowledges and recognises the vital work Friction Arts has carried out within local communities in the city during the pandemic, helping to bring people together, improve mental health and wellbeing and provide much needed support to artists, performers, and members of local communities during an extraordinary time for the performing arts industry and residents of Birmingham.

The arts organisation has been recognised for its community outreach work during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Projects reaching out to more than 300 people aged from eight to 80 have already taken place including:

  • Supported 18 freelance artists to successfully apply for Arts Council England funding
  • Collaborated with 20 artists to create an offline festival ‘Quiet Carnival’ to test new work which gained new audiences
  • Provided safe space for vulnerable members of communities, performers, musicians, elders to utilise outdoor space(s) and stream music, rehearse and meet (once permitted)
  • Piloted a ‘directory of creative enquiries’ at food banks to offer bespoke advice and materials to children and families
  • Supported community member Sarah Kaur, (home-educator) to help grow ‘Culture Club’ an online programme aimed at children not in school using creative approaches for exploration of cultural identity.

An Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisation, Friction Arts has been making art projects, exhibitions, and performances in Birmingham and Internationally for more than 25 years. From allotment gardeners in Handsworth to street children in Johannesburg, Friction Arts help people tell untold stories, make the unseen visible and give the unheard a voice in the world.

Co-directors and lead artists of Friction Arts, Sandra Hall and Lee Griffiths said: “It’s a great privilege to be included in the shortlist for this award. It’s a real testament to the creativity, responsiveness and hard work of our teams of artists, and to the commitment of our participants to our work, in the face of extremely challenging circumstances.”

Bella Hope Art Club.

The award is part of a suite of initiatives being supported by the Foundation in response to the pandemic. Focusing on strengthening the arts and cultural sector to respond to urgent community needs, prioritise relevance, and become more inclusive and impactful.

Tyrone Huggins actor, director, writer and chair of Friction Arts added: “We’re extremely delighted to be the only organisation in Birmingham to make the shortlist for the very first Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation’s Award for Civic Arts Organisations.  If successful we intend to invest in a major city-wide project to help people across the city grieve for the people, opportunities and physical contact we have lost during the pandemic.”

The presentation ceremony takes place on Thursday, March 11 2021, where the winner will take home the top prize of £100,000, with two runners-up each netting £25,000.


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