Thousands took part in Tamworth’s biggest ever arts project

Tigress Performance

Thousands of people rose to the challenge of getting creative and learning new skills as part of the biggest and most ambitious arts project to ever take place in Tamworth.
I Am Tamworth attracted overall audiences of more than 100,000 people, while more than 7,300 local residents discovered and explored their creative talents.

The 18-month project funded by Tamworth Borough Council and Arts Council England aimed to encourage people of all ages who had never taken part in the arts before to get involved in a wide variety of creative activities, which were provided free of charge.

It also gave local people the fantastic opportunity to work with some world-renowned national organisations including the Birmingham Royal Ballet and Motionhouse dance company, as well as enabling them to perform on stage at Birmingham Symphony Hall.

And with results showing more than 40 per cent of participants had never taken part in an arts event or activity before and 96 per cent have been inspired to attend future events, I Am Tamworth has been hailed a success in making the arts accessible to all.

The overall statistics show:
•    I Am Tamworth attracted an overall audience of more than 100,000 people. This includes attendance at the extended programme of outdoor events, but does not include figures for I Am Visual Art, Trotters Trail and I Am Heroes, as these could not be quantified.
•    More than 7,300 local people took part in the various I Am Tamworth events.
•    A total of 93 arts taster sessions were held in community venues across the borough and attended by more than 1,000 people
•    The project involved 32 local venues, 35 partner organisations and employed 68 artists over 759 days
•    I Am Tamworth led to a 27% increase in new local audiences on the Arts and Events box office system in the last 12 months

•  Audience numbers from outside Tamworth increased by 61%
•    Bookings from the 18-35 age bracket rose by 103%
•    More bookings were taken from people living in areas which previously had lower rates of attendance. Bookings rose 56% from Belgrave, 43% from Stonydelph and 50% from Glascote

The Arts & Events team also received very positive feedback from those who took part:
•    39% of respondents had never attended an arts event before
•    42% had never attended an arts event in Tamworth
•    96% of audience members said it inspired them to attend future events in Tamworth
•    68% were interested in getting involved in new activities and developing new skills as a result

Created by Tamworth Borough Council’s Arts & Events team to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Tamworth Assembly Rooms, I Am Tamworth was made up of a number of elements which provided free access to a wide range of activities such as drama, dance, music, creative writing, dressmaking, sculpture, visual arts and professional development.

Participants were also able to work with high profile artists, perform in front of large audiences, have their work displayed publicly and create lasting legacies for future generations.

As well as attracting new audiences for the Assembly Rooms, one of the main aims of I Am Tamworth was to encourage people to take up new skills and pave the way for new arts activities to be set up in the town.

A number of groups have been established as a result of the project including a new after-school drumming club and a mosaic group at Tamworth Wellbeing and Cancer Centre. Members of the latter are holding their first exhibition at Tamworth Library between March 24 and April 22.

Many new partnerships were also formed, including those between the Arts & Events team, Tamworth schools and professional artists and organisations such as the Birmingham Royal Ballet and Motionhouse dance company.

Tamworth Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Economy, Cllr Steve Claymore, said: “This was a fantastic project with some marvellous results. I Am Tamworth aimed to give every single person in the borough the chance to try something new and it has been a major success in that respect. People were able to learn new skills, make new friends and in some cases have continued their participation in arts activities.

“It has also been really positive for the town as a whole; in terms of increasing community pride, raising the profile of Tamworth and boosting the economy. Several of the events attracted national attention, such as the Trotters Trail and Tigress, and we received thousands of visitors from outside the area.

“The incredible opportunities to work with acclaimed organisations such as Birmingham Royal Ballet, Motionhouse and Birmingham Symphony Hall would not have been possible without the successful bid for Arts Council funding.

“I would like to thank members of the Arts & Events team who worked so hard to not only come up with such a wide variety of innovative and creative ideas, but to also turn that vision into reality through the delivery of a packed 18-month programme.”

An action plan is now being developed with the aim of continuing to build on the arts provision in Tamworth and further funding for future initiatives will be sought.

Here is an overview of each element of I Am Tamworth and what it achieved:

This is Tamworth
The I Am Tamworth launch event gave more than 400 Tamworth artists and groups the chance to showcase their talents on a national stage in front of 1,000 people at Symphony Hall Birmingham. This helped to raise their profile and develop links between cultural partners in the city and was the largest arts performance featuring Tamworth people to happen outside Tamworth.

I Am Tamworth Assembly Rooms
This was an in-house programme which exposed audiences to a range of diverse and original arts activities. Free and discounted tickets were awarded to bring in groups where cost would normally be a barrier.

As part of this element, the Arts & Events team worked with Oily Cart, which offers high quality experiences for youngsters with multiple learning difficulties. The partnership has developed with special educational needs schools in the area, highlighting a need for this activity and event in the Assembly Rooms calendar.

I Am Taster Sessions
A total of 93 free taster sessions were held over a 12-week period giving people the unique opportunity to try a range of skills and activities. Workshops were run by Tamworth-based artists and arts practitioners at community venues across the borough. Sessions were attended by more than 1,000 people and many of the participating artists have experienced increased interest for further activities. Overall 88% of people were inspired to attend future events.

I Am Dance
Tamworth schools, community groups, dancers, singers and knitters worked with the nationally-acclaimed Motionhouse dance company to stage a huge outdoor production in the Castle Grounds. ‘Tigress’ told the story of the Saxon warrior Queen Aethelfleda and involved 860 participants. It was seen by 5,000 people and 100% of audience members surveyed rated the performance as good or excellent.

I Am Ballet
This project involved a week of school workshops led by professional dancers from the Birmingham Royal Ballet. Almost 150 young people from six schools were able to learn from and perform with dancers from the world-renowned company. The week culminated in evening performances on stage. A total of 96% of pupils said they would like to take part in similar activities in the future and Birmingham Royal Ballet has said it would like to continue working in Tamworth.

I Am the Beat
A total of 1,000 participants took part in a series of Taiko drumming workshops and events held throughout the town and at local schools.
Budding drummers performed at the Tigress production in the Castle Grounds. The sessions were so successful that a permanent after-school drumming class has now been established at St Gabriel’s Primary School in Belgrave.

I Am Music
Tamworth’s Arts & Events team created a new website which enables people to search for music events across the town. The site gives users the option to search by date, genre and venue.
To date more than 25 venues have signed up, as well as 31 artists from the Tamworth Positive Labels music project. Participating venues say they have seen an increase in attendance at music events as a result.

I Am Drama
Developing from the taster sessions, a drama group was established to create a short production about Tamworth. More than 100 people took part in the play, which saw them working alongside experts from Fired Up Theatre in a series of weekly sessions ahead of two performances under Tamworth Town Hall which were seen by an estimated 200 people. All those surveyed said they would take part again.

Trotters Trail
A trail of 16 ‘pop-up’ pigs was created with each wooden and metal structure being designed by a school or community group together with help from artist Luke Perry. The perfect porkers were placed in various locations across the borough and people were encouraged to follow the trail to increase footfall in certain locations. More than 330 people took part and 100 per cent of those surveyed said they enjoyed the project.

I Am Visual Art
People interested in learning new creative skills were invited to attend a series of free workshops with South Staffordshire College tutor Andy Nash. Budding and professional artists were then encouraged to submit their work to be displayed in a high profile town centre exhibition with vacant units being transformed into pop-up art galleries. More than 650 people participated across three separate exhibitions. This helped to provide a public platform for local artists as well as supporting the town centre. The project was a significant factor in Tamworth’s shortlisting as a finalist in the Great British High Street competition.

I Am Hero
Primary school children worked with artist Ester Naylor to learn the art of stained glass window making before coming up with designs on the theme of ‘heroes’.

Ester used these designs to create a new commemorative stained glass window to mark the centenary of World War One. It was installed in Tamworth Library during a special Remembrance Day ceremony. The majority of the 270 pupils who took part said they would like to do more arts activities in and out of school.

I Am Words
This creative writing and poetry project included a series of free workshops with Staffordshire’s first poet laureate Mal Dewhirst.
Sessions were attended by a cross-section of almost 350 participants ranging in age from 16 to 55. A total 67% of participants had never attended an arts activity before and 89% said they would attend again.

I Am the Great Outdoors
Tamworth’s annual programme of entertainment was extended to include new events and locations. Events were shaped around the I Am Tamworth theme and were designed to attract new audiences, enhance community pride and support economic development. As a result of the successful We Love Tamworth event, Tamworth Lions were able to fund a defibrillator for the town. The programme attracted an estimated audience of more than 92,000 people.

I Am Development
A series of events and courses to support local artists to share knowledge, develop their skills and understanding of regional frameworks. Support was offered in areas such as business development, cash flow, fundraising, customer care and communication and safeguarding.