Artspace Lifespace and The Invisible Circus – one of only 12 applicants awarded Imagination funding in 2020-22

‘Imagination’ is one of the three funds available through Bristol City Council’s 2018 to 2022 Cultural Investment Programme: Artspace Lifespace and The Invisible Circus were one of only twelve applications to win funding from the highly competitive investment programme which received more than 50 applications.

“The imagination funding is hugely helpful to us as small mainly self-funded arts organisations. We joined forces with our sister organisation The Invisible Circus to share resources across both of our organisations. The funding we receive has enabled us to hire a part-time Development Officer and Inclusion Officer both of which enables us to increase our organisation’s resilience as well as develop our arts offer. Past imagination funding enabled us to apply for further funding which allowed us to run  our free drop-in class through SPACE “Crafting communities” which attendees said helped lift them, keep them going through difficult times and stave off depression as well as help them express themselves in creative ways. Over the past two years, our Inclusion Team developed the Halt Harassment campaign with learning and sharing sessions at The Loco Klub and we look forward to sharing this learning more widely through outreach activities in 2020-2022” said Kathryn Chiswell Jones, Company Manager at Artspace Lifespace.

Sarah Pugh, Company Manager at The Invisible Circus and The Loco Klub, said, “Developing our spaces with people at the heart of them is hugely important to us and inclusion is a huge part of that.  Our focus on creating an inclusive space is helping us provide “a place where people from the LGBTQ+ community could come together and dance the night away” (quote from Erektek, Bristol 247). We’re delighted that our drive to create an inclusive project is bearing fruit, and we are also committed to improving accessibility in our venues. Last year we received the bronze Attitude is Everything award at The Loco Klub and are working on achieving a silver rating in 2020-22. We aim to improve our facilities and residency offering to emerging artists at our Circus HQ Unit 15 and The Loco Klub through our Launchpad programme. which our Development Officer, supported by the Imagination Fund, will be helping us expand over the next two years. We are also focusing on creating more resilience and a long term funding strategy for Invisible Youth, a strand of The Invisible Circus dedicated to social circus, predominantly at Felix Road Playground in Easton.”

BBC Bristol recently questioned whether Bristol City Council should be funding the arts when health, social care and SEND provision are all under pressure. The arts and heritage have significant potential to reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation. The effect Loneliness has on your health is equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day (Holt-Lunstad, 2015) and the positive impact of the arts to counter loneliness and provide mental care is being recognised. A new £4.5m Govt scheme is prescribing arts activities instead of anti-depressants and a national study of Aesop found that two thirds of GPs believe engagement with the arts can make a significant contribution towards preventing ill health. Creative Health: The Arts for Health & Wellbeing report found that Arts on prescription projects resulted in a 37% drop in GP consultation rates and a 27% drop in hospital emissions. Music Therapy reduces agitation and the need for medication in 67% of people with dementia. 

Cuts are being made to the arts because of the need to focus scarce municipal resources on the rising demand for social care. Neighbouring Bath lost the B&NES Council Arts Development service one year ago. We are lucky that Bristol City Council still recognises the value of the arts and delighted to have been selected as one of the twelve organisations they have been able to support through imagination funding. The arts are not just ‘nice to have’ services. Whilst the government is promoting arts on prescription, artists and small arts organisations don’t have the backing of big phama wages to pay their rent and food bills. Our local councils should be supported by central government in helping even more arts organisations get the funding they need to survive to provide arts and culture, with or without prescription.