2 December 2021

Arts Council England (ACE) has today announced that First Art has been successful in its funding bid of £750,000 for the next phase of its programme, allowing it to continue for a further three years.

First Art is part of Art Council England’s Creative People and Places (CPP) programme which is about more people taking the lead in choosing, creating and taking part in arts and culture experiences in the places where they live.

This award enables the programme to continue delivering its ambitious programme with a wide range of communities across the four districts including Leamington in Ashfield, Bellamy Road Estate in Mansfield, South Normanton in Bolsover, and Clay Cross in North East Derbyshire.

Families enjoy on of the First Art Secret Picnics credit Dean Leivers 2020

Over the past three years, First Art has developed a number of events and activities to engage and inspire local communities such as online pizza parties, Sunday Roast Cabaret and Cabaret Curry Night; pop-up cafes, Secret Picnics, Social Clubs, and Isolation Bingo shows.

Male and female acrobatic performers - female balancing on top of male

The Full Shebang Festival in Mansfield credit Lamar Francois 2021


Amongst these initiatives there have been some standout successes that have enabled fantastic art and cultural experiences. These include:

  • The Full Shebang Festival in Mansfield town centre, attracting audiences of 20,000 people;
  • the Everybody’s Home Kit (part of First Art’s Go the Distance Festival) which were art kits produced during the first lockdown, going out to over 2,200 homes across the four districts;
  • Go The Distance Festival, a festival set up in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, delivered in chapters that include online performances, outdoor Secret Picnics, and a community lantern project;
  • and last summer, The Bellamy Road Festival – a three-day festival in the heart of the Bellamy Road Estate.

Going forward, from 2022 – 2025 First Art will build on its existing work as well as continue to invest in skills and training initiatives such as Bossing It, a cultural enterprise programme; Inside Eye Cinema, an immersive style community cinema, working with local people to create unique art experiences inspired by film; and, Clay Cross Young Producers, where young people are supported to produce their own events and activities.

First Art works with partners to create ambitious projects that will support a number of key agendas ranging from high street regeneration to loneliness. The South Normanton Social Club and First Art Club in Clay Cross (also soon to launch in Ashfield), are two examples of projects set up by First Art to combat social isolation exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

We’re thrilled to receive this news and continued support from Arts Council England.

This funding will allow us to build on the great traction we’ve made in communities across Ashfield, Mansfield, Bolsover and North East Derbyshire which in turn is having, and will continue to have, a hugely positive impact on the people and places we work with, highlighting how arts and culture can bring communities together and improve lives.

There’s still lots of work to be done but we’re relishing the prospect of collaborating with some wonderful people and partners to make amazing things happen, to attract even more funding into the area, and to inspire more people to shape, make and experience great arts events and activities.”

Karl Greenwood, First Art Director


This is brilliant news for the people of Ashfield, Mansfield, Bolsover and North East Derbyshire. It means they will have continued access to top rate arts experiences and have even more chances to explore their own creativity.

ACE’s support for the First Art programme is just the sort of Christmas present we all want to hear for our local communities.

Chair of First Art, Tony Trafford

A total of 39 Creative People and Places projects, 11 of which are brand new, will be supported, covering 56 local authority areas across England and taking total investment for the period between 2022 and 2025 to £38.3million, and total investment rising to £108million since inception of the programme in 2012 up to 2025.

First Art will lead the programme from April 2022 in partnership with Creswell Crags, Junction Arts, Active Partners Trust and Bolsover Together.