Building communities through Arts Award

Building communities through Arts Award

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BY: Guest Writer
31 Jul 2023

In this blog we hear from Victoria Harrocks, Community Arts Coordinator at Formby High School, about how they expanded their community outreach offer using Arts Award.

At Formby High School our ethos is ‘Everyone an Artist’ and this has inspired us to reimagine our arts provision, working with intergenerational groups to develop exciting, curriculum-linked projects which encourage the creation of innovative new work and performance opportunities. Below, we highlight some of our projects and hope that you too can be inspired to connect Arts Award with your community.

Library Theatre Workshops

Formby HIgh 3 

As part of our Bronze Arts Award programme, we created cabaret performances of musicals based on the well-known children’s books ‘Matilda’ and ‘The Wizard of Oz’. To present the learning of new skills (Part A) and the Arts Skills share (Part D) we contacted our local library who agreed to host a performance and workshop event for ‘World Book Day’. Infants from our local feeder primary school attended wearing book-inspired fancy dress. They enjoyed watching the musical theatre performances and joined in the skills share activities delivered by our Bronze cohort, who took turns to run singing, acting and dance workshops based on their performances. To conclude the morning, the infants performed their own mini showcase for the public and schoolteachers.


We chose our local library setting because we wanted to find a space where stories can be told, and communities can come together; we also wanted to promote the importance of live theatre, cultural heritage, and literacy.

 Formby High 4

Community Art Project


Our Gold Arts Award students have partnered with Imagine Formby, which is an Arts, Culture and Heritage Group established to promote support and develop creative initiatives across the local area. Imagine Formby have secured a National Lottery-funded project to transform the appearance of the village’s alleyways with themed artwork.

Our art and design students contacted the company and offered to volunteer for their Gold Unit 1 Part B. Once the commission has a start date, students will have the opportunity to work under the guidance of a professional artist to assist in creating the work. Ingeniously, the artist has designed a series of picture frames within their mural to accommodate the artwork of local artists and students, giving the Gold students an opportunity to showcase their artwork to the public.

Imagine Formby have provided excellent opportunities for our young people and some of our alumni are now on their committee; they are the voice of a new generation involved in making a positive contribution to arts in the local environment. Many villages and towns have such a group and if you contact them, you may find all kinds of exciting real-world opportunities for your students.

Choir Festival


Earlier this year, our singers took to the stage for the annual Choral Festival at The Atkinson theatre in Southport. The event is a showcase which highlights the talents of our three school choirs – Voiceworks, Mundo Afrika and G:Force Gospel Choir. Musical Arts Award students are encouraged to engage in one or more choir to develop their skills and gain performance opportunities.


In this year’s festival our special guests for the evening were the Leeds Conservatoire Contemporary Pop Choir. Our partnership with this world-class conservatoire offers an opportunity for all to engage and for our students to learn from - and workshop with - a very high standard of performers and guest artists. Approaching places of culture and likeminded groups has brought about wonderful opportunities for our young people.

 Formby High 2

The type of organisations we frequently partner with include our local University Edge Hill and the Centre of Advanced Training at The Lowry. Education Liaison Departments exist for a reason - they are there to help you with opportunities for young people. If you are looking to set up your Arts Award, see how they can help you with your offer. Perhaps one organisation could offer work experience and another offer workshop activities; it’s often just about tapping into what strengths there are in collaborating.

Your local LCEP (Local Cultural Education Partnership) can put you in touch with groups like Imagine Formby. LCEPs are place-based groups of arts and cultural experts who improve and advocate for high quality, relevant cultural education for young people. LCEP members are cultural providers and have so much to offer, they come from the education sector, arts and cultural organisations, the youth sector, local authorities and Music Education Hubs.

In-house partnerships

Another way to build communities is within the school environment. During lunchtimes and after school we have a diverse choice of extra-curricular activities, in which Arts Award is embedded, and this is what we believe makes our school go from good to great when developing an arts rich environment. Our extra-curricular arts offer is broad including Drama Tech Crew, Ballet Club and Musical Theatre, and students have the choice to specialise in something they enjoy which increases engagement in arts subjects and supports creativity across the curriculum.

Our clubs sit within the ‘FHSXtra’ umbrella. We take time to brand them up and give each one a real identity, allowing students to gain a sense of belonging and take pride in their club. It’s also useful for social media event promotion as the clubs are project focussed and each club has its own Creative Arts showcase or arts event.

The skills acquired on the FHSXTRA programme support students’ participation in Arts Award, as well as helping to navigate other subjects effectively.

If you are inspired to increase your extra-curricular arts offer then we would encourage you to reach out to potential collaborators, including creative and connected parents, teaching artists and anyone on your staff with a passion for the arts. Find out what’s offered in the community and develop diverse activities within school that make you stand out from the crowd. Make the most of who you know and survey families to identify individuals who can help you. There may well be a film maker, scriptwriter, fashion lecturer, or musician amongst your community who will happily donate their time to share their experience with your young people.

Our arts and culture family is founded on a system which encourages students to collaborate, find commonality and friendship and we believe this is key in raising attainment and engaging students. The opportunity to work collaboratively across the school and community provides a unique experience for everyone involved. Everyone has someone to learn from and everyone is aware of their role in working towards a common goal. In sharing arts practice equality, diversity, and inclusion combine so that our students can develop skills, a sense of value, and belonging in their community.

You could learn more about Formby High Schools’ arts provision by following Formby High Drama and Formby High Dance.

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