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Reflecting on 2016

At our final meeting of 2016 we looked back on the year and I think we were all pleasantly surprised to see how much the group had achieved over the 12 months. It has felt like the year where the group has really started to bed in and push forward successfully on a range of projects.

Our work in 2016 followed on from the ground work from 2015, notably the report written by Andrew Dixon in July 2015 which looked at Wakefield’s current cultural capabilities. We sought to build on connections with the wider organisations that had come to visit us in Wakefield, such as Liverpool COoL.

It may not sound incredibly exciting, but the fact the steering group had regular (and interesting!) meetings was an important step in solidifying the group. The commitment of the organisations on the steering group has made the whole experience hugely positive and inspiring for those around the table.

The big project of the year was the Hidden Wakefield Commission. Funded via Beam’s Arts In Place II Arts Council programme, Wakefield Arts Partnership commissioned Andy Abbott to create a project that sought to discover the hidden, unknown, under-appreciated, historical and secret cultural elements of Wakefield life. Using innovative augmented reality technology, and combining it with physical pyramid structures that appeared across the district, Andy and his team collected stories of Wakefield Cultural life, both past, present and future.

The Hidden Wakefield project is now available to explore online, and sits alongside another achievement for us in 2016 – the creation of our own website and social media channels which we will now continue to develop in 2017.

Wakefield Arts Partnership also had chance to explore outside our district limits and visited our new friends over at Liverpool COoL. COoL is a similar group of cultural organisations to Wakefield Arts Partnership, but is further down its road of development, including larger joint projects and additional resources, such as dedicated project managers. It was an inspiring and useful trip and will certainly be maintaining the relationship, whilst seeking to build more in the coming year.

Finally, two of the great accomplishments of WAP in 2016 were funding bids. Although our bid for funding to the Yorkshire Festival was unsuccessful, it was the first time that the group had collectively submitted an application, a process which included meeting with the Director of the event and creating a vision of a festival-type event in Wakefield. Writing funding applications is hard enough, but to complete one as a committee of different Arts organisations is especially tough! So even though the bid was unsuccessful, it was certainly an achievement for the group.

Over the summer, Wakefield Arts Partnership was involved with and present at all the meetings that were held to discuss Wakefield submitting a Cultural Destinations bid to the Arts Council. This whole process involved all the major cultural organisations within the city, and Wakefield Arts Partnership was proud to be there representing its members, right down to the smaller organisations and independent members.

Our Steering Group member Beam was chosen as the lead organisation on the bid and with support from WAP and across a frantic number of weeks, the application was completed with input from many organisations.

2017 got off to a great start, with the news the bid had been successful, with Wakefield being awarded £223,000 for a three-year cultural programme.

Wakefield Arts Partnership is now incredibly excited to meet for the first time in 2017, to discuss how Cultural Destinations will affect the city and our work, and for us to build on the exciting and enjoyable work of 2016.

Written by Dean Freeman.