DESIblitz Arts is a digital platform created and owned by the multi-award winning publication DESIblitz.com which publishes editorial content related to British Asian lifestyle with a South Asian theme. Having developed over hundreds of writers, journalists and video producers in digital media, DESIblitz.com has acted as a tremendous catalyst to help kick-start careers and jobs. Especially for those with ethnic and disadvantaged backgrounds. Using this success, DESIblitz Arts has been created to engage ethnic creatives and to give them access to a large audience to showcase their work. The concept of DESIblitz Arts was realised after many writers from DESIblitz.com, and members of the British Desi community, were looking for somewhere to publish their fictional short stories, poems and spoken word performances that would reach a well- established target audience. It became clear that a dedicated, diverse and inclusive platform was needed to help create and support a community of like-minded writers, artists and creatives.
DESIblitz Arts is a digital space which has been made for this exact purpose. We want writers and performers to share their work with us and our audience, whether it’s powerful prose or beautiful poetry that deserves to be read, dynamic spoken word performances that need to be heard, DESIblitz Arts is here as a platform where you could get your work published and where you can become part of a new writing family. We are open to receiving submissions from all genres of short fiction, be it ‘slice of life’, romance, fantasy or science-fiction, whatever your preferred writing genre is, we’d love to hear from you. Most importantly DESIblitz Arts is completely free for creatives, young people and community alike. To submit works you can visit our How It Works page.
At the start of a new decade and inspired by the huge amount of change over the last decade, from the incredible transformation of New Street to the building of the new library, Birmingham is striving to be the best it can be. As part of the Birmingham Youth Cultural Festival, Artslink partnered with Birmingham Education Partnership, Birmingham City University and Birmingham Cultural Educational Partnership, to launch an art competition for Birmingham schools. Prizes included Family Tickets for an evening of music, drama and dance at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire as well as an Art Masterclass delivered by BCU for the winning schools. Winners were to be invited to a launch event and able to view the exhibition showcasing their work. Shortlisted art work was to be displayed in the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.
The theme of the competition was My Birmingham, and we wanted people to use their local area as their inspiration. This was an opportunity to celebrate the beauty, the cultural diversity, the architecture and the people of our amazing city of Birmingham. We wanted children to use their artwork to show what Birmingham should be proud of. We were not disappointed and in fact taken aback by the wonderful pictures sent in celebrating our great city.
We were delighted with nearly 90 entries to the competition and judging was pretty tough. We even struggled for space to lay down all the entries! After long deliberations, I’m sure you will agree that our overall winner Ibrahim Farrel, from Yardley Wood Community Primary School was indeed a worthy winner. We loved the detailed in the picture and the way so many Birmingham landmarks were included.
Unfortunately, due to the pandemic lockdown our plans to hold an exhibition at the Birmingham Conservatoire had to be cancelled at the very last minute. However, all the winners and runners up were able to enjoy their prizes of art materials and Amazon vouchers at home!
Steve Ball fills us in on Sofa School
Steve Ball, a member of the Birmingham Creates steering group, fills us in on Sofa School.
I’ve had many jobs in a 40 year career in arts and education including a teacher, a clown and a BBC radio producer making drama, dance and assembly programmes for schools. When I left the Beeb 20 years ago I never envisaged putting the skills I had learned to any future use. Well, not until the Covid 19 pandemic struck when many of us were bored and frustrated during lockdown. Children were stuck at home missing school and their friends and many artists were furloughed without any output for their ideas and creativity.
Lockdown provided Birmingham Creates; the city’s Cultural Education Partnership with the opportunity to work with local arts and cultural organisations to produce Sofa School a series of 25 min arts podcasts for children aged 5-11 and their families. Each podcast was themed and included a story, a participatory drama adventure (with The REP, Birmingham Hippodrome and the Play House) dance workshops (led by Birmingham Royal Ballet, Sampad and Johnny Autin) ideas for arts and craft activities (from the Ikon Gallery and the Barber Institute) singing workshops led by Louise Campbell from Services for Education Music Service as well as interviews conducted by children with leaders of Birmingham arts organisations.
Arts Connect hosted the podcasts which were presented by Madeleine Kludje, Associate Director at The REP. All of the artists and organisations provided their services for free which is a great demonstration of the city’s cultural sector pulling together to provide a valuable service in these challenging times.
You can check out Sofa School podcast right here on the Birmingham Creates website – hop over to Get Involved and check out the episodes!
Securing fairer cultural opportunities for all children in Birmingham
For many years publicly funded arts and cultural organisations in the city have been greatly concerned about how to continue their relationships with city schools in an increasingly atomised and dynamic system. At the heart of this is a concern about greater equity and access for all city children to the creative and cultural opportunities they are so skilled at producing.
The questions we couldn’t answer were - what does the ‘city system’ look like? Who is working where in the city? Which young people are benefitting and who isn’t? How do we account for that? If we knew that, what could we do better together?
The first problem was how to gather the data and present it in a way that inspired action. As a way to make progress Arts Connect commissioned a research project with Birmingham City University called Cultural Landscapes. Through the project we developed digital tools to capture and share for the first time data arts and cultural organisations on where they were working and populated on a searchable map.
We used these tools to run a survey covering the calendar year 2018 and had 32 organisations respond, recording over 1,132 relationships across 465 city schools that ranged from one off interactions to deep learning partnerships. Unsurprisingly we found huge disparities in engagement with the cultural sector - about 80 of these schools (‘the super-connectors’) were working with five or more different organisations and most have an Artsmark to reflect this part of their school improvement focus and ethos. 49 schools had no connections at all with cultural organisation, 118 had just one, and a further 115 had connections with two.
The survey has its limitations of course, in that it is dependent on reported data and does not capture the other things that schools may be doing in the arts. It does though give us a baseline set of use for planning and action and we intend to repeat the survey for 2020.
A further question it prompts is this – is the system working in the interests and fairness of all children in the city? And what are those of us who are working in education and culture going to do about it?