University project is hitting the right note

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Northumberland’s proud musical heritage is being highlighted by a Newcastle University project to support rural arts.

The Northumbrian Exchanges initiative was set up to support rural communities by stimulating economic development through cultural activity, helping countryside residents get more involved with music and art and supporting businesses in those areas.

The £200k project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, looks at three key areas: music, visual arts and rural economies.

Researchers have worked closely with Allenheads Contemporary Arts, Tarset based Visual Arts in Rural Communities and the Holy Island Partnership to investigate how such organisations can remain sustainable in the age of austerity.

Arts researcher Julie Crawshaw became a part-time resident on Lindisfarne as she sought to build an understanding of the priorities and interests of the people who lived there. She ran a series of workshops, including photography and dance at their request.

Project lead Professor Eric Cross said: “The recession has had a significant impact on the rural economy and on arts organisations, which are finding funding increasingly hard to come by.

“However, these organisations can play a very important role in the life of a rural town or village and we wanted to look at the ways we could use the University’s expertise to support them. Our intention wasn’t to tell them what they should be doing, we wanted to hear their views and understand what they needed first so that we could work as a genuine partnership to develop appropriate solutions.

“This project has been incredibly diverse but also very rewarding. The arts are an important part of life – both in the pleasure they bring to people but also in the way they can bring prosperity to a community. This project has provided fascinating evidence about this balance between cultural and economic value, as well as the differences between rural and urban contexts.”

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