IVE artist micro-commissions 2021: creative paths out of Covid-19

21st October 2021 - Kayla Herbert

Written by Tess Parker, Story Tiller Communications.

Image courtesy of Green Lane.

In February 2021, the arts and education sectors were dealing with a third Covid-19 lockdown.  In response to this, IVE repurposed funding to support a series of artist micro-commissions across the Yorkshire and Humber sub-region. Artist applications were invited detailing how they would devise and share new products or services to enrich their practice and support schools at this time. Twenty-one creative practitioners were selected to trial their proposals for a mix of online and offline creative delivery. The result was an array of micro-projects geared to boost mental health and well-being, arts engagement and/or bridge learning gaps. Read on to discover more.

Key success factors

Supporting wellbeing, creativity and learning in schools

As an Arts Council Bridge Organisation for Yorkshire and the Humber, IVE prides itself on building meaningful, cross-regional artist and school relationships.

In fact, it was the results of a 2020 Bridge England Network Schools Survey which would inspire IVE’s, artist micro-commissions 2021 initiative.

With Covid-19 affecting schools and wider communities it’s no surprise that the survey flagged the following priority areas to address.

As ever, IVE was keen to channel funds to arts practitioners who were committed to making a difference to children and young people at this time.

Verity Clarke, Bridge Programme Director, IVE explains the inspiration behind this micro-commissioning fund:

“The Covid pandemic, and subsequent school closures, had a huge impact on the livelihoods of creative practitioners that regularly work in schools. As many creative and cultural organisations quickly went digital, it felt important to support individual practitioners who had been affected.

Our micro commissions were designed to give 21 creative practitioners some paid time and space to adapt their creative practice so they could continue to offer services to schools through remote, digital or blended activities.

We’re thrilled to hear the funding has been invaluable to creative practitioners and we hope schools will have a look at what they have to offer. There’s some fabulous opportunities for schools to reconnect with the creative and cultural sector in different ways.”

Engaging and empowering a diversity of regional artists

Image courtesy of Green Lane.

The Yorkshire and Humber-sub-region boasts a wealth of arts practitioners and organisations. However, as was the case UK-wide, Covid-19 threw regional artists, programmes and companies into flux.

With face-face delivery barred and creative livelihoods stalled IVE’s artist micro-commissions funding was critically timed. IVE were keen to support artists to put their creative talents to good use within schools across the region.

IVE were delighted by the range of applications received from across arts disciplines including drama, dance, crafts, poetry and more. In the end, twenty-one practitioners were chosen to develop and deliver creative responses to at least one of the priority themes flagged in the Bridge England Network Schools Survey.

How IVE artist micro-commissions are making an impact

Early evaluations show that these micro-commissions have not only brought pleasure, but they have also made an impact on both artist and teacher practice and pupil learning. Read on for a cross-section of project spotlights.

Creative spotlight: Mud Pie Arts (North Yorkshire)

York-based Mud Pie Arts (MPA) have been providing enriching creative theatrical experiences since 2009.

MPA received funding to create ‘Operation Last Hope’ a fantasy, conservation role-play for KS2.  Delivered remotely, the play was designed to build resilience and well-being through an immersive story. The delivery drew on the curriculum areas of PSHE, literacy, art and conservation.


“I have learnt to film myself. I have written a script to set challenges remotely. I have created resources that can be downloaded, which is all new practice.” Jenna Drury, MPA.

‘’The children and both of us have thoroughly enjoyed ‘Operation Last Hope’. The videos, audio and resources you kindly sent to us have been rich, imaginative and immersive.’’ Y3/4 class teacher, Park Grove Academy.

Creative spotlight: Yew Tree Arts (West Yorkshire)

Wakefield-based Yew Tree Arts (YTA) has provided quality theatre, education and training provision for over 25 years.

YTA used their funding to develop a series of four, hour long creative wellbeing sessions. These sessions enabled KS2 pupils to explore their emotions, sense of self, identity and worth through a mix of games, reflections and creative activities.


“It’s been a very valuable project and process – I am better equipped to support children at this challenging time through creative discovery and reflection because of it – thank you! ” Sarah Osborne, YTA

“As a result of your sessions I have noticed how students are more confident to talk to me in class and are better at managing their emotions.” Class teacher, St Michael’s C of E Academy.

Creative Spotlight: Street Beat Academy (North/Northeast Lincolnshire)

For over 15 years, Street Beat Academy (SBA) have provided high quality, cross-curricular training in dance and drama in schools engaging pupils across KS1-KS5.

SBA created six recorded dance lessons (available via Google Drive) tailored to inspire KS2-KS4 pupils. These sessions incorporated breakdance, street and contemporary dance to appeal across genders.


“We have experienced developing lessons to camera and editing material together. We have also developed IT awareness on how to share footage externally. We aim to develop a bank of material which can be used.” Kim Oakley-Duffill, SBA

“You’ve helped to inspire Bowmandale to enjoy dance!” Teacher, Bowmandale Primary


Creative spotlight: Andy Craven-Griffiths (Leeds)

Over 45,000 young people have benefitted from Andy Craven-Griffiths writing and performance workshops since he began running them in 2007.

Andy developed a series of six online wellness and creative writing workshops for Years 5 and 6. These were designed to address the growing need for children to learn skills to help manage their mental wellbeing whilst improving their creative writing skills.


“As a poet the commission has given me space to write a set of poems for a younger audience in a way I haven’t before. Using my own teaching templates to create these poems has then helped me to tweak those templates.” Andy Craven-Griffiths

“It was a wonderful focus on mental health and creativity. I think I speak for everyone when I say we have really enjoyed the sessions. The children have really engaged the project and have taken a lot away from it.” Year 5/6 leader, Beeston Primary School.


Creative spotlight: Carmel Page (South Yorkshire)

Carmel Page is a Sheffield-based storyteller artist, author and former Nursery Nurse. She is passionate about creativity and using a pupil-led ethos.

Carmel used the micro-funding to develop and deliver a series of online and offline stories and craft activities inspired by the Year 4 themes of South America and Fossils.


“It allowed me time to experiment with technology without worrying about how long everything took. It has given me clarity on different methods of working with a class and I now understand what is involved with each method. I have had a very long dark winter, and this came at just the right time to re-energise me and get me back on track.” Carmel Page

“The children were very excited to meet Carmel after seeing her on Zoom, and they all thoroughly enjoyed the craft and story sessions.  They were keen to continue weaving, and some of the children continued at home!” Y4 teacher, Pye Bank School Sheffield


The power of micro-commissioning – creative impact and change

Image courtesy of Scout Road Academy.

IVE are excited to hear how arts, cultural and school sectors have gained from these micro-commissioned activities. Out of a testing time green shoots of creativity have sprung.

Both recipient artists and participant schools have clearly benefited from the experience.  The rich variety of creative inputs has lifted artists, teachers and learners alike. Perhaps most importantly, these micro-projects have offered ways of supporting whole child wellbeing and development at a difficult time.

When Covid-19 has stabilised, and our lives settle down IVE’s micro-funding shall remain an essential part of their portfolio. Because during and beyond these pandemic times IVE shall continue to fly the flag for creativity and broker partnerships that nurture it. For in the words of Edward de Bono, “There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all.”

Stay tuned for future IVE micro-commissioning rounds with different themes. Please contact April Shilston – Senior Project Officer to stay up to date on future developments: April@weareive.org.

Download the full case study as a PDF here

Check out other IVE creative and school partnership journeys including New Bewerley Community School’s musical journey with Opera North and how IVE’s Applied Creativity Labs are enabling pupils to tackle 21st Century problems.

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