Case in Point | Create Church Street
Working with Westminster City Council to evaluate the regenerative impact of a programme of artistic projects designed to engage, inspire and unify the local community.
The Westminster ward of Church Street boasts
a diverse ethnic profile, a theatre, galleries, an antiques quarter, a whole
range of community groups and organisations, a secondary school, two primary
schools and City of Westminster College close by. In developing its Church
Street regeneration masterplan, Westminster City Council realised the importance
of supporting the local community throughout what is likely to be a slow and
potentially very unsettling process. Involving a diverse
community in consultation for this kind of change comes with its challenges - residents
may feel unheard or unsure of how to express their concerns or ideas. That is
why Create Church Street focused on supporting residents to tell their stories
and find their voice through creative projects. The Audience Agency’s
evaluation revealed that the most successful projects in the programme did not just understand or engage the community, they were ‘of’ the
community. They made space for participants to shape projects, develop their
skills and tell their stories on a very personal level. These successful projects
were not over-ambitious, nor did they profess to be for everyone, which is why they
were ultimately successful in achieving their community engagement and co-creation
I’d like to say a big thank you for all the work that The Audience Agency did on this evaluation. We are already looking at various ways of putting the findings to use and sharing them with internal colleagues. I am really pleased with the result and impressed with the sheer volume of work clearly put into creating the evaluation.
Dale Thomson, Interim Programme
Director - Church Street Regeneration at Westminster City Council.
Create Church Street awarded funding to a wide range of creative
ventures - both the tried and tested and the entirely new. The unifying factor,
though, was that all of them developed and delivered their projects through a process
of community engagement. The fund recognised the unique impacts that creativity
can have on individuals and their communities, as well as the potential benefits
these experiences can offer at a time of change. Create Church Street aimed
both to enhance the ward’s existing cultural and creative activity and to encourage
more people to engage with the arts and benefit from them. The Audience Agency’s
recognition of the significance that a creative project like this has in a
regeneration context made us the ideal evaluation partners. The assessment was
to focus on three core aspects:
- Evaluating the Create Church Street Programme to understand its impacts for residents, artists and local organisations.
- Assessing the application process from an experience point of view, as well as in terms of accessibility.
- Providing recommendations for the shape of a future programme, potential avenues of funding and advocacy documents to support the case for continuing the project.
The evaluation process took place following the end of the Create
Church Street programme and so required a 360-degree approach to paint a full
picture of how the process had developed. Moreover, it needed to engage
thoroughly with the challenges of regeneration and the potential social and
economic impacts of creativity and creative projects. The mixed methodology
- A document and assets review including reports, surveys, videos, photography and testimony.
- Interviews and conversations with Westminster City Council culture and regeneration teams, members of the Create Panel and Project Leads.
- An e-survey for Project Leads.
Two rounds of small grants applications and 29 projects later,
the value of Create Church Street is clear. Participants gained confidence,
skills and recognition as individuals. Their pride in their area increased because
hearing their neighbours’ stories, seeing their creativity and collaborating
with them made them proud to live and work alongside each other. Create Church
Street was successful in demonstrating that creative projects bring people
together and provide a space for conversation and communal endeavour.
The residents feel … more secure and safe to know that they are part of a group of diverse communities within Church Street and no longer feel socially isolated.
It was lovely to feel as though the workshop was an extension of the bustle of the street and lots of curious passers by came in. The atmosphere could not have been lovelier.
The programme also highlighted the importance of clarity and
attention to detail and mutual respect when it comes to requests and timescales
for artists and organisations working on a tight budget. The projects genuinely
filled gaps in skill and perspective amongst local organisations – particularly
dance and film making – and the majority of participants were enthusiastic
about continuing to develop their projects and pursue cultural opportunities.
The project was a great success, although there is always a question as to whether it reached everyone in the ward who might want to contribute.
To this end, The Audience Agency recommended that future programmes involve a tripartite
- A fully open programme.
- A mentored programme specifically intended to solicit and support projects from those less experienced in delivering them or applying for funding.
- A strategically commissioned programme that can more directly respond to the regeneration agenda and/or deliver larger scale cross-community activity.
The seeds have been sown, Create Church Street gave a taste of the possible as well as having tangible impacts for the participants, artists and organisations involved. Now, as the programme moves forward into its next phase, is the time to capitalise on the sum of its parts and continue to value its vital role in the regeneration of the ward.