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The Rising: Worcester Arches Festivals

Martha’s story

Martha fell into the arts partly by accident. She left school with no idea of what she wanted to do. She started sixth form college, but dropped out because it didn’t feel right. After working for six months she came across a BTech Level 3 diploma in Events Management and Hospitality and absolutely loved it. She did work experience at the Three Counties and Malvern Community Centre and graduated with a triple distinction. Knowing what to do next was less straightforward.

Martha was working as Warehouse Manager when she came across the apprenticeship for The Arches Worcester Festivals at Severn Arts. This seemed right because it gave more hands-on experience and also because it was relatively well paid for an apprenticeship. Martha was over the moon to get the apprenticeship and then to get a distinction for it, which has led into a role at Severn Arts as Assistant Producer. As Martha explains:

“The Severn Arts apprenticeship was exactly what I needed. I hadn’t intended to go into outdoor arts but I fell in love with it. I was not massively engaged in the arts. I went to night clubs and I had been to the theatre. Through the Severn Arts apprenticeship I was introduced to this whole new world of the arts that I didn’t know existed. And to do this in the city I grew up near was really special.”


Martha says the apprenticeship has really developed her organisational skills:

“Working on multiple events at one time means you need to be organised.”

She has also developed her confidence and communication skills from dealing with so many different people, having to tailor her communication, whether to an artist or a local landlord (Crowngate).

Martha worked on a festival, Same But Different, which engaged artists with many years’ experience of the sector. She has since worked on a youth-curated festival, Rising Begins, which involved emerging artists, and progressed to delivering the additional layer of support that they needed. For example, she was part of the selection panel for the artistic programme and liaised with the artists once they were selected. This involved providing information on the venue including pin drops on Google Maps so they know where to go and where to park; organising site visits and giving information so artists could see where they fitted into the rest of the programme; and helping artists create a methods statement and risk assessment.

Rising confidence

Martha says her confidence has grown enormously from the level of responsibility and support she has been given:

If, a year ago, you would have told me I would have been producing an event on the scale of the Rising Begins, I would have laughed. My confidence has grown from everyone telling me I have done an amazing job. Having support from managers raises you up. The more experience you have the more you feel you can do.”

Martha observes that apprenticeships sometimes have a stigma – as if they are a lesser experience than university education. However, her experience is that this is completely untrue. Although she loved her diploma, she has learnt much more from working with Severn Arts. It suits her experiential learning style.

“Doing it and seeing it in the flesh has made such a drastic change in my understanding.”

Inspired by the arts

Martha has also learnt what the arts do for people in terms of inspiration and creativity.

“It was a world I had no idea about it. When I became involved I could see how much the arts are needed and that the arts are more needed than ever to bring people together. The arts have such a range of what they can do for people and places.”

Martha thinks that the apprenticeship has set her up with skills that will be useful well into the future. She wants to get as much experience as possible on her existing contract, but is aware she could work on larger outdoor events and brands.

Local pride

Before joining Severn Arts, Martha would have said what a lot of young people say that Worcester doesn’t have a lot going on. She wouldn’t have looked at Worcester as a place to find arts. She would have gone to the big cities. Now her view has changed. She comments that:

What we are doing with the Arches is so needed and the fact I can offer that to my city is such a massive source of pride. I don’t see the city in the same way. The Light Nights have given a real buzz to the city and that remains even when the festival is not on.”

She is aware that artists can find it difficult to identify and approach venues and thinks that the Arches regeneration will give a clear focal point that will be a massive strength for the artist community.

Creative Coalition

Martha’s success in Worcester was celebrated on the national stage when she joined Arches Worcester Festivals Creative Director, David Edmunds, for a special Cultural Development Fund (CDF) Network panel discussion at CreativeUK’s Creative Coalition Festival – the UK’s biggest festival for the creative industries. Watch David and Martha sharing Worcester’s experience in creating cultural centres outside London below.

Watch the full CDF Network session on Creating Cultural Centres Outside London from Creative Coalition here, featuring case studies from all five CDF Network projects, including Creative Estuary, Grimsby, Plymouth, Wakefield and Worcester.

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