Exploring community creativity in Middlesbrough

In 2023, Creative Lives carried out work on behalf of Middlesbrough Cultural Partnership to research volunteer and community-led creative activity in Middlesbrough. Middlesbrough Cultural Partnership asked us to investigate on-the-ground community arts activity to identify groups unknown to them, discover what support might be needed, test local awareness of the Cultural Partnership, and canvass opinions about its vision to make Middlesbrough the most creative town in the UK.

To deliver this work we carried out:

  • field research to find evidence of local groups and activity
  • desk research to identify local arts provision
  • data capture to review local demographics
  • in-person and online focus groups attended by creative groups, participants, and professionals
  • meetings with Middlesbrough cultural leads
  • an online survey

We found a rich and vibrant grassroots creative scene in Middlesbrough, with activity as diverse as the groups leading it. We collated a database of over 90 creative contacts including everything from Lego clubs, choirs, and dance groups to online crocheters, magazines, and gaming start-ups. Visual arts and music scenes exist in a formal capacity across educational settings and established venues, but also in vacant/disused spaces across the town centre.

We also identified a number of barriers to participation, including transport, cost, language barriers, and a lack of confidence. A key issue was communication and marketing, with participants struggling to find out what’s on and organisers struggling to attract new participants.

Creative Lives made a number of recommendations to Middlesbrough Cultural Partnership based on our findings. You can read our full Creative Citizens Middlesbrough report below or download the report here.