30 years of steady work supporting the creative lives people lead and love, quietly changing this country for the better - Many congratulations @CreativeLivesCL.

- François Matarasso

Established in 1991, Creative Lives (formerly Voluntary Arts), has a 30 year track record of celebrating, supporting and promoting everyday creativity, significantly impacting the academic, political, social and cultural landscape through its campaigning, lobbying, research and creative projects. 

We work in England, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales and have been supported by all the UK and Ireland Arts Councils and numerous charitable trusts. 

Development support

Throughout our history, we have supported non-professional community groups, providing advice and support including our highly-regarded free-to-access guidance on subjects such as fundraising, governance and skills. 

Policy and research

We are regularly consulted by policy makers and researchers and have produced and contributed to seminal research publications including: 

We regularly produce resources to inspire better practice: in 2021 we produced and shared 22 case studies on reducing loneliness and isolation, including ‘Food, Talk, Create’ - a project we commissioned in Morecambe which used creative activities and conversations around food to build connections and a sense of cooperation. 


In 2009 we started the Creative Lives On Air partnership (formerly Up for Arts) with BBC local radio as a legacy of Liverpool European Capital of Culture 2008, providing on-air promotion of everyday creativity alongside infrastructure support to local groups. To date we have located staff in 18 radio stations including BBC Radio Merseyside, BBC Coventry & Warwickshire Radio and BBC Radio Tees. Currently we reach 1,027,000 listeners each week across England (RAJAR figures). Since this collaboration with the BBC began we have connected with millions of listeners across England.

"Our partnership with Creative Lives has helped showcase the work of hard to reach groups and communities on programmes at BBC Radio Leeds – it’s a relationship that has gone from strength to strength. During these uncertain times, expression through art and creativity has never been more important."

- Shahid Hussain, Assistant Editor, BBC Radio Leeds.

Celebrating everyday creativity

In 2010 we set up the Creative Lives Awards (formerly the Epic Awards) to profile the fact that creative cultural activity is alive in all local communities. Often self-organised and dependent on the enthusiasm and goodwill of local members these groups benefit from the profile we offer. 

Recent winners include: 

  • May Project Gardens from Morden in South London who turned a former derelict garden into a public community arts space
  • Black Box Projects - a Belfast-based community run for and by people living with learning disabilities.
  • Overdrive Dance Company - a group that promotes dance for boys and young men living in Glasgow
  • Cricieth Creadigol / Creative Criccieth - a community that was encouraged to get creative through a series of imaginative voluntary-led projects in a small, bilingual, seaside town on the coast of north-west Wales.

Promoting creative participation

Since 2015 we have spearheaded the Get Creative national campaign, in partnership with the BBC, the Arts Councils and a broad coalition of cultural organisations. Over the past 7 years, Get Creative has promoted around 4,400 events across the UK, providing creative opportunities for around 300,000 participants and reaching many millions through broadcast coverage and online. 

In 2021, in response to the Covid pandemic, our Get Creative Outdoors campaign encouraged people to get involved in creative activities and events in the open air, promoting more than 300 creative events, 50 activities and engaging an estimated 61,000 participants.


Since 2019 we have set up and run 16 micro-grant schemes, leveraging funding into the sector from local authorities and other funders to encourage the development of local creative groups - awarding over £75,000 in small grants. We awarded £31,722 in grants to 118 groups, and evidence shows that the process of applying for small funds itself generates activity and brings more resources to local groups.

Convening conversations

From March 2020 to address the challenges of the Covid lockdowns, we launched daily online gatherings: the Creative Networks. In 2020 we ran 150 sessions reaching 2,000 people, many of whom said that the online meetings offered a lifeline in a very difficult period in their lives. We have built on these to establish ongoing networks for art-form (e.g. craft, dance, visual arts), special themes (e.g. working with young people, disability arts, arts and health) and place-based networks. 

European partnerships

In 2008 Creative Lives was a founding member of Amateo: the European Network for Active Participation in Cultural Activities, which now includes 55 national and regional associations from countries across Europe. Creative Lives has led a series of EU-funded partnership projects and we are recognised across Europe as experienced experts in the field of everyday creativity.