Crafts session in Kent

Creative Lives’ microgrant scheme in Kent reached across coastal districts with funding from Kent Community Foundation and Colyer Fergusson Charitable Trust. 

Discussion with community groups and spaces showed many were concerned about returning post-lockdown, with lower engagement levels and income due to loss of communication, ongoing safety concerns and a slow return to face-to-face activities alongside other commitments. Many felt a small boost of money to help them hire space, buy materials, and enable safe delivery would make a big difference. 

Microgrants launched in June 2021, shortly after the third Covid lockdown was lifted, supporting groups to:

  • Get creative 
  • Bring people back together 
  • Reduce loneliness 
  • Share skills
  • Use community spaces.

Forty-Four groups applied from the Isle of Grain round to Thanet and Romney Marsh and Thirty voluntary arts groups were awarded between £100-£200. See the full list in the publication below:

How the funding was used

  • 30 creative groups delivered creative workshops in five targeted coastal districts in Kent.
  • 470 (in total) people took part in social, creative activities directly from this funding, double the amount we originally intended.  
  • 63% of groups welcomed new members.
  • 89% of attendees took part in new activities and learnt new skills.
  • 80% of those that took part in activities met new people.

“From feedback we have learnt that residents have found it very hard being disconnected from a once very busy community centre and although the centre has provided things remotely e.g. cooking kits and craft kits the physical experience of working together within a group is highly beneficial to their mental health and relaxation.”

Jane, Querns Community Centre

Group of people doing crafts activities indoors

24 established groups reconnected with each other and 6 new groups started.

“Having been isolated for over a year, when COVID restrictions lifted, they [participants] were really pleased to be able to meet in person again, as many of our elders live on their own.” 

Carol Stewart, Medway African and Caribbean Association

“I heard several people commenting during the afternoon that this had been their first in-person social contact with people outside of their immediate families and friends since the lockdown in March 2020.”

Jae Fowler, CCC Creatives

“It has helped members stay connected and has enabled a gentle reintroduction to music making.”

Kathryn Robinson, Sandwich Concert Band

“We have two people who have not been involved in group activities in the hall before. They really really enjoyed it and they have enjoyed meeting new people.”

Rose, In a Space

“One particular student has jumped in with both feet, he has learned how to make wonderful videos of our sessions! Students collaborate between sessions, helping each other to learn, and as they get to perform at local events, they meet lots of new people!” 

William Parr, Kensai Teiko

“Art skills have been shared including; watercolour painting, knitting, gardening, flower arranging, creative writing, drumming.”

Laura Moncaster, Renew 61

“Hardly any of those who attended had met before. I have noticed an increase in communication between those who attended the meet up.”

Marie Bruce, Creative People of Folkestone

Long story short

The purpose of the funding was to provide microgrants to grassroots groups in Kent enabling them to run creative activities to share with their communities. 

The microgrant had a huge impact on those that needed a little helping hand to return to face-to-face activities. Many people were understandably nervous about returning and some groups had struggled financially, especially those that take a small sub from members each week. Enabling groups to have a simple application, with a quick turnaround during a critical time coming out of lockdown was vital. 

There has been continued interest by many groups to find out if there will be another opportunity for microgrants. Access to small grants with a quick turnaround are rare and 67% of the groups had little to no experience of applying for funding. At a time when grassroots groups are so vital to communities this funding was key in offering support and validation to groups that otherwise rarely get a look in with funders. 

Every group has had further contact with Creative Lives, supporting many of them through our Creative Lives Community Champions, this includes free or heavily subsidised training (marketing, constituting your group, peer support, equality & diversity) and free online networking events for creative groups in the Southeast.  

In October 2021, BBC Radio Kent shared microgrant funding information and stories about the groups and the benefits of the fund. One of the micro-grants beneficiaries, the Thread and Word group was invited to give an interview on air about their creative practice in the community. You can listen to the conversation between weaver Elspeth Penfold and Dominic King via SoundCloud.

When we got the Creative Lives microgrant, it happened at the right time, just at the point when things started to open up.