Artsmad is one of six organisations from across the south west that have been successful in securing Challenge Fund Investment from Real Ideas Organisation in the latest round of the partnership investment programme to support and encourage innovation in cultural education for young people, receiving a share of this year’s £270,000 pot.

The Challenge Fund was created by RIO, working with Arts Council England, and provides leveraged investment to support organisations, commissioners and partnerships that are unlocking new investment in cultural education activity for young people.

This year, the Challenge Fund looked for proposals that demonstrated an evidenced need to support high quality arts for children and young people, with a particular emphasis on health and wellbeing.

Artsmad is a partnership of professional artists and organisations providing high quality cultural education opportunities for children and young people. It offers activities in a variety of youth, education or community settings. These activities vary from one off workshops, short or long-term projects, large-scale commissions, ongoing delivery or staff development. Artsmad is a South West Cultural Education Partnership supported by RIO, an Arts Council Bridge Organisation.

Artsmad is made up of Create Studios: digital film makers, Make Music Swindon: Swindon’s music service, No Added Sugar: visual artists, Reach Inclusive Arts: theatre arts for Special Education Needs, Swindon Dance, Swindon Libraries, Swindon Museum and Arts Gallery, Prime Theatre: (NPO) theatre for children and young people, Town Hall Arts: (G4A funded) Multi artform Arts Centre in Trowbridge, Wiltshire Music Centre: (NPO) Live music concert hall in Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire Pound Arts Trust: (NPO) Multi Arts Form Arts Centre, Festival and Rural Touring for Wiltshire and Gloucester, based in Corsham.

Mark Powell, of Prime Theatre, said: “We are thrilled to be part of this new initiative. RIO Challenge funding will allow us to strengthen our separate professional offers and deliver a new inclusive partnership across Swindon and Wiltshire. We’ll focus on children in receipt of Pupil Premium and will shadow the project with academic research to measure the impact of school funds spent on arts and culture.”

Artsmad are encouraging a wide variety of schools across Swindon and Wiltshire to release Pupil Premium funds for specific arts spend. The interested portfolio of schools includes both Primary and Secondary, large towns, military communities and rural villages, mainstream, Special Educational Needs and a variety of Specialist Provision Units (e.g., deaf, autism etc…). This arts spend will be across the range of Artsmad practitioners and Wiltshire partners, allowing each school to benefit from its own bespoke programme addressing personalised need, complementing individual curriculum choices and targeted to the challenges of its unique community.

They will also commission research into the intrinsic and explicit value that arts activity has regarding outcomes in health and well-being, community cohesion, increasing aspiration and improving academic achievement.

They intend to build a strong Cultural Education Partnership (CEP) that stretches across current authority boundaries, a CEP that shares contacts and opportunities, giving schools confidence in applying arts and culture to deliver general and specific pupil development. They will encourage teachers and artists to design, share and evaluate best practise projects.

Complementary activities will include Arts Award and Artsmark to secure legacy for pupils and to validate for senior leadership, governors and inspectors the ongoing impact of arts investment.


Prime Theatre trained 24 new Artsmark schools in 2015-6. They will include as many of these schools as possible, including the majority of the 11 White Horse Federation schools that were trained. These schools will be expected to imbed an Arts Award offer. We will carry out an audit of the schools in the 3 areas of Wiltshire we are focusing on and identify schools to work with, to support them in accessing arts activities, achieving Artsmark, if they’ve not already, and deliver Arts Awards.

Artsmad will be using funds to allow new schools to be trained in Artsmark and will work with the Real Ideas Organisation (RIO) to complete Artsmark journeys in a mutually beneficial way.