Voluntary Arts Week sees thousands share their passion for creativity

Some of you may have attended some of the events held in the Southside or greater Glasgow for Voluntary Arts Week 2016. If you missed it you can see some of the events highlights U.K wide here. It’s also a great time to start planning how your group, band, club or society can be part of the 2017 programme. Have a look for some inspiration…

  • Voluntary Arts Week is an annual celebration of participation in creative cultural activities across the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland; this year’s dates: 6-15 May.
  • Over 420 events listed under the Voluntary Arts Week banner took place.
  • Voluntary Arts Week microfund with the support from Spirit of 2012 and various other partner organisations helped 127 groups put on an event during the Week
  • Woollen Woods, CraftBombs, Flashmobs, Come and Play/Sing Day were just a few types of creative activities happening during the Week.
  • People are encouraged to sign up to Voluntary Arts e-news to stay in touch and get involved in future projects, including Voluntary Arts Week 2017.


@VolArtsWeek / #lovetoCREATE



Voluntary Arts Week is a series of events showcasing the nations’ creativity run by Voluntary Arts with support from Spirit of 2012, an independent trust that funds projects that empower people to get out, be involved and feel better.

Taking over the UK & ROI between 6 and 15 May this year, the Week’s programme was made up of a wide variety of creative and cultural events run by groups and organisations of all shapes and sizes.

There are no boundaries as to the type of cultural activity groups can register as part of this special Week. It can be anything from one-off performances, to singing sessions, CraftBombs (eye-catching outdoor crafty installations), music and song Flashmobs and Woollen Woods featuring woolly creations exhibited in forests. Over 320 events were listed on the Voluntary Arts Week website with another 100 workshops developed in preparation for these.


11 Woollen Woods flourished across United Kingdom this Week! Liverpool’s Speke Hall was transformed into William Morris-themed Kitchen Garden of intricate woolly creations. Organised by Up For Crafts who teamed up with the National Trust at Speke Hall, the project will continue as a summer display and amaze Hall’s visitors until the end of August. Well-attended workshops in preparation for this Woollen Woods enjoyed great feedback from the participants who said: “Wonderful idea, nice feeling to contribute to a community project making something different from my usual crafts and the tour of Speke Hall was unexpected pleasure. Beautiful setting for our crafts day!”; “The History of Speke Hall really brought alive the craft items we were making for the display in the kitchen garden.”

Axmouth’s woolen woodlands.

Diamond Jubilee woolen woodlands.

The opening day of Woodend Barn Woollen Woods in Aberdeenshire saw over 300 people coming through the door – the youngest was 3 years old and the oldest 93! – whilst the Woollen Woods in Whitehead, Northern Ireland returned after a successful project last year as Woollen Wonderland, a large-scale project involving the local community and schoolchildren.

Woodend Barn Woollen Woods

Woodend Barn woolen woodlands.

127 groups across UK and Republic of Ireland received a microfund which helped them put an event during this year’s Voluntary Arts Week. This was achieved thanks to support from various partner organisations, including Spirit of 2012, Super Slow Way, LeftCoast, artsNK, Transported and First Art.


The highlights of the microfunded projects are:

Musselburgh CraftBomb was organised by Musselburgh Riding of the Marches, a local group celebrating the ancient ceremony first recorded in 1682 and now happening every 21 years. The CraftBomb saw Musselburgh’s main street as well as focal points in town transformed by knitted flowers and animals gracing benches, boats and railings. This is Not a Fashion Show showcased some of the best amateur and professional upcycled fashion garments with over 180 people attending the event which raised £1000. The proceeds will support Govanhill Baths Community Trust, the organiser of the event which provides free workshops for local community.

“This is Not a Fashion Show”- Govanhill baths.

Belfast-based project Social Sofa, which won Epic Award for Exception work with people with disabilities this year, moved their 1750kg concrete Sofa to Belfast City Hall and unveiled it at a special launch during this Week. Celebrating the creative spirit of people living with dementia, this ambitious endeavour saw the tenants of supported-living accommodation Hemsworth Court identifying, drafting and applying a mosaic design onto the concrete sofa. Punters are now encouraged to take a #SocialSofaSelfie at the Belfast City Hall and post it on social media using the hashtag to help raise awareness of dementia. CraftBomb Meath was based in the towns of Navan and Trim and involved young people from Travelling Communities. This ambitious and inclusive project not only proved to be a huge success but also helped to fight the stereotypes of Travelling Communities, which is sometimes accused of anti-social behaviour, and made all participants feel like they are part of and contributing to their local communities.

Cordwainers Grow, London-based group which runs free community workshops mixing gardening, environment and community with arts and crafts was behind Plant Safari. Aimed at children, this event encouraged people to think about environment by looking at, identifying and drawing the small, unnoticed plants growing in the cracks and corners around us all. The event proved to be a success with the feedback from the organisers being very positive: “It was a lovely day and if we got a handful of children looking at the natural environment a bit differently – seeing nature on their doorstep instead of just in the countryside or elsewhere, then it was a good day!”. Kirklinton Hall Woollen Woods saw more than 100 woolly creations being moved into the trees at Kirklinton Hall near Carlisle for the Voluntary Arts Week. Local group Brampton Knit & Knatter created birds, insects and flowers for months and the Ovingham Craft Group knitted an entire swarm of woolly bees (cuddlier than the real thing). The project will continue to grow and involve Chronic Creatives, a very supportive Facebook community of crafters with chronic diseases, whose woollen creation will go into the trees of Kirklinton Hall in June.

Kirklinton Woollen Woods

Kirklinton Hall Woollen Woods.

Cardiff-based The Printhaus Workshop organised free screenprinting workshop for people over 50, hugely popular event with locals. Participants learnt how to design and print greeting cards which they could then take home. Span Arts’ Singing Tea Party provided ‘Lyons-style tea house’ type of refreshments with local choir leaders singing songs from bygone era. This down-the-memory-lane event was a follow-up on Caring Choirs, a 6 months long singing project set in care homes which aimed to improve participants’ health and wellbeing through singing.

Cardiff Printhaus workshops

Cardiff-based The Printhaus free screenprinting workshop.

Recent study showed that being creative for as little as 2 hours per week significantly improves mental wellbeing and Voluntary Arts Week aims to support this message and help achieve the goal with its various events and activities happening across the nations when audiences are encouraged to join a group or take up a new creative hobby. Sign up to the Voluntary Arts e-news to stay up to date with plans for Voluntary Arts Week and other opportunities.

Voluntary Arts also serves as a point of information for people at various stages of being involved in an arts and crafts group, from starting at the beginning to securing funding and publicity.

Robin Simpson, Chief Executive of Voluntary Arts said: “Tens of thousands of people across the UK and Ireland got creative during this year’s Voluntary Arts Week. They craftbombed towns, participated in open theatre and choir rehearsals and tea parties, learnt how to make dumplings and immersed themselves in Japanese culture to then go off to fill woods with knitted animals, flowers and insects! It was great to see that arts and crafts groups gained new members and many people decided to take up a new creative hobby in the process. We at Voluntary Arts are extremely proud to be part of this nationwide initiative. We are grateful to all our partner organisations, but particularly to Spirit of 2012 for their help to shine the spotlight on the amazing range and scale of creative cultural activities organised by local volunteers all year round across the UK and Ireland.”

Southside Swing, Glenrothes camera club and N.I Big Sock project.

Debbie Lye, Chief Executive of Spirit of 2012, said: “It was really good to see such a variety of projects happening across the whole country, giving people the chance to take part in Voluntary Arts Week in their own communities. A particular Spirit highlight was seeing the Social Sofa – winner of our Epic Award for Excellent Work with Disabled People – transported to City Hall in Belfast and watching all the #SocialSofaSelfies come in!”

If you would like your community group, activity or business to have a feature article please get in touch with Lisa at lisacraigphoto@googlemail.com
tel; 07903152283.
For those interested I also have an independent blog if you wish to check it out;
and my photo website;

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