Media release: Celebrating 30 years of supporting and championing community-led creative activity and the launch of Creative Lives

Creative Lives logo lo-res

TODAY, Voluntary Arts turns 30 years old and will relaunch as Creative Lives.

There has been an unprecedented outpouring of creative activity by individuals and communities in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This surge of activity has reaffirmed the vital importance of creative participation for both health and wellbeing and social connection. Today, Creative Lives will also launch six new or enhanced initiatives to support communities to galvanise this creativity and reshape how we live post-pandemic.

This includes Creative Learning, a new suite of online training designed to help voluntary and community groups thrive and grow. Topics covered range from fundraising to producing digital content.

Creative Lives is also launching the Creative Lives Awards (formerly EPIC awards) to celebrate the staggering creative contribution we have witnessed across 2020/21.

Creative Lives will also be launching a new consultancy offer, Creative Citizens for local authorities, who are seeking to deepen their understanding and engagement with local arts and creative groups. Creative Citizens seeks to harness local creative activity to build back communities post-pandemic.

Creative Lives On Air, our partnership with BBC local radio, will be expanding and we are delighted to be announcing new projects with BBC Radio Sheffield, BBC Radio Suffolk and BBC Radio Norfolk. Our partnerships with BBC Radio Coventry & Warwickshire, BBC Radio Leeds and BBC Wales will continue to go from strength to strength.

Our Creative Network Zoom sessions will continue and grow, providing a place for open discussions about grassroots creative activity.

Creative Lives will maintain its role as the leading organisation championing and supporting grassroots creative activities to thrive through its online resources and briefings.

To help celebrate our 30th anniversary, today we launch 30 Creative Lives – a new series of photographs (each taken by their front door during lockdown!) and individual testimonies celebrating the lives of 30 people across the UK and Ireland for whom creative activity provides purpose, identity and quality of life.

We have also created From Voluntary Arts to Creative Lives – a timeline of testimonials, key events and reports which picks out 30 pivotal moments that demonstrate the vital role the organisation has played over the last 30 years.

As the world starts to look ahead to recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, understanding the role creative cultural activity can play in supporting our mental health and revitalising our communities is more important than ever and Creative Lives has a crucial role to play in developing and championing this work over the coming years. Visit our website for more information at:

To find out more and to celebrate, champion and foster creative activity wherever you are please sign up to our free newsletter:

Online launch event – 10th June

Full programme available here:

Notes to editors:

Creative Lives has teams based across England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, and is funded by Arts Council England, the Arts Council of Ireland, Creative Scotland and the Arts Council of Wales.

For more information, please contact Kelly Donaldson, Communications Manager, Voluntary Arts on email: or tel: 07843 056023.

To download the Creative Lives logo and a selection of photos, please visit

Learn more about our range of new or enhanced initiatives launched today including:

The Creative Lives Awards – (formerly the Epic Awards) An annual celebration of the achievements of voluntary and community-led creativity. We are now open for your applications or nominations for groups and projects in your community that have shown resilience and imagination during the challenges of the Covid pandemic. There will be a Local Hero Award, a Diversity Award, a Resilience Award, Peer Award for Excellence and People’s Choice Award. The awards are open for nominations from 10 June until the end of August.

Creative Learning – our new programme of online learning events. Uniquely, these events draw on expertise and experience from within the voluntary creative sector, enabling peer learning and discussion. Covering topics including funding, legal structures, marketing and widening access. These sessions, delivered via Zoom, are designed for anyone involved with voluntary, amateur or community-based creative groups.

Creative Network – a series of free online get-togethers open to anyone involved in arts, culture and creativity in order to connect and collaborate. These conversations enable people to talk with others, develop ideas and projects, and find sustainable ways forward in changing circumstances. We currently run 12 regular themed sessions focussing on particular artforms, disciplines or geographical areas, plus one-off specials on key current issues. Each week, there are discussions open to anyone to join.

Creative Lives On Air is a dynamic partnership between Creative Lives and BBC Local Radio stations, shining a spotlight on everyday creativity through local radio – boosting, wellbeing and reducing isolation. We currently have partnerships with BBC Radio Leeds, BBC CWR and BBC Radio Wales, and are delighted to announce new Creative Lives On Air partnerships with BBC Radio Sheffield, BBC Radio Norfolk and BBC Radio Suffolk.

Creative Lives is concerned about the challenges facing local authorities and is keen to work with councils as one of the key ways we can help to promote local regular participation in creative activities. Today, we are also launching Creative Citizens – a new consultancy package for local authorities which will map, network and support voluntary and amateur creative groups and activities in the relevant local area.

Creative Lives Briefings provide essential guidance and advice in handy resources written in plain English. Our library of free Briefings and other resources is divided into the following categories: Getting Started | Get Funded | Planning Events | Publicity & Promotion | Best Practice | Roles & Responsibilities. Since 1995 our Briefings have been highly valued and trusted for their clear, concise, relevant guidance. You will now find them all on the brand new Creative Lives website.

About Creative Lives

Creative Lives exists to champion community and volunteer-led creative activity, and works to improve opportunities for everyone to be creative. In particular, Creative Lives celebrates and promotes people expressing themselves creatively with others, recognising the benefits this can bring.

Creative Lives works with communities, organisations, policy-makers, funders and creative individuals as a voice for positive change, to improve and expand the landscape in which creative participation can take place. We want to see decision makers fully recognise and embrace the contribution of local creative activity as we start to rebuild communities post pandemic.

Quote from Robin Simpson, chief executive of Creative Lives:

“For 30 years, Voluntary Arts has worked to promote participation in creative cultural activity – demonstrating the many benefits that expressing yourself creatively and coming together with other people in creative groups brings to personal wellbeing and to communities. We have commissioned research, provoked parliamentary debates, changed legislation, built networks (across the UK and Europe) and celebrated the remarkable transformative effect of voluntary arts groups.

“Much of our success has come from our way of working – usually exerting quiet influence behind the scenes, almost always in partnership with other organisations, striving to build consensus and to take our message to a mainstream audience.

“Sometimes this means that the role we have played in so many positive changes has not always been obvious or recognised but I think everyone who has been involved with Voluntary Arts should be very proud of the difference we have made. Now, as we relaunch as ‘Creative Lives’, we plan to focus our resources and capacity more explicitly on activities that make a lasting change, improving opportunities for everyone to be creative as part of their everyday lives. This is not a sudden shift in direction at the moment of our 30th anniversary: rather it is a recognition of the direction in which Voluntary Arts has been moving over the past ten years.

“As the world starts to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic, understanding the role creative cultural activity can play in supporting our mental health and revitalising our communities is more important than ever and Creative Lives has a crucial role to play over the coming years.”

Benefits of participation in creative activity:

Creative expression in all its forms is a fundamental part of being human. Voluntary creative groups contribute a huge amount to the cultural and civic life of our communities. There are extensive documented benefits to regular participation in creative activities, such as personal satisfaction; improved mood and resilience; increased social connection; improved physical and mental health; and skills development.

For example, there is increasing evidence to suggest that arts and creativity can play a crucial role in improving both health and wellbeing. A 2020 report led by Dr Daisy Fancourt (University College London), found “strong evidence that arts engagement can enhance aspects of social cohesion, including reducing individual loneliness and isolation”.

Creative Lives Charity Limited is registered in Scotland as Company No. 139147 and Charity No. SC 020345. Registered office: Custom Lane, 1 Customs Wharf, Leith, Edinburgh EH6 6AL. Creative Lives acknowledges funding from Arts Council England, the Arts Council of Ireland, Creative Scotland and the Arts Council of Wales.

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Creative Lives contact details…

Contact: Kelly Donaldson
Phone: 07843056023