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Several projects featured in this year’s Allianz Business to Arts Awards tackle barriers to enjoying culture and bring the arts to more people, particularly children
New generation to make music: AS Ireland's five-year National Music Education Programme (2010–2015), Music Generation is a unique initiative aimed at providing high quality, accessible and affordable performance music education to children and young people in their area. In other words, it strives to be a locally delivered music service.
Highly commended in the Best Use of Creativity in the Community category of the Allianz Business to Arts Awards, Music Generation was formed to roll out the Music Education Partnership (MEP) model, which was developed by the resource organisation Music Network in 2003.
Funded by U2 and The Ireland Funds, the project is locally provided within a national framework, and the business involvement of the donors was a crucial factor in bringing it to fruition. "U2 were the initiators of it," explains Rosaleen Molloy, director, Music Generation. "They had been looking for a way to get involved in music tuition for young children in Ireland. They wanted to both give back and invest in music education." With U2 contributing €5m and The Ireland Funds pledging to raise an additional €2m, the Government has made a commitment to publicly fund the scheme after 2015. "One of the strategic aims of The Ireland Funds is to develop philanthropy in Ireland and U2's donation of ¤5m is a very strong example of this," continues Molloy. "The Ireland Funds also very much sees the importance of investing in children."
The programme was officially announced in 2009 and in early 2011, having implemented the structures to support delivery, Music Generation put out a call for applications from projects across the country for funding in their region. Louth, Mayo and Sligo were selected for participation in the first round and the call for the second round of applications will take place in the coming weeks.
According to Molloy, the impact of Music Generation can be seen in the way the country has responded to it. "Up to now access to music education in Ireland was a bit of a lottery on many levels – depending on where you live and if you can afford it. So there's been a huge fragmentation across the country in terms of how music education happens. "But this project has incentivised a whole range of people and organisations that are players in music education to come together and coordinate the services. Music Generation has highlighted music education as a pressing issue in every child's life. "The project's been hugely successful and the full realisation of it is yet to come as the tuition is only being rolled out."
Bisto adds flavour to children's books Premier Foods and Children's Books Ireland (CBI) are celebrating 21 years of partnership this year with the Bisto Children's Book of the Year Awards, which have been highly commended in the Allianz Business to Arts Awards. Nuala Naughton, senior brand manager at Premier Foods, says the two reasons this relationship has lasted so long are that Bisto likes to be associated with literary writers and it has worked well from the outset. "The brand has a strong focus on family, and these awards, which champion reading by children, allow us to emphasise this focus with our target market. We have been delighted to see how the awards have evolved and to see how children benefit from them through the shadow groups."
Aside from the main judging panel, the awards now have 120 school and library shadow groups, who read and evaluate 10 titles. Their votes count towards the Children's Choice Award, which was introduced last year. CBI director Mags Walsh explains that the judging panel reads and debates 70 to 90 titles in a given year, written by an Irish author or illustrated by an Irish person. Around half of these are published in Ireland. "The group of judges meets monthly and goes through about 20 titles. For a lot of them it's a good way to stay up to date with everything published. We would be fairly confident that we track 90–95pc of books produced by Irish authors and illustrators. "These awards are one of the few places that children's books authors can get recognition.
There's still a perception that writing children's books is somehow easier or less valuable than adult books, which means they get less press and critical coverage. "Through the awards, people get a strong start. They alert the public to new Irish talents, for example illustrators Chris Hutton and Kevin Waldron. People might have missed them completely otherwise." Many bestselling, internationally renowned authors have won a 'Bisto', including Eoin Colfer, John Boyne and several times winner Kate Thompson. Walsh says CBI is in constant contact with Premier Foods and it is a true partnership. They sit down and plan the awards, as well as implementing new ideas such as exhibitions in libraries and classroom projects and activities. Naughton adds that communication is key and both sides are open to ideas and suggestions. "We don't want to have the attitude that we'll just do this because we always have. We want to find new ways of making it grow and better.
Employees within Premier Foods love to see the awards coming around and we always highlight them internally providing everyone with the shortlist and a reading corner in the canteen." Craft Creatures link up with Luas Highly commended in the Allianz Business to Arts Awards in the Best Small Sponsorship category, 'Find: Crafted Creatures Trail' was a win-win partnership between the Railway Procurement Agency and The Ark. It was directly related to Craft Creatures, a six-week contemporary Irish animalthemed exhibition aimed at two to 12-year-olds, which The Ark ran in conjunction with the Crafts Council of Ireland from February. From that a fun trail for families linking this contemporary exhibition to the permanent exhibition in Collins Barracks was born. "I saw a connection there with Luas as the transport link between the two. The Railway Procurement Agency (RPA) loved the idea and provided all of our advertising support for four weeks.
There were ads on both the green and red lines with branding inside every carriage as well as on lots of platforms," says Muireann Sheehan, communications manager at The Ark. Luas provided Facebook and Twitter support, a public relations photo shoot using Luas and showcasing the exhibitions and managed to get coverage in the RTÉ Guide, the Irish Independent and The Irish Times. Families were provided with treasure hunt maps, which asked them to find clues at each exhibition and along the Luas line. They could also enter a competition. "The advertising was far more than we would ever be able to afford and the campaign far exceeded our original footfall projections for the exhibition. I think the trail had a lot to do with this.
All 22,000 of the trail brochures were taken." Derval Concannon, marketing executive at the RPA, says it is always looking for worthwhile events to get people back into Dublin City. "We wanted to get more families using Luas as well as people who hadn't considered using Luas before. We run an art competition for over 18s, but until Craft Creatures, didn't have anything arts-wise aimed at children. "Compared to the same time last year, we recorded double-digit growth in traffic over the time period of the trail at the weekends. We also got a lot of favourable feedback, such as research done by The Ark, which showed that people used Luas for the first time because of the trail. They hadn't realised they could get from one museum to the other that way." A cultural pursuits' collaboration Currently being piloted in Dublin and Cork (May–October 2011), 'Cultural Companions' is a Bealtaine Festival initiative, developed by Age & Opportunity and funded by Bord Gáis Foundation.
Highly commended in the Best Use of Creativity in the Community category in the Allianz Business to Arts Awards, Cultural Companions creates local networks of people interested in arts and culture who will accompany each other to events. Its aim is to provide increased opportunities for older people to engage with Ireland's vibrant cultural and arts scene. "This new initiative was developed as part of the Bealtaine Festival this year as we thought that many people would probably go to a lot more plays, films, shows, concerts, exhibitions or other events if they had someone to go with," explains project coordinator Emma Connors. "There's a thriving social and arts scene out there to be enjoyed if only we had someone with the know-how, the transport or the shared interest to get us going." As well as the project itself being a success, so too was the collaboration with Bord Gáis, she continues. "It was important for Age & Opportunity to partner with an organisation/business with an interest in older people's issues, who understood what we were trying to achieve, wanted to be part of developments and saw potential/ opportunities for their own employees (and retired staff ) to be involved in some way. That kind of interest from a funder is refreshing. "On a very basic level the financial support allowed the project to happen.
The process of applying to the Bord Gáis Foundation was also useful in helping us refine our thinking and define the project parameters." According to Sinead Egan, acting chair of the Bord Gáis Foundation, partnering with Age & Opportunity on the Cultural Companions programme was a great testament to how a real impact can be made to the advantage of the company and of the community. "The aim of the Foundation is to engage with the community in areas where there is a logical fit with our business. Bord Gáis enters a lot of homes in the country and it is vital that as the country inevitably gets older that we concentrate on what is good for the community. Programmes that address the needs of older people are of particular interest to all Bord Gáis staff.
"Our hope for the Cultural Companions programme is that it extends beyond the Bealtaine Festival and beyond the two pilot areas so that even in the depths of winter when people are battling with loneliness and isolation, that someone might come to their door and take them out." KPMG channels its inner Glee for CRC Picture the TV show Glee, and combine it with students from the Central Remedial Clinic (CRC) singing their hearts out accompanied by enthusiastic KPMG staff and an audience of proud family members. That was the scene at the Conrad Hotel in Dublin on 7 April 2011, coincidentally World Music Day, when a KPMG initiative, 'Project Bright', scaled new heights.
Children from the CRC showed off their singing and musical talents to an auditorium of 450 people after months of preparation involving weekly music lessons with KPMG staff volunteers and external music teachers. Karina Howley, head of corporate social responsibility (CSR) at KPMG, describes the musical finale in the Conrad Hotel as uplifting for everybody. "I saw the kids at the beginning of this project and they made such progress in a few short months. These kids had either physical or mental disabilities and were just amazing on the night. "The last song was Don't Stop Believin'. The whole audience stood up and sang. There was such a sense of achievement and so many people were in tears afterwards. "
The genesis of Project Bright started at KPMG in September 2010 as an initiative that Howley says aimed to encourage staff to have a direct involvement in the firm's CSR strategy. Last November, KPMG then whittled down the entries to eight shortlisted teams who pitched to a judging panel that included KPMG's managing partner in Ireland and the CEO of Business in the Community Ireland. "Bright Notes , the team that came up with this project – five young people from our FS audits department – all had an interest in music, so we thought, why can't we harness that type of passion within the firm?" says Howley. Between January and April of this year, a rotating group of KPMG staff from every department travelled weekly to the CRC to practice with the children, setting up a choir and rehearsing. KPMG staff also organised a raffle to raise money for the CRC. In all ticket sales from the concert itself and the raffle raised €10,000.
"Pearl Audiovisual give us its expertise for free on the night," explains Howley. "It was really professionally done as we wanted to give parents the opportunity to see their kids perform in this kind of environment. "I think the CRC enjoyed the involvement. It was something different that the students looked forward to, apart from their usual structured school environment," she adds.
"It really has been a staff engagement project where we feel that they have taken ownership and driven something that they are passionate about that in turn KPMG as a firm can be passionate about."