Business event puts culture, creativity and community at centre of Covid recovery

Covid Bounce Back Learning Event, Barnsley. Picture © Scott Bairstow Photography

Culture, creativity and community were put firmly at the heart of Barnsley’s post-pandemic economic recovery plan at a recent event.

The ‘Covid Bounce Back’ learning event, held at The Civic in Barnsley, brought together representatives from 60 local businesses and organisations working in the community and voluntary sector and the cultural, creative and visitor sectors.

All have recently completed a seven-month Covid Bounce Back business development programme funded by Barnsley Council and the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority.

The event celebrated the success of the programme, and also the potential of these sectors to support community renewal and economic growth post-pandemic.

Kathy McArdle, Barnsley Council’s sirector of Regeneration and Culture, said: “The Bounce Back programme was set up to help key players in our diverse creative and cultural economy and our vibrant community and voluntary sector come out of the terrible shock of the Covid pandemic actually stronger than they went into it.

“This event enabled us to celebrate what the businesses have achieved through the programme and share the learning. We now look forward to continuing to support these sectors to thrive and make a real difference to communities across the borough.”

Looking forward, the borough’s cultural, creative and visitor sectors will now benefit from further investment in networking, programming and facilities thanks to a £3.93m grant being awarded to Barnsley by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports, and delivered by Arts Council England.

Keynote speakers at the Bounce Back event included renowned designer and cultural regeneration champion Wayne Hemingway and social entrepreneur and community activist John Loughton.

Wayne Hemingway, who has worked on regeneration projects in several UK towns said: “The distinctive identity of any place comes from its culture and its community and it is so important to recognise their value. Taking Barnsley into the future means putting independent cultural thinking at the heart of the town; deciding what you stand for now and what you want to do.”

John Loughton, who set up a social enterprise that fed thousands of vulnerable families during the lockdowns, said: “It’s the people living in a place who so often know how best to tackle the public health and economic challenges they face. Covid showed us that community groups, when trusted and empowered, can take the lead and deliver well-placed, fast-paced and values-based action.”

The event also featured a panel discussion about the Covid Bounce Back programme’s legacy which included Barnsley Council’s Head of Stronger Communities Rachel Payling and Group Leader of Heritage and Arts Lynn Dunning, plus Mandy Loach of the Trans Pennine Trail, Melvyn Lunn of Barnsley CVS and fine artist Richard Kitson.

The Covid Bounce Back programme, delivered by Mutual Ventures, was set up to help organisations and individuals develop robust new business plans, strengthen their structural and financial resilience, explore new ideas, embrace e-commerce and learn new skills.

It delivered 150 coaching calls and 17 workshops; and provided in-depth one-to-one business support to dozens of businesses including ten startups founded within the last two years.

Florentine Bootha-King, of Barnsley Education Learning Support Hub (ELSH) who also spoke at the event, said: “With the help we’ve received, we have transformed our organisation and become much stronger. We feel we are now better set up to provide more and improved education and support services to the community.”

The Covid Bounce Back programme is one of seven Prioritised Recovery Projects, part of a £2m economic investment, funded by Barnsley Council and Sheffield City Region. As part of Barnsley’s Economic Recovery Action Plan, these projects aim to help the local economy bounce back from Covid; and support people, businesses, traders, charities or community organisations to safeguard existing jobs as well as creating new jobs and businesses.


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