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  • Arts-Engagement-And-Outreach-March-News

Arts Engagement & Outreach: March News

Arts Engagement & Outreach: March News
posted 04 Apr 2024

Our Arts Engagement & Outreach team develop and deliver programmes and activities that benefit health and wellbeing, enrich learning and education in and outside school, inspire and celebrate talent. Creating work that will support local artists and tell “local stories”. In everything we do and programme we will seek to improve inclusion and remove barriers, whatever they may be, so that everyone is able to enjoy and benefit from the creative arts.

Our Arts Engagement & Outreach team look to provide more opportunities for our communities to watch, take part and benefit from arts and cultural activities where they live.

undefinedMarch has seen the launch of our SHiNE Bursary Fund, workshops with national touring companies and local artists across Somerset, and our Somerset Wellbeing Orchestra featuring on ITV news, read more below…

Access & Inclusion Schemes

SHiNE Bursary Fund to support individuals unable to afford costs of taking part is now LIVE!

Our new SHiNE Bursary Fund supports individuals of all ages to take part in creative art activities at The Octagon Theatre & Westlands Entertainment Venue, who might not be able to afford the opportunity otherwise. With 18 weekly classes plus additional one-off workshops with visiting practitioners and companies there are lots of chances to take part for people of all ages and we wanted to make sure that everyone in our community could access these opportunities to take part, so have developed the SHiNE Bursary Fund, which offers individuals the potential to apply for either a 50% discount or a totally free place to attend either weekly participation classes or one off workshops being hosted by The Octagon & Westlands, Yeovil.

“The support that Westlands have been able to give my son through attending holiday activities and now weekly classes has made such a difference.  As a single parent seeing your child suffer anxiety because of bullying is heartbreaking, the difference in him now is amazing.  He feels comfortable going into the venue and has a sense of belonging and being valued.  He has his spark back.” Comment from parent of a SHiNE Bursary Participant

Find out more about our SHiNE Bursary Fund here.


Octagon Academy: Participate

Young people inspired through music and drama to retell The Emperor’s New Clothes.

Bridport based theatre company, Stuff and Nonsense and Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO) have been working with young people in Chard, Langport, Wincanton and Yeovil over the last couple of months. The young people have been a mix of members of youth clubs, young carers and, children with SEND.  The sessions have been a great success introducing the participants to skills and techniques using their vocal and physical skills music and, in addition, letting them have a hands on experience with various instruments to come up with ideas that can be used to create a retelling of the well-known children’s story, The Emperor’s New Clothes. The workshops have been guided by the specialists but have been led by the young people which has allowed them to have an ownership over what they have created and as a result give them the feeling of being ‘inspired’, ‘included’ and ‘encouraged’. Out of 52 participants 96% rated the workshops 4 or 5 stars!

“I loved the different interpretations for the story” (participant)

Community Comes Together

Ahead of Chard Together, a multicultural event supported by Somerset Diverse Communities, the Octagon & Westlands have hosted 2 free African & Caribbean Dance workshops at the Boden Centre in Chard. The workshops, led by Somerset dance artist Latisha Cesar, have seen 20 participants of varying ages, abilities and nationalities come together to learn a dance from Cabo Verde inspired by Batuque and the Funana rhythms, dances, and the social culture around them. The workshops have been free to attend, with the dancers coming together to perform at Chard Together on Saturday 9th March alongside Latisha Cesar. Chard Together is a celebration of cultural diversity and we are delighted to be able to support the event and offer residents the ability to take part, and with the workshops open to all levels it offers a real opportunity to experience something new on their doorsteps. 

African Dance Workshop in Chard

Arts for Health & Wellbeing

ITV visits Somerset Wellbeing Orchestra

Our Somerset Wellbeing Orchestra were full of excitement when ITV West Country came to film the project in action last month. The Octagon & Westlands are working in partnership with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO), Ark at Egwood and The WATCH Project in Chard, to bring this wonderful music making opportunity to Somerset. 14 participants experiencing mental health challenges have been referred into this project by Ark at Egwood and WATCH Project in Chard. For the last 10 weeks, participants have learnt new skills, made new connections and friendships, and reported vast improvements in confidence and wellbeing. This music making opportunity has had a positive impact on the mental health of all participants and has helped to establish a strong sense of belonging and community within the group. These impacts, and more, can be seen in the ITV Westcountry segment that aired on Tuesday 19th March in the 6pm News.

Somerset Wellbeing Orchestra helping people overcome isolation by creating 'joyous' music | ITV News West Country

‘This project has been a magical, life changing experience for me.’

‘It has been liberating.’

‘Before I wouldn’t really talk to anyone, whereas now I’m happy to pick up any instrument…. this project has meant so much to me, it has grown my confidence so much, thank you.’

Somerset Wellbeing Orchestra

Creative Learning & Education

240 Primary School Students compose a new song with the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

Our creative partnership with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO) saw the team deliver interactive music workshops to 240 KS1 children and their teachers at St Gildas (Yeovil), Oaklands (Yeovil), Manor Court (Chard), and Wincanton Primary Schools. This was The BSO’s second visit to the primary schools, following a creative music making workshop in November last year where the students had the opportunity to conduct BSO’s musicians, create and write their very own song, producing lyrics and sounds with various instruments. This month on their return visit, BSO’s Associate and Musicians taught the students the song they had gone away and composed since their first visit last year. The song composed by BSO’s Associate, Sam Mason, Stories in Sound, was also taught to teachers at a CPD training event held in February. The song will be performed by 14 of BSO’s musicians, together with teachers and students, as part of BSO’s KS1 Schools Concert on the 17th April.

BSO Schools Workshop

Talent Development

Supporting, developing & enabling cultural practitioners at early stages of their careers

At the beginning of the year we launched the Early Careers Club, a space for creative & cultural practitioners at an early stage of their careers to come together and create their own professional development opportunities. This is an open group with rolling membership and monthly meetings held online and in-person enabling anyone to join at any time. We’re currently working with six artists: theatre-makers, film-makers, musicians, writers, pattern designers and photographers from across Somerset. We’re doing this because we want connect Somerset’s artists, safeguard Somerset’s creative landscape for the future, and because we’re able to invest in local practitioners.In the longer term, the Early Careers Club will help us make art & culture accessible to Somerset’s residents, where they live. Watch this space as their ideas grow, their ambitions sharpen and their careers take flight. Members can join the Early Careers Club at any time, if you or someone you know is an early career creative living and/or working in Somerset get in touch with us.

“This is already really helpful for me; I’m buzzing and I can’t wait to see how things develop.” Early Career Club member


Artist Support

Helping Somerset’s professional arts community to make connections, develop ideas and build resilience

We believe that a stronger Somerset means bringing the county’s cultural practitioners together. We also believe that sharing expertise, bouncing ideas around, and signposting to other opportunities across the county & the region is an integral part of what helps keep a professional creative ecology moving in the right direction.  Since September our Arts Engagement & Outreach Officer, Nick White, and experienced theatre professional, has provided mentoring & guidance for 40 creatives from Somerset, Bristol, Dorset & Devon.  This has ranged from helping individuals with applications for arts grants, to being a soundboard for new creative project ideas.


To keep up to date with all the activities coming up head over to the What’s On section on our website or check out our Participate page which will link you to all our projects and upcoming opportunities.