The Bertarelli Foundation’s various projects in Stoke-on-Trent, a city in the north west of England, originated because Kirsty Bertarelli, one of its Trustees, grew up close to the city and where her parents still live. It is also where music, dance and theatre were first introduced to her, which is why the Foundation’s partnerships there focus on using the creative arts to provide access to new opportunities and to open young people’s eyes to the possibilities that can flow from them.
In 2012, the Foundation initiated the Creative Minds Festival in partnership with the Regent Theatre and the Stoke Theatres Creative Learning Department. The Festival provided a platform for local schools and community groups to “share and stage original creative work, be it music, song, drama, film or art”, as well as to bring local communities together in celebration of their children’s achievements over the course of a week of performances at the theatre. A great success, the Festival returned in 2013 with more than 40 local groups taking part. The Regent Academy of Performing Arts won The Bertarelli Foundation Award for their performance of As If On A Distant Horizon.
In 2014, the Foundation launched its partnership with the inspirational YMCA North Staffordshire, based in Hanley in Stoke, and named YMCA of the Year for its exceptional work. The joint project, Creative Youth Minds, is now in its third year and continues the ‘engagement-through-creativity’ work that was begun with the Festival. Local artists and skilled practitioners lead regular workshops at the YMCA to help the young people there discover and develop new skills. Covering creative areas like textiles, photography, drama, sculpture and film, the workshops have proved hugely popular. A number of the YMCA residents even joined Kirsty Bertarelli at the world famous Abbey Road studios to sing on her Christmas song The Ghosts of Christmas Past.
As well as the workshops, a resource and training fund to help the young people pursue opportunities that arise from their new experiences, be that higher education or starting a small business. There is also an international bursary to provide opportunities for overseas experiences, which in many cases can be a first. A delegation has recently returned from an Arts Festival in Budapest, while another travelled to Srebrenica in Bosnia as part of an event to commemorate the massacre that took place there during the war.
The Foundation also supports the brilliant Stoke Literary Festival, which in 2016 returned to the Emma Bridgewater Factory for the third year running. Bringing internationally acclaimed authors to packed audiences over the course of three days, the Festival – which was conceived of and launched by local MP, Tristram Hunt – has proved that there is a huge appetite for events like it in the city. The Festival also has a continued and large focus on literacy, working with schools in the area to promote reading and to get young children involved.
All of these organisations and projects in Stoke-on-Trent are run by passionate, talented and dedicated people who care about their home town. They are the reason for the projects’ success and the Foundation is honoured to call them partners.