The Bertarelli Foundation’s previous projects in Stoke-on-Trent, a city in the north west of England, originated because Kirsty Bertarelli, one of its former Trustees, grew up close to the city, which was where music, dance and theatre were first introduced to her.

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.

In 2014, the Foundation launched a partnership with the YMCA North Staffordshire, based in Hanley in Stoke. Their joint project, Creative Youth Minds, continued the theme of ‘engagement-through-creativity’, with local artists and skilled practitioners leading 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 and other activities proved hugely popular.  As well as the workshops, a resource and training fund was created to help the young people pursue opportunities that arose from their new experiences. There was also an international bursary to provide opportunities for overseas experiences.

The Foundation also supported the Stoke-on-Trent Literary Festival for a number of years. The annual event, which was initially conceived by then local MP, Tristram Hunt, brought internationally acclaimed authors to packed audiences in the city, as well as providing an important focus on literacy, working with schools in the area to promote reading and to get young children involved in the Festival’s events and its broader outreach work.