January 28, 2016

10 lit birthday candles in bright colors with green background

Can you believe that People United has been going for 10 years? Who could have known when our founder Tom Andrews set up the charity in a tiny attic room back in 2006 that a decade later there would be a small but devoted team working tirelessly across the country to spread our vision of a more kind and caring society through the arts?

We are all super excited here in the office, looking back with pride and joy at the amazing things that have happened and the remarkable people we have met. We’re also looking ahead in high spirits – not just to what’s going to unfold this special anniversary year, but about the next chapter – where will the next 10 years take us?

Where have we been?

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Over the last decade we have grown from a team of 1 to become a close-knit People United family of 6. We became an Arts Council England national portfolio organisation in 2012, and since 2013 we have commissioned 14 new pieces of extraordinary, participatory artwork – from performances, music, photography and installations, to soundscapes, films, podcasts and a design lab.

I was constantly reassured that testing and experimenting were key,  there was room and time for rethinking.
Sarah Carne, visual artist

_MG_7937We have involved over 15,000 people directly in our commissions and projects (tens of thousands more as audiences and observers), created a significant bank of research evidencing how the arts can lead to pro-social behaviour, supported over 100 artists in their practice and guided 50 organisations in how the arts can affect social change.

We have set in place an annual Giant Picnic event (now in its 6th year with over 1500 picnicers each time) and launched a new festival (Best Fest). We have created 15 resources, enabled 20 artist residencies, commissioned 4 documentary art films to track our work, and set up a national Kindness Challenge scheme. We have taken over museums, streets and care homes, schools, beach huts and parks. Hopefully we have changed people’s lives for the better!

Phew. It’s been a journey and we couldn’t have done it without you – our artists, partners, participants, supporters, funders and researchers. Thank you.

And where are we going?

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Working with People United will inform and strengthen my commitment to make art that can talk about the world, that can be part of our ongoing debate about changing the world.
Boff Whalley, musician

Well, this coming year will be about looking both backwards and forwards, telling our stories and celebrating what we’ve done – and are doing – with a host of events (we’re definitely having a party – please come!), a pretty unique artist commission format (it’s launching on 8th Feb) and a very exciting new venture that will take off in a few weeks’ time – watch this space! (Needless to say it’s about spreading kindness far and wide).

Each month we will be celebrating one of the universal themes which underpin our day-to-day work, such as empathy, belonging and courage, kicking off in February with….Love. This year we want to have more conversations with you and there are lots of ways for people to get involved. Please join us in the usual places – at our events, on twitter, facebook, via our newsletter and through our resources – and please visit again soon to find out more about our forthcoming new community of practice. Alternatively, if you have an idea or project that could link with our work, or you’d like our support, please email info@peopleunited.org.uk

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Longer term? We will continue to create more kind and caring schools and neighbourhoods, and to support artists in creating new transformative work and experiences. The next step however is for us to focus much, much more on how we are a catalyst for kindness – by supporting others to adapt and replicate what we do in other places (across the UK and internationally) and pioneer change in their own settings – through new training and mentoring schemes. We will grow our community of practice and associates, and keep working to deliver our mission – as we always do – with incredible partners, of all shapes and sizes.

BEST FEST photo by Manu Palomeque

By using the arts as a superconductor for kindness, we hope to continue to make people’s lives better, more connected and more joyful, particularly in those places where we can make the most difference. Our research demonstrates that through the arts we take risks, bring people together, connect young and old, help people belong to their community, break down barriers, raise aspirations, increase confidence and make places better to live and work. We really need your help to keep this ambition going. If you would like to help us to continue to our work, please visit www.justgiving.com/people-united/donate/ Thank you.

 

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