Rural Creative Challenge: Grant Recipients Revealed

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In a collaboration between Creative UK’s North of Tyne Programme, Creative Fuse, and the Rural Design Centre Innovation Project, the Rural Creative Challenge was launched in December 2022. This new opportunity aimed to provide support and funding to North of Tyne-based creative businesses and practitioners addressing crucial challenges in rural areas, including sustainability, access to markets, wellbeing, and place-making.

After its successful launch, a series of design-thinking and ideation workshops took place in January and February 2023. These workshops served as a catalyst for innovation, inspiring participants to develop groundbreaking solutions for rural challenges. As a result, the Rural Creative Challenge awarded 12 grants, amounting to an impressive fund of £37,488. Additionally, an exceptional £21,730 in match funding was contributed, primarily by the Rural Design Centre.

Today, we are thrilled to unveil the deserving recipients of these grants. Each of them showcased extraordinary creativity, innovation, and a strong alignment with the programme’s overarching objectives. Their projects hold immense potential to transform rural landscapes and bring about positive change:

Sylvan Skills

“This grant will enable me to design and deliver a new therapeutic willow weaving service, which will hopefully be able to be rolled out on a larger scale in the social prescribing sector.

It is important to me as it enables me to dip my toe into the water by working in a new way and it could lead to more sustainable and worthwhile work for myself. The grant will give me a more robust and regular revenue stream for myself; and up the other rural providers I will be engaging will also benefit from enhanced revenue.”

Creatively Conscious

“The funding will help us test a brand new model of making compost in our allotment garden. Working with the local community and local tourists we hope to educate, explore people to make more compost in their green spaces too.  The project is rooted in wellbeing and allowing people the time to slow down and connect with the soil and themselves through day long retreats.”

Bumble and Bloom

“In July 2022 the UK experienced the hottest temperatures on record, putting our native wildlife under immense stress. After doing some initial research I quickly realised that a year-round solution needed to be found. Armed with an idea, I knew I needed additional support to help make it a reality. This initial research phase will be funded by Creative UK to create a prototype to test my idea and take me one step further towards an innovative, scalable solution. This is just the beginning, but feels like a huge step in the right direction which has been made possible by grant funding.”

Hexham TV

“It’s vitally important that artists, creatives and producers in rural areas such as Northumberland are supported to be able to expand their market to urban customers nationally and internationally. This important funding from Creative UK will enable Hexhamtv to pilot a new service under the brand ‘Shop Northumberland’ which will use the latest AI and virtual technology to create exciting new services to sell products from Northumberland artists, creatives and producers to new urban customers”

Trina Dalziel

“This grant will support me to develop an additional skill as an illustrator, as I’ll be making a print and digital illustrated infographic on a more complex level than tackled before. The information in the infographic will hopefully aid other visual artists in Northumberland to access funding in the future by clearly and visually explaining who the funding bodies are in the North East and pointers to where business support is available. I like how it is a project that will help me grow in my career as an illustrator but also is based around a subject that will hopefully be really beneficial to fellow artists.”

Amble Pin Cushion

“This small grant is important to my business as it will allow me to develop a new product line which will help with future growth and sustainability. It will enable me to have someone in place working in the shop whilst I work on development ideas and practicalities of the project.  By introducing a new product to our existing range, we are making more use of components and skills we already have available, and by working with a local graphic designer on packaging for this range, we may well update our existing products to enhance the whole Northumbria Knit and Stitch range. I also want to explore supplying more heritage outlets with our products which are relevant to both visitors and the local population.”

Old School Gallery

“The challenge fund will enable our small gallery business to broaden the scope of what we already do by helping sustain the camping huts through the winter and introduce some creative input in the area too. We are delighted to see this investment in Northumberland and the support for the fantastic, talented creatives who work in the region.”

Creative Heritage Studios CiC

“We are thrilled to receive funding from the Rural Challenge grant scheme. As a Community Interest Company, this grant will give Creative Heritage Studios the opportunity to highlight the vital role that creativity plays within society. As an art project, we will explore the historic exploitation of creative skills and services, while also producing a collection of high-quality products that people can purchase to support the legacy of crafts in the United Kingdom. The working title of this project is Antiques of the Future.”

Wooler Arts Junk Orchestra Project 

The North of Tyne Culture and Creative Investment Programme is so important to our ambitions for Wooler Arts as a provider of Arts experiences in rural North Northumberland. The Creative UK Rural Challenge Grant is key to our being able to create and sustain the Junk Orchestra, a new initiative to open up the opportunity for people of all ages and abilities to play music together. It will achieve one of our key objectives – engaging those in the community who may feel excluded or isolated. This is very much a community venture, an exploration of sound and rhythm enabling participants to experience the joy of playing together in an ensemble.”

Lynda Vusthoff

“I would like to thank Creative UK & all who organised the Rural Challenge Grant workshops which have culminated in my award of funding to help me to develop an idea for a mobile studio.  I can now reach rural communities to participate in creative clay workshops. Without this funding it would have remained just an idea. This will also impact my practice in giving me a new income stream, helping my business grow.”

Crane Innovation

“This funding is enabling Crane Innovation to pilot a virtual slice of the metaverse. The focus in on Prudhoe, offering a gallery and enhanced immersive experience to local artists and creatives. This will offer insight into how Northumberland may deploy the latest technology to deepen engagement with new audiences”

Find out more about the Rural Creative Challenge grant here

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