Self-respect fostered through arts and sport

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The Independent Online

Playing a game of football or visiting the theatre is something most of us take for granted. However, for those living in deprived neighbourhoods, involvement with arts, culture and sport can be a luxury. Many don't have access and others are excluded.

Playing a game of football or visiting the theatre is something most of us take for granted. However, for those living in deprived neighbourhoods, involvement with arts, culture and sport can be a luxury. Many don't have access and others are excluded.

Past renewal programmes have regarded arts, culture and sport as subsidiary and incidental in turning around underprivileged districts. Consequently, the needs of such communities have been consistently overlooked. So it was a particularly important signal when the Government commissioned a report dedicated to looking at the impact of arts, leisure and sport as part of its preparatory work for the national strategy.

The team's report showed conclusively that having nowhere to go and nothing constructive to do is as much a part of living in a deprived community as poor housing or high crime levels. There is also a growing realisation that these activities can collectively contribute to neighbourhood renewal, way beyond their intrinsic value.

"The arts can raise educational attainment and provide life skills such as literacy, communication, team-working and leadership," says Baroness Blackstone, Minister for the Arts. "They can also contribute to a range of benefits in tackling problems of poor health, crime and barriers to social cohesion."

Trevor Brooking, chair of Sport England, attributes similar benefits to sporting activities. "Sport can help tackle regeneration and social inclusion – combating crime, improving health and giving people of all ages greater self-respect and confidence."

The Youth Justice Board's "Splash" programme is one such example. During summer 2000, it established 102 projects to provide sports and arts activities for 20,000 13- to 17-year-olds on deprived estates, with productive activities such as video making, drama and DJ classes. The result was an 18 per cent reduction in youth crime in the area. Those involved also reported benefits in health, community safety, quality of life, self-esteem and self-worth.

Social inclusion targets have been incorporated into funding agreements between the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and each of the sponsored bodies receiving grant-in-aid, including English Heritage, the Arts Council and Sport England.

Strategies focusing on social inclusion are being designed, such as 12 Sport Action Zones using links with health, education and sports clubs to improve sporting opportunities in areas of high deprivation. DCMS is also working with National Lottery distributors to ensure those in neighbourhood renewal districts receive a better deal.

A £750m programme for additional sports amenities for schools and the wider community has also been set up. Types of facilities funded will include playing fields, swimming pools, tennis courts, indoor nets and astropitches.

From April 2002, the Arts Council will promote social inclusion through 12 Creative Partnerships, giving school children the opportunity to explore creativity by working on sustained projects with creative professionals. For example, if a pupil is engaged in a music project, they might join up with an expert, compose a piece, practise it together, perform it, record a CD and market it. Research into similar projects in the US shows a range of benefits, including raising educational standards, improving pupil confidence and stimulating a child's imagination.

"In many areas of the country the poverty of aspiration and imagination is rife," says Peter Jenkinson, National Director of Creative Partnerships. "This initiative will offer an amazing menu of opportunity that young people won't have had before, which will potentially suggest new futures and develop them as individuals."

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