Critical Friend Brief

Creative People and Places, Sunderland and South Tyneside


  • Summary


The Cultural Spring is looking to appoint a new Critical Friend to support the evaluation of the second phase of our programme (2017-2020).  The Critical Friend will assist the Cultural Spring Steering group and staff team.  He or she will also support the team to reflect on the body of evaluation from the delivery of the programme and apply this learning to support the future practical and strategic development of The Cultural Spring.  We are circulating this brief to individuals and organisations with relevant skills and experience who we feel may be interested in this role. Please feel free to pass it on to any other potentially interested people who you feel have relevant skills and experience.


  • Creative People and Places


Creative People and Places (CPP) is a programme initiated by Arts Council England to focus investment into parts of the country where people’s involvement in the arts is significantly below the national average.  There are now 21 CPP areas across England. All Creative People and Places programmes work with a Critical Friend and this brief follows guidelines provided by Arts Council England to all programmes.  The Critical Friends working with each CPP area will also be linked to each other, via the National Evaluation and Peer Learning Coordinator. .


  • The Cultural Spring


In mid-2012, a small consortium of organisations – the University of Sunderland, the Sunderland Music, Arts & Culture (MAC) Trust and The Customs House Trust – came together to create a 10-year vision to radically change the way that people in South Tyneside and Sunderland consume, experience, influence and make great art. In short, this vision is for a cultural renaissance, our ‘Cultural Spring’.

In June 2013 the consortium was awarded £2million from Arts Council England’s Creative People and Places programme to deliver the first three years of the 10 year vision for the Cultural Spring. We have since been awarded a further £1 million for our Phase Two – February 2017-January 2020, creating a six year programme and welcome a fourth consortium partner – Sangini.

With the support of the Arts Council’s Creative People and Places Programme over the next three years we continue to want to forge a real difference for our communities. The Cultural Spring aims to create long-term change in levels of arts and cultural participation in South Tyneside and Sunderland, driven by the creativity, imaginations and ambitions of the people living here. Working together we can develop truly inspirational cultural programmes that increase levels of social engagement and participation, something that will provide a demonstrable impact on both the opportunities available to local people and their well-being.

Further information on the programme is available at, including our first three years film ( and three year brochure ( .


  • The Critical Friend role


The Critical Friend will provide an independent view of the CPP programme in Sunderland and South Tyneside and prompt honest reflection and appraisal (or reappraisal) by those involved. The critical friend will do this by:

  • asking open and thought provoking questions;
  • providing additional data, evidence or lessons from elsewhere that offer a different perspective; and
  • critiquing processes and/or reports.

The Critical Friend will:

  • Provide advice and guidance on how to capture and report evidence of practice and impact;
  • Act as a broker for knowledge and learning on evaluation methods and on public engagement in the arts;
  • Signpost to useful tools, techniques and approaches for gathering and reporting evidence on practice and impact;
  • Assist to produce accurate monitoring returns and excellent annual and final evaluation reports by providing critiques of draft monitoring returns and reports;
  • Quality assure research methods and tools used as part of project evaluations; and
  • Quality assure project evaluation reports
  • Maintain a relationship with the programme (national) evaluation to ensure that Cultural Spring is meeting the programme evaluation requirements

The Critical Friend will also:

  • Observe at least one steering group meeting per year
  • Produce a report once a year, reviewing the critical friend process

What we are looking for in a Critical Friend



The Critical Friend will be expected to:

  • be open and honest;
  • remain external to and independent of the Cultural Spring
  • build and maintain a relationship of trust with the team responsible for the delivery of the programme
  • bring knowledge and understanding of process and impact evaluations, partnership working and public engagement in the arts and/or participatory decision-making processes;
  • support the Cultural Spring Team to become self-sufficient with respect to evaluation needs over time, so that by the end of the third year of the second phase they are able to carry out self-evaluations unaided;
  • assist the Cultural Spring team to capture and share lessons from their work
  • bring knowledge and experience of supporting and mentoring staff involved in projects;
  • produce high quality written reports
  • there is a requirement to engage with the requirements of the national evaluation, such as by responding to periodic information requests


  • Contract


The contract will be with University of Sunderland and will run from November 2017 to January 2020. The guidelines from Arts Council England recommend that the role of the Critical Friend is a minimum of 12 days freelance work per year. This equates to 27 days in total.


  • Budget


There is a maximum budget available of £9,000 for the 27 months that remain of this programme (inclusive of VAT and all expenses).

How to apply

To apply for the role of Critical Friend please provide the following information:

  • A CV
  • An outline of the approach you would take to the role ( max 700 words)
  • Your approach to fees and expenses for delivery of the Critical Friend role
  • Contact details for two referees

Please email your proposal to Emma Horsman, by Wednesday 18 October 2017.  

Selection Process

The criteria for selecting our Critical Friend will be:

  • Knowledge, skills and experience that demonstrate the best fit with the role description
  • Clarity of approach for delivering the contract
  • Value for money

Further Information

For further information please contact: