New commissions for artists – help us in ‘Staying Connected’

Research and Development Open Call

Like many community arts organisations in the situation we currently find ourselves in, The Cultural Spring is rethinking how we connect people in South Tyneside and Sunderland with arts and cultural opportunities.

In March, we conducted consultation with local people and community partners. The overwhelming response demonstrated a clear need and interest for The Cultural Spring to support communities and the NE cultural sector by continuing to create opportunities for connections between local people and artists during the current situation.

How do we do this?

The Cultural Spring is offering research and development funding of up to £1,000 for artists and creative practitioners to explore new and creative ways of connecting local people in South Tyneside and Sunderland with arts and culture during the current situation. We anticipate being able to fund 3-4 projects.

We are looking for the research and development projects to explore one or more of the following:

  • The engagement of local people as a participants, audience members or co-creators in arts and cultural activities during the current situation
  • Exploring the use of digital technologies for arts and cultural activities and engagement
  • Exploring how those with no or limited access to digital technologies can still be engaged
  • How communities are supported during the current situation through arts and cultural engagement
  • How accessibility is embedded when using new/alternative arts engagement methods (e.g. BSL interpretation, closed captioning, audio description, etc.)

Your project doesn’t need to reference the COVID-19 pandemic, but does need to operate safely within the current guidance from Public Health England.

Successful applicants will be given a 4-week period to research and develop their ideas. They will then be invited to share the findings and learning with The Cultural Spring to inform our programme in the immediate future, as well as how these findings may also support the ambitions for the next three years of our programme.


The commission is open to artists and creative practitioners of any art form and background.

We are particularly keen to hear from South Tyneside and Sunderland based artists and creative practitioners, or those who have a track record of delivering arts projects in either or both of these geographical areas.

Artists and creative practitioners should be able to start delivery of their research and development project the w/c 11th May.

Things to consider:

  • Artists and creative practitioners must be aware of the latest Public Health England guidance, particularly around social distancing and ensure their project operates within this guidance.
  • Artists and creative practitioners should have a Disclosure and Barring Service check and Public Liability Insurance (cover of up to £5 million) in place.
  • There will be a short, simple evaluation form/report that you will need to complete at the end of the project.
  • The Cultural Spring will offer support to ensure appropriate measures are in place to safeguard artists and participants when using digital platforms (if appropriate)
  • The work/findings may be shared and distributed online by The Cultural Spring and with the wider Creative Peoples and Places network.


A maximum of £1,000 is available per artist/creative practitioner.

The fee will be paid in two instalments: 80% upfront and the final 20% upon completion of the project.

We ask you to consider the size of the budget you request relative to the scale and ambition of your project. This means that we’re realistic about the scope of the projects and our expectations aren’t for fully formed pieces of work with hours of research underpinning them in this instance. We also understand that some of the ideas that are explored might not go as planned and that’s okay. This is about testing and exploring new approaches for many of us right now.

The research and development nature of this commission means there might not necessarily be an ‘end product’ that can be shared. However, the learning should be able to feed into future planning.

You’ll receive support from The Cultural Spring team in the form of marketing and producing support if required.

Submit a Proposal:

Please either submit a written proposal (500 words max) or a video/audio proposal (5 mins max).

Please include in your proposal:

  • Information about your idea and what you would like to explore.
  • Some background about you/your work (images, videos, web links you think helpful are welcome).
  • The budget required and how you plan to spend it.

Please email your proposal or video/audio file to Larger files can be submitted via a platform such as WeTransfer, Dropbox or Google Drive.

The deadline to submit your proposal is 10am on Friday 1st May.

Due to the expected number of applications we’re unable to provide feedback on unsuccessful applications.

Applications will be considered by a Community Panel (via a digital platform). We may invite applicants to meet digitally with the panel if elements of your proposal require further discussion.

If you require this information in an alternative format, please contact outline your requirements.

The Cultural Spring is a Creative People and Places project, funded by Arts Council England. We are a consortium of four partners, The Customs House Trust Ltd, Sunderland Music Arts & Culture (MAC) Trust, Sangini and led by the University of Sunderland.