Welcome to Alex

AN award-winning arts project has strengthened its team with a new appointment.

The Cultural Spring, which has been working to increase participation in the arts in Sunderland and South Tyneside since 2014, has recruited Alexandra Marsden as a Community Engagement Co-ordinator.

Alexandra joined The Cultural Spring team from arts development organisation Gem Arts where she was Project Manager. Her role will be to further improve links with the communities in which The Cultural Spring works, identify new venues and new organisations to partner, as well as helping to deliver workshops and events.

Originally from Stockton-on-Tees, Alexandra completed a degree in music at the University of Huddersfield before studying a Master’s degree in community music at the University of York.

She worked with adult learners in Stockton for a year before joining Leeds-based Opera North as Education Co-ordinator. Two years later she moved to Sage Gateshead where she was a Project Co-ordinator. There she worked on the venue’s Weekend School and community programmes.

From Sage Gateshead, Alex moved to GemArts, a Gateshead-based arts organisation which profiles and programmes diverse arts. There she worked for more than 14 years as Project Manager, working alongside diverse communities on a variety of workshops, events and festivals.

Alexandra joined as Project Co-ordinator, but left the organisation more than 14 years later to join The Cultural Spring as Project Manager.

She said: “I loved my time at GemArts, but I was ready for a change and a new challenge. I am excited to start working with new people in a new area on new projects. My mum is originally from Boldon so I know the area, which I think will help.

“I was also aware of the great work The Cultural Spring has been doing – they’re well respected in the region’s arts and culture sector and with GemArts I enjoyed working on The Great North Passion, back in 2014.

“Organisations such as The Cultural Spring have been very successful in introducing people to the arts in areas without the tradition of taking part in arts activities. This has been particularly important during the pandemic during which the arts sector has successfully worked with those people feeling isolated or in danger of being isolated.

“While I was at GemArts I worked with a group of ladies during the pandemic on an online arts project. One of the ladies had recently arrived from Iran and could not speak English. She obviously felt very isolated, in a new country and not knowing anyone. We started working with her on the arts project and found out she was an amazing artist.

“She told me that the project had allowed her to follow her dreams of becoming an artist, helped her make new friends and feel less isolated. I think this shows the power of art to connect – and how the arts can enrich and improve everyone’s lives.”

Emma Horsman, Project Director at The Cultural Spring added: “We’re delighted to welcome Alex to the team. She’s someone with vast experience and we were impressed by her knowledge and enthusiasm.

“We’ve been working hard over the last few months to remain connected with our communities, using the internet and innovative new ways of delivering arts workshops and activities.

“However, our Autumn programme is a combination of online and face-to-face activities and it’s great for us to be in the same rooms as our artists and participants.

“Our Autumn programme was our biggest yet, and I’m looking forward to working with Alex to develop our next programme, as well as our other Cultural Spring projects and activities.”

The Cultural Spring was launched in 2014 and its five current partners are University of Sunderland, The Customs House (South Shields), Sunderland Music, Arts and Culture (MAC) Trust Sangini, a women’s health organisation, and The Cultural Spring Charity.

The project has worked with more than 50,000 people since 2014, through large-scale events, workshop activities in a range of community venues, a Go and See programme and Your Art-Community commissioning.