Agenda item

Overview and Update on Sports and Arts Development in Breckland (agenda item 6)

Report of the Operations Manager – Community Services.


The Panel gave consideration to the joint report by Riana Rudland and Claire Salley which provided an update on Sports Development and Arts Development in Breckland. 


Members were reminded that in October 2006, they had considered the Work Plans of both the Arts and Sports Development Officers.  The report provided an update on progress against the agreed Work Plans and also outlined future plans and opportunities for the team. 


In 2006/07, the Council set up a client side function to deliver Cultural Services.  This included the appointment of a Senior Leisure Manager, Sports Development Officer and an Arts Development Officer. 


A Cultural Strategy, jointly agreed by the Local Strategic Partnership and Breckland Council, had been agreed in October 2006.  This identified a number of recommendations which had already been reported to this Panel. 


Sports Development in the District


In June 2007, the Sports Development Officer took on the role of Private Finance Initiative (PFI) Monitoring Officer on a three day a week (temporary) basis.  It was the intention to cover the gap in resources by back-filling the Sports Development Officer role.  This would enable the current Sports Development Officer to fulfil the current PFI contract in terms of monitoring as well as continuing with Strategic Sports Development duties.  The PFI agreement and supporting schedules outlines the requirements for Parkwood to deliver an annual sports development plan in line with national, regional, county and local priorities.  Over the last year, both organisations had worked closely together raising participation in sport and physical activity across the district. 


The summer holidays saw the first rural sports development programme delivered in partnership with Parkwood Leisure.  Riana Rudland gave Members a brief overview of the activities which took place during the summer.  Over 800 people had attended the events with an overall satisfaction rating of 100% of participants satisfied or very satisfied with the activities they attended.


Disability sport had been a key area of work over the past year.  Two inclusive days were held in Dereham and Thetford Leisure Centres for the children of the Fred Nicholson and Chapel Road schools.  Children who participated in the sessions were then able to progress on to the Active Norfolk Youth Games event which was held at the University of East Anglia in June for children with disabilities from across the whole county. 


The development of a Community Sports Network had been a priority area of work and a Sports Forum had also been formed in Thetford to trial the structure of the network.  Building on the success of this group, further Fora were currently being formed in the other market towns.  Following the formalisation of the network, a funding application would be submitted to Sports England for £25,000 per year for sports activity in the district.  Partnership funding would be necessary to achieve the full allocation. 


Riana Rudland explained that she had attended a meeting on this matter last night in Thetford which was very successful.  To obtain the funding from Sport England, the request had to be for new money.  As the network had only just been formed and each of the key agencies had recently prepared a new strategy/work programme, there was a good chance of the application being successful.


Members were informed that six courses for coaches had been held in the last six months.  These had been oversubscribed and it was hoped to run further courses shortly.  The aim of the courses was to build on the capacity of the existing sporting groups so that they could extend the range of services they provide to the public and in particular young people. 


A swim forum had been held for children who were not able to swim by the time they left school.  The forum also provided classes for older people and further offered the opportunity to undertake synchronised swimming which was very popular in the county.  


During consideration of the report, Members made the following comments:


  • A Member pointed out that in Bawdeswell, 288 youngsters had attended a sports day once a week during the summer holiday period.  This had been run by approximately 10 volunteers and had proved very successful.  Riana Rudland explained that the Sports Development Team was able to assist volunteers to run these types of events and also to publicise them in the activities leaflet produced by the Council. 


  • A Member queried how the Council worked with organisations which provide activities for young adults with mental health problems.  Riana Rudland acknowledged that disability sport was poor in Norfolk, albeit the situation was now changing.  A Disability Sports Officer, funded by Sport England, was now operating from Norfolk County Council.  The Annual Youth Games had been extended this year to include children with disabilities.  Work was being undertaken with local clubs to up-skill them to engage with young people with disabilities. 


  • Some concern was expressed that young people above the age of 18 with mental health problems might not be able to access services which could help them.  Often there was a difference between their physical and mental ages and it was unfair to separate them from mainstream society.  Some organisations, like the Riversdale centre, which provided groups for people with physical or mental disabilities, had recently had their grants cut by mainstream organisations which were experiencing financial problems.  In addition, the work being highlighted for people with mental illnesses appears to be concentrating on mainly young persons.  These were only a proportion of the people suffering from these illnesses and there was a need to provide these facilities for older persons as well.  Riana Rudland acknowledged this and also stated that officers were investigating the possibility of holding an adults games in Norfolk in future. 


  • A Member enquired as to how officers selected the rural areas where the sport activities were undertaken.  She expressed concern that no discussions had been held with the Parish Council in her ward about utilising the playing field for such activities.  Riana Rudland responded by confirming that only villages who had approached the Council and/or had appropriate facilities were being used at the moment.  All the parishes in the district would be contacted shortly to discuss how sporting activities could be provided in or near to their area. 


  • It was pointed out that the purpose of providing the sporting activities was to make them sustainable in future years and then the officers could undertake work in other areas of the district.  A workshop day would be held for all town and parish councils to provide them with the skills they require to run the events and make them sustainable in future.


  • Transport was highlighted as a key barrier to young people attending these activities, especially if they were provided outside of the village where they lived.  Whilst this was acknowledged it was pointed out that during the summer, community transport had been provided to take young people to the leisure centres but this had not been well used. 


  • Members were advised that there was a need to provide a geographical spread of sports and arts events across the district during the summer months.  Problems had been experienced with some of the venues (e.g. not being open) and other events had not been publicised in the area sufficiently by the schools and/or the Parish Councils, and therefore attendance had been limited. 


Arts Development in the District


Claire Salley explained that various initiatives had been developed to address the recommendations of the Cultural Strategy and the corporate objectives of the Council.  Festivals, carnivals and community events had been supported in all towns and relevant parishes which had enabled them to diversify and extend professional live programmes and reach new audiences.  Rural areas had in particular been supported through a professional touring theatre scheme.  Opportunities for local artists to practice, exhibit, perform and network had been developed, such as through the Breckland Arts Network, Open Studios Scheme and the purchase of portable exhibition screens for community hire. 


Close links had also been developed with the Dereham and Breckland leisure centres as centres for art as well as for sports.  Due to the limited exhibition space in the district, both sites now exhibit the work of over twelve local artists on a rotating basis.  During the opening period, Dereham Leisure Centre also hosted jazz and street music events, story tellers, sculpture, a district-wide art competition and a large stained glass installation created by over sixty local children.  It is also the current venue for Breckland’s successful Creative Change Project, a strand of the Norfolk Arts Partnership’s work in the district which provides creative opportunities for men suffering from anxiety, depression or stress. 


Partnerships have been established with appropriate agencies as well as with other District Arts Officers.  This had enabled a joined up approach to developing new opportunities and collaborative work had brought in considerable financial, human and physical resources which would not have been accessible. 


Arts development had also had a significant role in the development of museums and heritage activity in Breckland.  Claire Salley gave Members details of numerous activities which had been undertaken during the year.  Regular holiday programmes had been organised offering a range of arts activities at a number of community venues throughout the district.  Over 600 young people had attended the arts sessions since October 2006 with all the events achieving a 100% satisfaction rating.


Over the next year, more support for community arts and heritage groups would be made available through further networking events, equipment hire, email and web based information.  Greater cultural involvement with developments such as the Dereham Memorial Hall and plans relating to Thetford Growth Point status, the development of a rural theatre project and involvement with county wide plans relating to Arts and Health and the Cultural Olympics would be priority areas of work.


In concluding her presentation, Claire Salley pointed out that her temporary contract was due to end in July 2008.  A request had been made to the Star Chamber for funding to continue this post in future. 


During consideration of the report, Members made the following comments:


  • A Member enquired whether anybody could hire the screens.  Claire Salley confirmed that this was the case. 


  • With regard to the work being undertaken with Norfolk Music Works, it was confirmed that Breckland Council did not have a contract with them, albeit they were very helpful in providing arts activities in the district.  Recently, the Arts Council had withdrawn the grant funding to Norfolk Music Works as the amount of funding that the organisation received from the government had been cut.  Claire Salley reported that she would be attending their board meeting later that afternoon to discuss how Norfolk Music Works could be funded in future. 


  • Members were advised that access to school facilities to provide arts and sports events was a problem in some areas of the district.  It was often difficult to get schools involved in “out of hours” events as they were concerned that their facilities could be vandalised or misused.  In addition, some of the hire charges for the schools premises were excessive to put people off using them. 


  • The new government legislation to create the extended schools programme would make it a requirement for Norfolk County Council to provide after school activities in future.  This would make it easier to provide sport and art activities in schools when this legislation comes into effect. 


  • A Member enquired whether Litcham school had been approached to provide these activities as they had excellent facilities available.  Claire Salley explained that activities had been undertaken in the village hall but the attendance was poor.  There was a reliance on the schools to advertise the events by passing on leaflets to pupils/parents.  To encourage this, officers were meeting with the schools to promote these events. 


  • Members agreed that there was a need to invite a representative from each of the school governors to a seminar to point out the advantages of providing sport and art activities in their areas.  The seminar could also be used to dispel any concerns that the schools might be used inappropriately or vandalised whilst these activities were being undertaken. 


Members then discussed and noted the work plans which had been attached to the report and thanked Riana Rudland and Claire Salley for their contribution to improving sport and arts in the district. 

Supporting documents: