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Recipients of the MaxLiteracy Awards 2021 announced: Open Eye Gallery, Newark & Sherwood District Council and The Turnpike.
Mon 24 May 2021
We are delighted to announce the host venues for the 2021 MaxLiteracy Awards. Funded by the Max Reinhardt Charitable Trust, MaxLiteracy offers funding for museums and galleries in England to support a dedicated programme of creative writing and literacy work within learning settings through the visual arts. The Awards are run in partnership with Engage, the National Association for Gallery Education and the National Association for Writers in Education (NAWE).

This year three venues, Open Eye Gallery, Newark & Sherwood District Council and The Turnpike, have been awarded £8,000 to employ a creative writer to work with a local school on a creative writing or literacy project, taking inspiration from the venue’s collections, displays or building.

The activities will lead to the development of a new resource for each venue, designed to encourage engagement with the venue through creative writing. These will be widely shared within the arts and education sectors to encourage the greater use of galleries, art museums and visual arts venues by schools for creative writing and literacy work.

In response to the global health emergency the 2021 call out for venues had an adapted focus. The awards invited galleries, museums, and visual arts venues to propose activity that aims to support the mental health and wellbeing of children, young people or young adults through creative writing, literacy and the visual arts.

“We are thrilled to announce the awardees for the MaxLiteracy Awards 2021. All three of the projects chosen include a strong commitment to using creative writing and visual arts to support the mental health of children and young people who have faced unprecedented pressures over the past year. At the same time as losing access to school, friends, family, support networks, children and young people have also missed out on cultural opportunities that are so crucial to their development. We are so looking forward to working with the expert writers, curators and teachers involved in all three projects, and delighted to play a part in supporting young people to thrive through access to creative writing and visual arts.” Seraphima Kennedy - Director, National Association of Writers in Education

“With a particular focus on mental health and wellbeing, the 2021 Awards are aimed at both formal and informal learning settings to further enhance and better the life chances and creative opportunities for young people. This is an exciting round through which we hope will develop and strengthen creative partnerships between arts and cultural organisations, learning settings and creative writers, particularly at a time when developmental support for young people is most crucial.” Ronda Gowland-Pryde – MaxLiteracy Coordinator

“We have tried to make the MaxLiteracy Awards as flexible as possible in 2021 to address the many challenges brought by the pandemic and the huge need to support the mental health of our children and young people. We know that the visual arts have a crucial role to play in recovery. We want to encourage museums and galleries to develop partnerships with teachers and creative writers that can work within the confines of changing public health guidelines but still reach vulnerable young people at a time of pressing need.” Veronica Reinhardt – Trustee of the Max Reinhardt Charitable Trust

“Engage is delighted to be working again with the Max Reinhardt Charitable Trust and the National Association for Writers in Education on MaxLiteracy. We want to support creative writers, children and young people to take inspiration from the visual arts. We are keen to explore how writing and engagement with art can support wellbeing. During this period of change, as a result of Coivd-19, we are keen to support children and young people to engage with creative writing and art.” Jane Sillis – Director of Engage

Host venue – Newark Museum, Newark & Sherwood District Council

Partner school – Newark Academy

Creative Writer – Ioney Smallhorne

The host venue governed by Newark & Sherwood District Council is part of a mixed-use cultural hub comprising the National Civil War Centre, Newark Museum, Palace Theatre Newark and Newark Castle. There has been a Newark museum service since 1912, with a collection of over 92,000 objects. Programming is centred on the Civil War, with the art collection currently underused. Works include those by Bridget Riley, Winifred Nicholson, Vanessa Bell, Sir William Nicholson and Walter Sickert. As a result of pre-pandemic user and non-user data gathering, they are switching to offer more community programming. They aim to further engage young people with the collections across the hub and develop deeper relationships with local schools, assisting in their plans to raise literacy and attainment.

Newark Museum has ambitious target outcomes for their project with Newark Academy’s year 10 students. The MaxLiteracy award funding for creative writer, Ioney Smallhorne, will bring skills and experience in ways to inspire and encourage the young people as the project supports the students to take their English Language GCSE exam in 2022. This group of young people have experienced a prolonged period of massively disrupted learning which will affect their life chances and employment prospects. Schools are concerned about the inevitable impact this will have on the students and therefore the project offers an invaluable response.

The Learning and Participation Manager at Newark Museum has said that “The MaxLiteracy Awards offer an opportunity to be brave – to experiment with new ideas, new ways of working with schools and a hitherto unused collection”.

At the end of the project, they hope to have robust evidence of the success and impact of this work on learning for the local community which will help secure regular funding from the district council to ensure its continuance. This could potentially lead to developing a series of creative writing activities into an annual plan with Newark Academy, and the five other secondary schools in the district, in order to share and build on our learning with year 10 students for years to come.

Host venue –  Open Eye Gallery 

Partner school – Wirral Hospitals' School, Birkenhead

Creative Writer – Pauline Rowe

Open Eye Gallery believes that photography is a powerful way to bring different cultures into conversation together. They lead on socially engaged photography (SEPP) nationally, with hubs in five regions and a national network (300 members), working to bring different voices -photographers and communities -together in a creative collaborative process that is meaningful to all.

Open Eye Gallery’s education programme focuses on the North West and for this award they will be partnering with Wirral Hospitals’ School, Birkenhead. Wirral Hospitals’ School is an alternative therapeutic school, in Birkenhead. Students have been medically and/or CAMHS assessed and are unable to access mainstream education. Over 50% of the students are pupil premium and suffer from mental health issues, gender dysphoria, many are diagnosed with ASC and ADHD, and others are also co-morbid with multiple medical conditions. The students are at an increased risk of isolation, limited social mobility and limited employment, which in turn increases the risk of ongoing mental health issues. The last 2 years of working with Wirral Hospitals’ School has shifted the Gallery’s thinking about inclusive learning, but also revealed to the school that photography has helped some of the hardest to reach students engage in school activity.

Open Eye Gallery applied for a MaxLiteracy award to build on their existing partnership with Wirral Hospitals’ School and expand their creative offer to students. With the expertise of Pauline Rowe, the funded creative writer, they will build upon previous visual approaches to learning, and it will inform new fusions of photography/creative writing methodologies that can engage the hardest to reach.

The activity that Open Eye Gallery aim to provide through this funding includes;
- An exhibition at Wirral Hospitals’ School using OEG archive of photographs that connect to the theme of Mental Health and Wellbeing
- Photography activities such as photo-walks, gallery visits delivered by OEG.
- Using images as a stimulus to explore creative writing methods writing from objects, ekphrasis, letter-writing, diary entries, scrap-booking, micro-fiction
- Finally, they will develop a digital resource around photography, mental health and literacy that will include the following elements relevant to the KS3 curriculum: managing emotions, healthy relationships, reading for pleasure, speaking and listening, expressive writing, creative writing and poetry.

Host venue – The Turnpike

Partner School – Westleigh Methodist Primary School

Creative Writer – Elmi Ali

The Turnpike is an independent gallery in Leigh, Greater Manchester. Occupying the first floor of the iconic, brutalist ‘Turnpike Centre’ the gallery’s programme includes exhibitions, residencies, and artistic activity offsite in schools, community hubs and green spaces. The Turnpike seeks to raise aspirations and empower local residents through high quality arts activity. According to Arts Council England the borough is a cultural engagement ‘cold spot’, in the lowest 20% nationally, and the organisation’s local neighbourhood also faces significant socio-economic disadvantage. Through partnership and exchange, The Turnpike works closely with artists and communities to use the town as a live testing ground for innovation, exploring flexible, radical and responsive ways of making art.

The MaxLiteracy Award provides a timely opportunity to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Turnpike Centre building to create a significant learning resource for this distinctive asset in the town, drawing on its artistic features and the original architectural vision as a dedicated community space for art, learning and wellbeing. Following an unusual year, The Turnpike will use the award to work with local young people to imagine the building’s future post-pandemic and beyond.

The MaxLiteracy award will support their Concrete Poems project with pupils at Westleigh Methodist Primary School. The Concrete Poems project will build on and learn from the recent excellent work the school have been doing to improve the reading and writing attainment of their pupils, by implementing an approach which draws on the arts as a key driver for learning. The Concrete Poems project will build on this foundation of work to create a project and learning resource for older pupils in KS2 who need extra support or may have fallen behind due to the pandemic. Through poetry and the support of creative writer Elmi Ali, the project will enable The Turnpike to situate the voice of children at the centre of the conversation around the role of public spaces and the value of culture as a tool for enriching wellness in everyday life.

Contact Information:
Contact Name:
Ronda Gowland-Pryde
Contact Email: