Thriving Communities

The Festival of Suffolk 2022

One example that illustrates the role that events can play in catalysing social change is the Festival of Suffolk 2022. The festival wanted to use the power of events to bring people together, creating lasting legacies in the Platinum Jubilee year and beyond.

Thriving Communities

Manchester 2002 Commonwealth Games

It is more than 20 years since Manchester hosted the Commonwealth Games. One of the aims of the Games was to leave a lasting legacy of new sporting facilities as well as social, physical and economic regeneration, particularly around Sportcity in the east of the city.

The initiative for staging the 2002 Commonwealth Games came from the City Council, which led on the regeneration and legacy plans and was responsible for developing the facilities. The council delegated operational responsibility for organising the Games to a limited company. The staging of the Commonwealth Games was made possible because of the facilities developed for Manchester’s bid for the 2000 Olympics and Paralympic Games. The Aquatics Centre and the City of Manchester Stadium (now Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium) were new venues built for the Games, but many existing venues were also used.

The public investment in the Games and associated regeneration infrastructure and activity was £670 million at 2002 prices, including £100 million funding for the stadium. While the Games themselves were delivered within budget, capital costs ran £30 million over budget and the Games organisers struggled to find commercial sponsorship…



Thriving Communities


Dandelion was a six-month STEAM project that formed part of UNBOXED: Creativity in the UK, and was one of the ten major projects that took place across the UK and online in 2022.

It was a partnership between a number of arts and science organisations, community organisations, academic institutions and others across Scotland and its theme was “Sow, Grow, Share”. The project worked in schools and with families and school communities to distribute 2000 tons of specially created growing medium and “tatties” so they could experiment with growing in multiple different ways.

Connected Communities

Critical Mass

Critical Mass is an inclusive dance collective, for young people aged 16–30 across the West Midlands. With funding from Spirit of 2012, its dancers took part in the opening of Birmingham 2022 Festival and the opening ceremony of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games as well as featuring in three of the baton relay celebrations and the launch of Birmingham International Dance Festival.

The project was developed in partnership with Fabric (formerly Dance XChange), Arts Connect and the Dance Development Leaders Group, a network of dance organisations in the West Midlands. It brought 242 disabled and nondisabled young people together over a 14-month period to produce new performances for the Birmingham Games. Organisers wanted to show how genuine inclusion can be achieved in large events such as the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, as in the past many mass performance moments have failed to be genuinely inclusive for all participants.

Connected Communities

Dartford St. George’s Day

Cohesion Plus has been delivering annual Saint George’s Day festivals in Dartford and Gravesham for over a decade.

Gurvinder Sandher MBE, Artistic Director of Cohesion Plus, explained “When I was growing up, the Union Jack flag was seen as the symbol of the far right, representing a lot of fear and anxiety for many minority communities in those days. However, looking at the UK in the context of modern times, we are a diverse and culturally rich people. As such, I was motivated many years ago to not only reclaim the flag for all who identify as British, but also to celebrate our shared history and experiences by holding annual Saint George’s Day events. The aim of the celebrations is to bring people from all backgrounds regardless of race, faith and socio-economic together to celebrate shared values and a commonality.”

Connected Communities

Roe Valley Residents Association, Limavady, Northern Ireland

Limavady is a mixed community of Catholics and Protestants, 17 miles east of Derry/Londonderry. For over 20 years, Roe Valley Residents Association has led projects that bring the whole community together. In 2018, they partnered with Springboard on a project called 14-NOW, funded by Spirit of 2012. The project asked residents to identify activities that would improve their community, with a focus on increasing wellbeing and social connection and reducing isolation.

Events were a key part of what they wanted to do, and included a Halloween lantern parade and Christmas family lunch. As one parent explained:

“I think since the event has started to run I feel more community spirit. I didn’t know the people who are pretty much my next-door neighbours. We have never hardly spoke before or if I would have even passed them on the street, I wouldn’t have said anything. Now I’m getting to know people and it’s well to be able to put names to faces and know that there’s people out there who have become friends.”

Connected Communities

HEY! Volunteering

Nearly 3,000 volunteers signed up for Hull 2017 UK City of Culture, many of them first-time volunteers. From the outset, the plan was to establish support mechanisms to keep them volunteering after the festival ended.

Five years on, the Hull City of Council Legacy Volunteering Programme is now managed by Visit Hull and East Yorkshire (VHEY), a partnership between Hull City Council and East Riding of Yorkshire Council funded by Spirit of 2012. VHEY took on responsibility for managing the volunteering programme from the arts organisation Absolutely Cultured in 2021. VHEY’s remit is more closely aligned with the volunteering programme, with volunteers welcoming visitors to the area.

Happier Communities

Liverpool European Capital of Culture 2008

In 2003, Liverpool was awarded the designation of European City of Culture 2008 (ECoC). It was a pivotal moment in the city’s history, according to Claire McColgan, Liverpool’s current Director of Culture, who says that residents divide their narrative of the city into “pre and post” 2008. In focus groups conducted in 2018, residents were keen to share their memories of the events in which they had participated. McColgan explained that the Council has a role to play in “managing the memory” of an event in order to create a story that unites the city:

“We can tell a story like no one else – a skill we have finely honed over the past 20 years. And that’s what gives the activities we stage an authenticity and connection, and provides a true legacy for a city long after an event has finished.”

Happier Communities

Festival City Volunteers

Between 2017 and 2019, Festivals Edinburgh and Volunteer Edinburgh collaborated on a person-centred volunteer programme with wellbeing at its heart.

Together they trained 254 volunteers to welcome visitors during the festival. Half of the volunteers faced barriers to inclusion. Participants were asked about their reasons for volunteering, which included social connections, improved wellbeing or a stepping stone towards employment. Six months after the festival, the team followed up to support and understand their post-volunteer pathways. Festivals Edinburgh partnered with The Welcoming to identify and support refugees, asylum seekers and migrants into volunteering, and with IntoWork to support job seekers who wanted to gain skills through volunteering.

Having trusted partners meant that there were specialist organisations to help volunteers with their next steps.