“Working towards a common goal through the creative arts has a massive impact on participants’ self-confidence and motivation, and helps them build up skills which will be useful in other parts of their lives.”

An award-winning Northumberland arts charity is providing a bigger stage for local people to get creative with the help of a four-figure grant from North East renewable energy, property and minerals firm The Banks Group.

Headway Arts in Blyth offers people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities across the county the opportunity to engage with exciting cultural and creative arts projects.

Over the last few years, the charity has been working towards the refurbishment of the Grade II listed former United Reformed Church on Waterloo Road in Blyth into the Headway ArtSpace cultural hub, which provides high quality opportunities for arts participation for everyone across local communities and beyond.

As part of this ongoing project, Headway has now used a £4,575 grant from the Banks Community Fund to install a permanent 9m by 7m stage within the ArtSpace, which will remove the regular expense of having to hire in staging and also allow the group to host more and bigger events.

Accessibility features including an access ramp will also allow the new stage to be used by wheelchair users and people with mobility issues.

Founded in 1995, Headway Arts offer a range of inclusive and accessible arts opportunities, including the region’s only annual festival of learning disabled culture.

The ArtSpace also hosts regular live music nights featuring young local talent and is used as a base by other local groups, including the Blyth Samba Band.

Allie Walton-Robson, creative director at Headway Arts, says: “The groups we work with face a wide range of different challenges, whether through disability, struggles at school, mental health issues or a lack of opportunities to achieve their potential.

“Many of those we work with have no previous experience of the creative arts and we try to give them a chance to discover their strengths and talents in a supportive, inclusive environment.

“Working towards a common goal through the creative arts has a massive impact on participants’ self-confidence and motivation, and helps them build up skills which will be useful to them in other parts of their lives.

“Up to now, we’ve had to hire in staging for any projects that have needed it, so having our own stage permanently in place will not only give our groups a better rehearsal and performance space, but will also have a big positive impact on our financial sustainability and means we can now use these funds for other purposes.

“In the current climate, it’s hard to even identify where this sort of funding might come from, so to have The Banks Group approach us and ask how they might support our work is a fantastic outcome for us.”

Jamilah Hassan, community manager at The Banks Group, adds: “Headway Arts provides access to creative inspiration for people across south east Northumberland and beyond, and makes such a positive difference to its different communities.

“ArtSpace is already a really inspiring location and it’s great for us to be able to help Headway add even more to what they can offer everyone that uses it.”

Anyone from a community close to a Banks Group project who is interested in applying for funding from the Banks Community Fund should first contact the fund manager via fundmanager@bankscommunityfund.org.uk or on 0191 378 6342 before applying for a grant to check if their group or project is eligible.