2020 – 2021 An extraordinary year for Community Arts North West

We can’t underestimate the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on communities in Greater Manchester who were already at the sharp end of inequality.

8 December 2021

CAN’s work is more important than ever.

Most of our face-to-face projects were cancelled during lockdown, but we still made 46 extraordinary pieces of art – creative events, films, poems, creative packs for young people – and ran training for unemployed artists.

Here are just a few of 2020 – 2021’s highlights.

Within just two days of the first lockdown, we began contacting the children, young people, families/carers, who are part of our programme for children and young people, to see how we could help.

A CAN Young Artist at Manchester Museum


“…the staff listen to us and, like, really listen”

 Digital exclusion is a huge issue, so we sourced free laptops, tablets, and data vouchers from Young Manchester.  We were involved in GMCA’s (Greater Manchester Combined Authority) Creative Care Packs which were distributed to young people in Greater Manchester.  We were thrilled the pack featured a poem from a CAN Young Artist – here are some of his words.

“I want to say

The right to life


living in a guaranteed dignity

of all people in this world

is something that

nobody should steal.”

Our CAN Young Artists were featured in Our City of LanguagesManchester City of Literatures celebration for February’s UNESCO International Mother Language Day with their film Would You Take My Hand? created with Yusra Warsama (writer/director) Jaydev Mistry (musician) and Clive Hunte/Busha Productions (videographer)

And over in Leigh in the borough of Wigan, we kept Kámoši Junior Performing Arts Group, our group for children from diverse communities, connected with creative packs (and snacks!).  Each week the pack had something different. What was coming next?

The group created characters, stories and imagined places and worked with artists Chelsea Morgan and Jaydev Mistry to create the film Our Street which premiered in December 2020.

For our nationally acclaimed and pioneering refugee arts programme Exodus – it was one of the very first programmes of its kind in the UK – we went entirely online to celebrate 2020’s Refugee Week

#EveryoneCAN reached family audiences with a celebration of Manchester as the most linguistically diverse city in Western Europe with free digital creative workshops and performances for families. Here’s Emmanuela Yogolelo with a singing workshop in Swahili.

#BeyondBorders featured a diverse mix of film and performance created by the region’s refugee heritage creative community.

Manchester International Roots Orchestra MIRO composed, rehearsed, and performed the beautiful song Jelem Jelem entirely online.

Three multi-lingual performers, Abas Eljanabi, Farjana Kabir and Louison Kangombe made three short taster films under the umbrella of The Mother Tongue is Hungry, exploring language as a connection to home, in a collaboration with Manchester Museum and Manchester City of Literature.

Watch the final film Hunger, made in the summer of 2021 at Manchester Museum, which brought the artists’ ideas together.

Our Artist Development programme was even more important in 2020/21 as the pandemic meant that employment opportunities for artists dried up which presented even more of an issue for unemployed artists and those artists from diverse backgrounds who are already under-represented in the creative workforce.

Our employability course CAN DO Creatives, funded by ESF, which had started pre-pandemic, swiftly moved online. Supporting our learners to develop their profiles and create strong networks was even more of a priority.

We even delivered a special online CAN DO Creatives networking event with guests including Manchester International Festival’s artistic director John McGrath.

CAN DO Creatives were profiled in a series of meet the artist videos.  Head over here to meet them.

 “Going from nothing but a 20 quid drawing tablet and complete isolation to being invited to MIF events, shadowing and my project.”

We’re delighted that so many CAN DO Creatives have now secured employment and volunteering opportunities, accessed training, and launched resilient creative businesses.

Explore our new website, launched during lockdown, to discover more of our exciting collaborations with the diverse communities of Greater Manchester and the region’s artists.

And don’t forget to sign up for our newsletters which share our latest news.  You’ll find the sign-up link on our home page.

Thank you to our funders: Arts Council England, Manchester City Council, ESF, BBC Children In Need, Lankelly Chase Foundation, National Lottery Awards for All, Youth Music, the individuals who have generously made donations, and the many organisations we’ve worked in partnership with.

And thanks to our Board Of Directors, staff team, artists, volunteers, and, of course, the diverse communities of Greater Manchester who we’ve worked shoulder-to-shoulder with during this most extraordinary year.

Wishing everyone Happy Holidays and a healthy and happy 2022.

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