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Great leap forward for the arts was born in the USA

The London Arts Board is celebrating an advance in promoting the arts to young people through a partnership with the local authority in Tower Hamlets, one of the capital's poorest boroughs.

Artists Shaheen Merali, from an arts resource unit, and Jan Henrickse, from the Spitalfields Festival, worked with 30 pupils aged 10 and 11 at Stebon primary where most of the children come from Bangladeshi backgrounds.

They produced a story and songs using photographs, videos and sounds and the work culminated in a performance for the whole school, parents and governors.

The London Education in Arts Partnership wanted to spark long-term programmes with start-up grants of Pounds 8,000 a year. These grants were given to Redbridge, Bromley, Enfield and Tower Hamlets for three years. Eight more boroughs will be supported over the next three years.

The board was concerned about the fragmentation of arts education in the capital after the Inner London Education Authority was abolished.

Inspiration came from across the Atlantic. Adrian Chappell, the LAB's senior education officer, said that the scheme drew on the experiences of the Chicago Arts Partnership in Education development project which focused on the needs of young learners through partnerships with business, community and industry.

CAPE's director, Arnie Aprill, generated "terrific enthusiasm" for a similar programme when he gave a seminar in London two years ago for the 26 forums established by LAB to integrate arts education.

Tower Hamlets paired six schools with 12 arts organisations for the three-year project. So far funding of Pounds 22,000 has been raised to add to the LAB grant - the highest sum of the four boroughs in LEAP. Redbridge has raised Pounds 13,000, Bromley and Enfield, Pounds 6,000 each.

Redbridge will be launching a programme of arts residencies in schools. Bromley will enhance its education and artists network and plans a variety of yearly projects, such as a sculpture trail through the borough. Enfield is working on promoting school-based art in the community.

Mr Chappell said LEAP could go nationwide. Leeds and Manchester are already running schemes based on the Chicago prototype, he added.

The expansion of LEAP is timely as it coincides with the Arts Council of England's National Lottery-funded Arts for Everyone (A4E) initiative. A4E could bring in Pounds 4m for a variety of schemes. "This is really exciting as everyone has been cash-strapped for so long," he said.

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