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Helping Aspiring Artists Take Off

2nd November 2020

Vic Brown, Founder, New Urban Era

New Urban Era is an arts project that is successfully drawing in a strong youth following with everything from outdoor murals to beatboxing and breakdancing.

This year, the Tamworth based project celebrates its 10th anniversary, but it also meant pivoting quickly to host live virtual events as community restrictions took effect.

“Digital is the way forward and it’s a new string to our bow that we’re going to keep,” the project chair and founder, Vic Brown, says.

Vic, an engineer, added: “We work with beatboxers, street artists, breakdancers, schools and we’ve set up lots of different projects. This year would be our tenth anniversary and then obviously Covid-19 struck, so all our big plans had to be reorganised.

“So, we started with video tutorials on our Facebook page. Once we’d had some tutorials up and running, we started to work on how we would host our annual urban arts festival. It was decided we would host three events named the Unity paint jam. It was ground-breaking, and we were uniting artists – some of them even said it was like being together.

“Everyone was painting in their gardens and streaming to me and I sent out a live stream on Facebook using the new software we had just installed. It was very raw and we had no experience. We had lots of people digging around in their cupboards at home to get enough phones out for a trial run before the first live event. It was absolutely brilliant.”

The project has a mission to “bring young people together through urban arts and sport” and it has been one of those that used vital National Lottery funding to bring creativity, enjoyment and enrichment to people in new ways during the pandemic.

Among the projects has been the Cycle Arts Trail. The group have created an eight-mile round trip that includes eight art stops painted by some of the UK’s top Graffiti and street artists.

The group has also worked with local businesses on an ongoing Art crawl project that invites artists to paint murals in the town centre. It is just one of many causes who benefit from the £30 million raised by National Lottery players each week.

Vic, 47, who lives and works in Tamworth with partner Sarah and daughter Lily, said: “New Urban Era was established in 2011 as a smaller arts group just to showcase urban arts.

“It was all voluntary, so it can get quite tiresome and you can use a lot of your energy trying to find bits of money. For eight years we’ve just plodded along, but last year we got our first National Lottery grant from Arts Council England.

“From then, things started to change for the better for us, we started meeting and working with a lot more partners and things were going really well. When you have National Lottery funding, you feel that you owe something back to the general public, so we had to deliver for everybody, not just ourselves.

“Once you’ve got the financial backing you can just focus on the development and management of the project – it takes away a lot of other work and obviously that helps you deliver a better project.

“The growth has all happened naturally – you don’t really notice until somebody actually points to it and things like this happen. At the beginning of the year we won an Arts in the Community award.”

The group also recently distributed 1,000 activity packs to food banks and other organisations who help the less vulnerable and hosted a month of online workshops that were accessible digitally via the packs.

“We just keep going,” said Vic. “We’re looking at another trail called We Are Angels, we’re inviting the public, students and professional artists to paint and design wings.

“Artists and students original artworks will be displayed alongside large format prints of the general public submissions and you will be able to stand in front of them and take selfies, so it’s a nice little touch and it will be focussed in Tamworth town centre from 22nd November