By Joseph Bray
A MUM from Greenfield is “delighted” to be named joint Best Local Authority Arts Champion (officer) for her services to the community.
Rachel Wood, who works for Oldham Council, was given the accolade at the Hearts for the Arts Awards, run by What Next? and the National Campaign for the Arts.
Judges recognised Rachel’s strong local knowledge and great communication skills, saying she is “aware of and responsive to the needs and aspirations of her communities, partners and local artists.”
They added: “She works in a collaborative manner to devise and deliver programmes of work which reach across communities and which deliver impact for people of all ages and abilities.”
Rachel, who grew up in Springhead and attended Saddleworth School, has worked in the council’s arts team since 1999 and has been Arts Development Officer for the last 10 years.
Her role includes the programming and delivery of major arts events and initiative in the borough including Festival Oldham, Santa’s Reindeer Parade, Oldham Light Night ‘Illuminate’, and the entertainment at the Big Bang civic bonfire.
She has also worked on community arts projects across Oldham such as the Limehurst Arts Society, Small Cinema Project and the Chapatti and Chat diabetes prevention project.
Rachel said: “It’s fantastic that locally delivered arts have been recognised for their positive impact on our communities.
“I haven’t won any awards before which makes receiving this one even more special.”
Comedian and writer A L Kennedy, who judged the awards, said: “Rachel has shown long term commitment to arts activity, running a number of programmes in key areas with intelligent strategy and success.”
Rachel, who lives with her partner and two young boys in Greenfield, also worked on last year’s opening event for the Old Town Hall development.
She said: “There have been so many highlights but producing that event would have to be the main one.
“The arts team worked alongside Oldham Theatre Workshop to create an outdoor show called ‘On the Shoulders of Giants’ that was inspired by the Oldham Giant Joseph Scholes.
“We created a new fairytale for the town that included local emerging young performers, a specially written story and music, a 5-metre tall giant puppet, aerial performers suspended from a crane and breathtaking 3D projections.
“The show created a fitting launch for a much loved building that has be transformed and brought back to life.”
“One of my favourite projects was also the Saddleworth Whit Friday piece for Manchester Day Parade a couple of years ago with Diggle, Uppermill, Lees, Oldham and Dobcross Brass bands.”
Rachel received the award alongside Pokuaa Osei from the London Borough of Haringey.
The Hearts for the Arts awards is a new initiative to recognise councils, councillors and council officers who are overcoming financial challenges to ensure the arts stay at the centre of community life. Find out more online: http://forthearts.org.uk/campaigns/hearts-for-the-arts/