England & Wales Culture, sport and tourism

Viewpoint: Drawing together – the Big Draw Festival

The Big Draw is a national arts education charity that promotes visual literacy and the universal language of drawing – in its broadest sense – as a tool for learning, expression and invention. Director Kate Mason explains, as she introduces their Big Draw Festival taking place this month.

The charity’s core activity focuses on getting everyone drawing, by breaking down barriers and helping people of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy its benefits. We champion drawing as a powerful tool for invention, communicating complex concepts, and for increasing social and cultural engagement.

As part of a diverse programme encompassing advocacy, empowerment and engagement, The Big Draw is the driving force behind The Big Draw Festival – the world’s biggest celebration of drawing. The annual, international festival is comprised of thousands of events taking place across the globe, which anyone can attend or host. In the UK, the Festival presents a unique opportunity for event organisers, and the local authorities in which the events take place, to promote cohesion, celebrate diversity, raise funds and achieve a range of other strategic outputs and targets.

From galleries, museums, and libraries, to schools, care homes, community groups anyone can organise a Big Draw Festival event.

We believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to experience the arts, regardless of their ethnicity, age, gender or ability, and to learn to their greatest capacity, no matter what barriers they face. The Big Draw Festival provides a tried and tested vehicle for engagement, enabling smaller grassroots, independent and/or community-focused projects and organisations to take part with parity alongside larger bodies.

Organisers sign up via thebigdraw.org and, once registered, will have access to exclusive online event listings, downloadable resources and a bespoke welcome pack. Registered event organisers also benefit from extensive marketing and PR activity to promote the Festival’s events and organisers to targeted audiences. Those using the official Big Draw Festival logo are also eligible to enter The Big Draw Awards with cash prizes for the most innovative events of up to £1000.

The resources and offer to ‘hold their hand’ and guide organisers through the process helps small event organisers, which may be under-resourced or lack the confidence to undertake arts projects within their community, or to connect with national arts initiatives.

The Big Draw Festival model is very flexible and enables a large degree of autonomy and interpretation with any year’s official theme. However, those wanting to adopt the theme and benefit from the shared ownership of a national social media strategy join a family of organisers – from the smallest local project to national providers. It enables event organisers to both tap into their local community as well as link to, and benefit from, the bigger picture and national brand exposure of The Big Draw Festival.

The Big Draw Festival is a unique, tried and tested engagement mechanism for a local authority, and there are many other benefits.

  •   Inspires resourcefulness, confidence and innovation

The proven platform encourages more resourcefulness, confidence and innovation, which contributes to the quality of any outputs, as well as enhancing the experience of participants. It also enriches the cultural offer to those participating and raises aspiration.

  •   Enables connections between people and place

It encourages local communities to connect and learn more about their locale and story.  It captures the imagination of people and the communities they live in, helping to reduce negative messages and amplify the positive ones.

  •   Increases engagement in Artsmark and Arts Awards

It encourages cultural, arts, and/or schools to sign up to Artsmark and Arts Award, as activities and outputs undertaken for The Big Draw can make a significant contribution towards meeting their criteria for validation.

  •   Facilitates social and intergenerational cohesion and tackles isolation and discrimination

It can help people who feel isolated and wish to connect to their communities by engaging volunteers and local residents in events. It encourages social and inter-generational cohesion and networking, helping to combat isolation and improve wellbeing. Collective Big Draw activities stimulate interactivity and cooperation.

  •     Augments or instigates involvement in other Local Authority programmes

It enables an organiser to easily build into an existing programme – e.g. Black History Month or a specific festival or Local Authority programme. It can help to raise profile of a locale, gain press and pr and lever in more funds and support going forward

  •   Presents an opportunity to become part of an international community

Anyone can host or attend an event to become part of a global festival and put their mark on the map.