arts backpack

Arts Backpack UK Fife pilot

Arts Backpack UK Fife pilot

The Arts Backpack UK - Fife pilot

Today marks the release of the final report for The Arts Backpack UK - Fife pilot. This report evaluates our preliminary pilot of The Arts Backpack UK, which we ran in Fife, Scotland from October 2020 - March 2021. Click here to download the report.

The key findings of the report are:

  • The Arts Backpack UK can successfully foster arts and culture in areas where children may experience barriers to provision.
  • The Arts Backpack UK has a clear value for the teacher and their professional development and confidence.
  • The Arts Backpack UK can be presented as being about the art-forms, or as a way of engaging with curriculum topics, or a well-being agenda.
  • Local partners (teachers and cultural organisations) can help co-design the contents and influence its make-up according to each location.

This pilot builds on our 2018 Feasibility Study, testing the recommendations of that study in context. We worked in five schools in the Fife Coalfields area with children in classes P4 to P7 (aged 8-11). At the beginning of the project, our plans did not anticipate the full extent of the second wave of Covid-19 and the new lockdown restrictions which meant that children were being home-schooled from January to March 2021. As a result of this, the pilot was largely redesigned to be delivered online.

The pilot demonstrated the value of The Arts Backpack UK for teachers, as well as their pupils. All of the teachers who engaged with the project noted how their confidence in delivering arts and cultural activities had increased over the course of the project. Their feedback about student response was also positive:

They were able to see pieces of art that they wouldn’t normally get to see, especially during COVID. Children were keen to go and look further on the websites to see other pieces of art. (About a Magic Lantern Art activity)

Children who normally would stay quiet and avoid music tasks were smiling and engaging and the children enjoyed sharing their creations with their peers and the staff. (About Google Chrome Music Lab)

They enjoyed being able to tell a story, that they created, in a different way. Other children liked that they could be more creative than they would in a standard piece of writing and that there were no right or wrong ways to create their comic book. (About V&A Dundee 'Create a Comic Book')

Many thanks to all the teachers and pupils who took part in the project and contributed to this report. Thank you to the young people at Chickenshed Theatre and the readers of First News for their valuable contributions to pilot planning. Our thanks also to the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers and Fife City Council for their generous financial support.

We are currently planning a second-phase of pilots to take place in the 21/22 academic year.

Arts Backpack pilots begin in Fife

Arts Backpack pilots begin in Fife

Arts Backpack pilots begin in Fife

We are delighted to announce that the Arts Backpack UK began its first pilot in six Fife primary schools at the beginning of November. We are looking forward to working with around 200 students and teachers at: Cowdenbeath Primary School, Kelty Primary School, Benarty Primary School, Hill of Beath Primary School, Cardenden Primary School and Fulford Primary School.

Over the next four months, classes will be able to select activities to go into their Backpacks from our directory of online resources. This includes activities from ACA Members Theatre Alibi and Magic Lantern; Scottish arts organisations Imaginate and Scottish Opera; and national and international institutions such as Google Arts and Culture. In addition to this, each class will have the opportunity to commission a piece of online content from one of our partners in Scotland.

Everyone at ACA is so proud to be pushing ahead with this first pilot, despite the challenges presented to us by Covid-19. Although the pandemic has limited our possibilities to work face-to-face, it has truly widened the horizons of what arts and culture are available for children to experience online. We look forward to sharing these experiences with our students in Fife over the next four months.

A plea for donations:

If you feel able to support future pilots of the Arts Backpack UK, please donate here:

Chris Jarvis article in Arts Professional

Chris Jarvis article in Arts Professional

Chris Jarvis article in Arts Professional

ACA Trustee and BBC presenter Chris Jarvis has written a fantastic article about the Arts Backpack UK for Arts Professional.

What is profoundly clear from the report is that access to culture is extremely unequal across UK schools. As an organisation we are passionate about targeting those children who do not currently access arts and culture, and hope that the Arts Backpack will be a means of levelling an unequal cultural playing field.

Read the full article here:

Arts Backpack UK: a statement from David Wood OBE

Arts Backpack UK: a statement from David Wood OBE

David Wood statement

I believe that the Arts Backpack idea could be the most significant notion and possibility to have surfaced in the twenty years or more since our charity began. The idea confirms ACA’s belief that all children are entitled to attend arts events and experiences. This belief is enshrined in Article 31 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child.

The Arts Back Pack is a novel and appealing way of ensuring that every child can expect to experience the arts several times a year.

The idea is important for children.

It is important for parents.

It is important for teachers.

It is important for children’s arts practitioners and for companies and arts organisations – theatres, museums, concert halls, art galleries etc.

It is important for local councils, and for government. By helping to activate the intentions of Article 31, it is a way of complying with the Article and encouraging interest in the arts.

It is important for the medical profession, who regularly tell us that the arts help children’s wellbeing.

It is important for the Arts Council, who would recognise that attendances at arts events and performances would increase.

It ticks so many boxes!

The Arts Back Pack could revitalise the organisations and companies that provide arts for children, by instantaneously increasing the numbers of children able, via school and/or parent, to take advantage of the offer. In the long term, it would make children’s experience of the arts something that is part of their mainstream education, rather than an add-on or luxury, part of the cake rather than the cherry.

David Wood OBE, ACA President

Click here to find out more about the Arts Backpack UK.

Arts Backpack Pilot – How to get involved

Arts Backpack Pilot – How to get involved

In December 2018 ACA published their commissioned feasibility study examining the idea of an Arts Backpack programme for every primary school child in the UK. An Arts Backpack would serve as a digital collection point for Arts, Cultural, Heritage and Library engagements – aiming to ensure that every child had access to at least five quality participatory experiences throughout the school year. Click here to download the report.

We are now focussing on delivering the report’s recommendations and would like to invite professionals with an interest in this UK wide programme to get in touch, and to get involved. We are looking for the following collaborators:

  • Local Lead Organisation - supported by ACA to coordinate the project in their area; this will include engaging with primary schools, launching the Arts Backpack in their area, supporting schools during the pilot
  • Local/Regional Arts and Cultural Organisation Partners - support by the Local Lead Organisation and ACA; the local partners will form a hub, offering a menu of activities to participating schools
  • National Digital Partner - ACA would like to work with an organisation who can guide the digital element of the Backpack for all pilot programmes
  • National Evaluation and Research Partner - ACA would like to work with an organisation who can evaluate the effectiveness of all pilot programmes

We are keen to link with any organisations or individuals interested in working with us on this aspect of the work. Click here to download the full pilot briefing document. Email: if you are interested in collaborating, funding or participating in the pilot projects.

ACA publishes Arts Backpack UK Feasibility Study

ACA publishes Arts Backpack UK Feasibility Study

Download the Feasibility Study here

Over the past 18 months Action for Children’s Arts (ACA) has been holding round table meetings with representatives from organisations across the UK who listen to children and allow their ideas to inform their practice. From these discussions the idea of a UK-wide initiative to promote, enhance and curate arts engagement that appeals to children, parents, carers and teachers emerged as a gap in current UK wide provision.

Looking at other Cultural Offers covering a similar scope, ACA found interesting examples of good practice across the world and from these models identified a format that may work for Primary Schools across the UK – an Arts Backpack.

In autumn 2018 ACA – with support from Arts Council Northern Ireland, ASSITEJ UK, Belfast City Council, Cambridgeshire Music, Fife Council, and two individuals – commissioned Michael Judge and Richard Freeman to explore the idea of an Arts Backpack that could be offered to every Primary School child in the UK. The Arts Backpack would serve as a digital collection and reflection point for all their Arts, Cultural, Heritage and Library engagement across the school year with an aim to ensure that each child has access to a minimum of 5 experiences each year.

ACA commissioned this study to examine the validity of the idea, to better understand if there was a case for it to develop further and if so, how that may be achieved. Part of the Conclusion of this report advises a series of Pilot Projects are undertaken to test the idea further and to better understand the concept within a variety of contexts throughout the UK. ACA is keen to work with strategic partners to develop and deliver these suggested Arts Backpack pilots.

To ensure children’s voices are co-creators in the Arts Backpack, and to create a model to support the development of all Pilots, ACA is launching a strategic partnership with Chickenshed, an Inclusive theatre company based in North London. A research group of 8 children from Chickenshed will explore a range of themes about the importance of performing arts to the 0-12 age range. Through this they will generate 5 questions for a questionnaire.

Through this scheme, a final questionnaire will be circulated by ACA to UK schools and arts organisations who may be part of local or regional pilot schemes. It will also be distributed by FIRST NEWS, The UK’s national newspaper for young people, resulting in a children’s voices adding directly into this debate.

Download the Feasibility Study here

Arts Backpack UK launch – photos

Arts Backpack UK launch – photos

On 4 August 2018, ACA celebrated its 20th Birthday at the National Theatre, where the charity launched in 1998. It also used this Impact Hour as an opportunity to launch the Feasibility Study for the Arts Backpack UK. Find out more here.


National Theatre


President David Wood OBE

BAFTA Young Presenter 2016 Tianna Moore with ACA Trustee Chris Jarvis

ACA Trustee Janet Robertson

Patron Jamila Gavin

Trustee James Mayhew
Guests at the party


Trustee James Mayhew with Patrons Michael Foreman, Jamila Gavin

Trevor MacFarlane, Labour Party and European Parliament

ACA Chair Vicky Ireland MBE

Vicky Ireland MBE

Cutting the cake: Tianna Moore, Vicky Ireland

Arts Backpack Launch

Chris Jarvis, Tianna Moore, Vicky Ireland

20th Birthday Cake


Arts Backpack UK launched at the National Theatre

 On Saturday 4 August 2018, Action for Children’s Arts (ACA) launched the Arts Backpack UK at the National Theatre. This is a project which, if implemented, will ensure that every primary school child in the UK has at least five cultural experiences in the school year. It has been proposed to government ministers, representatives from Arts Council England and key individuals within the sector as a way to combat the diminishing role that arts subjects play in schools across the UK.

The idea is inspired by similar schemes worldwide: the Norwegian Cultural Rucksack, the Israeli Cultural Breadbasket and the German Culture Rucksack in Nuremberg. The principle is to offer every primary school child in the UK a digital rucksack, where they can collect their Arts, Cultural, Heritage and Library experiences throughout the year. The aim is to collect a minimum of five experiences.

At the National Theatre launch of this project, ACA put out the call for an individual to carry out a feasibility study. Those wishing to apply can click here to download the brief.

The feasibility study has been generously funded by Arts Council Northern Ireland, Assitej UK, Belfast City Council, Cambridgeshire Music, Fife Council and two generous donors; and match-funded by ACA.

The Arts Backpack is championed by ACA patrons including David Almond, Sir Alan Ayckbourn CBE, Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE, David Bintley CBE, Mrs Felicity Dahl, Michael Foreman, Jamila Gavin, Anna Home OBE, Michelle Magorian, Roger McGough CBE, Philip Pullman CBE, Lynne Reid Banks, Sir Tony Robinson and Dame Jacqueline Wilson. When adding his support, Michael Foreman said: “Art was my boyhood ‘magic carpet’ to a world of Wonder.  It has been all my life.  Every child should have the opportunity to go on this ride.”


Notes for Editors

Contact for information:


Action for Children’s Arts (ACA) is a national membership organisation embracing all those who believe that every child deserves access to artistic and creative activity. The charity is dedicated to the promotion, development and celebration of all creative and performing arts, for and with children. ACA is proud that its membership ranges from individual artists, to National Portfolio Organisations, to parents and teachers – all championing the cause of giving every child access to the arts.

President: David Wood, OBE

Chair: Vicky Ireland, MBE

Patrons: David Almond, Jenny Agutter OBE, Sir Alan Ayckbourn CBE, Baroness Floella Benjamin OBE, David Bintley CBE, Malorie Blackman OBE, Sir Quentin Blake CBE, Sir Matthew Bourne OBE, Joseph Coelho, Mrs Felicity Dahl, Dame Carol Ann Duffy CBE, Peter Duncan, Michael Foreman, Jamila Gavin, Anna Home OBE, Shirley Hughes CBE, Sir Nicholas Hytner, Terry Jones, Judith Kerr OBE, Julian Lloyd Webber, Joanna McGregor OBE, Michelle Magorian, Roger McGough CBE, Sir Michael Morpurgo OBE, Nick Park CBE, Philip Pullman CBE, Lynne Reid Banks, Sir Ken Robinson, Sir Tony Robinson, Michael Rosen, Dame Jacqueline Wilson, Benjamin Zephaniah.