As part of the ongoing work of the Torbay Arts in Schools Network, we are featuring a series of ‘Spotlight Interviews’ with key TASN partners.
Next up: Vik Westaway from Tonic Creatives CIC, Director and Community Engagement, Spectacle, Sculpture, Sustainability
Question: Tell me a little bit about your role and what you do.
At Tonic Creatives I’m one of 5 Directors who are who are dedicated to bringing people together through arts, heritage and cultural experiences. My role is quite fluid from running creative workshops, to liaising with other artists, organisations and community groups to designing large visual moments …often with recycled fairy lights. Most importantly though I’m the one with the van ha ha!
Question: What’s something really exciting/successful that’s happened in the last 6 months?
There have been loads of great Tonic times in the last 6 months, from Earth Hour in the stunning Spanish Barn at Torre Abbey to taking in the beautiful coastline of the bay with our Healthy Selfie Project.
One that really stands out is the successful Playing in the Streets event in Torbay which works with artists and creatives to transform High Streets into fabulous car-free spaces where families can get creative, take part in music, visual arts, performance, circus skills and even geology! It was so exciting watching everyone have so much fun including all the artists and performers!
An added bonus was seeing people visit the high street shops and holiday makers to Torbay commenting with “We wish our town did this” It’s also great to have built up collaborations with local organisations such as Doorstep Arts, Play Torbay and Taleblazers who do so much for the young people in this region of Devon.
Question: Why are schools relationships important to you? How do the schools get involved?
When we set up Tonic Creatives back in 2021 we really wanted to be a creative ‘tonic’ to bring an accessible and people friendly approach to the cultural events we wanted to run. Our work in school and community groups is so important as it’s often the first time children get the WOW creative moment! I’m sure we can all remember a time when a visiting Artist, Musician or Performer came into our primary school and somehow switched the creative light switch on.
These moments often foster a love and need for the arts which carries on throughout our lives. Sadly it seems over the last few years these experiences are harder to fund and facilitate, so it’s been wonderful to offer these experiences through different projects including the Shhhh Seagulls Project, where another of our Directors Kate Linden worked in collaboration with the Riviera Education Trust and highlighted creative career routes with artists going into schools to inspire young children.
The final result of the project was a fantastic Seagull Sculpture trail across the bay. As a former teacher myself the opportunity to feed more fun creative experiences into the school day is invaluable for young people to develop confidence, pride, wellbeing and resilience.
Question: Can you describe some ways that families with children & young people engage with your work?
As one of the visual artists in Tonic Creatives I often organise the community workshop elements for our events. For example, we are delivering the Exmouth Festival opening night event on Friday 28th July. In the run up to this I’ll be teaching simple carnival makes workshops in the local library, at the youth club we’ll be building a giant sea serpent to parade to the strand led by the brilliant Drum Devon drummers.
Another date for the Diary is SeaFest in Paignton on September 30th, we are still in the planning stages on this but there will be lots of opportunities to get involved in this new Sea Celebration.
Question: Going forward, what are your hopes and dreams in terms of engagement?
As a team we want to deliver more creative opportunities to Torbay and beyond. We have masses of exciting plans so watch this space! Our plan is to develop our work with schools and education settings more over the next few years, we see events and festivals as a great route to engage people of all ages to celebrate, learn something new and get creative.
Stay up to date with Tonic Creatives and their amazing work here:
Tonic Creatives is a key partner of TASN.
Torbay Arts in Schools Network (TASN) is a collaborative and grassroots effort, comprised of 45 organisations, freelancers, and schools in the Torbay area.
The network serves as Torbay’s Cultural Education Partnership, providing shared regional advocacy, arts menus, creative resources, and arts outreach in partnership with area schools. What is a Local Cultural Education Partnership? Find out more here.
The group is action-driven, and meets fortnightly over Zoom to do shared activity planning. The network is currently chaired and coordinated by Erin Walcon, Co-Director, Doorstep Arts.
The network is open-door and new artists, arts orgs or school staff are always welcome to join –just email email@example.com to sign up to the mailing list.