Sally Shaw, Director of Firstsite
in Colchester, has been awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire) in the Queens Birthday Honours list for services to the Arts.
The Queens Birthday Honours lists recognise the achievements and service of people across the UK, from all walks of life. Along with the New Year Honours, they are the most significant announcements of civilian and military gallantry awards.
The 2020 Queen's Birthday Honours were due to be announced in June but were deferred as the country continued to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. They will be officially announced in a special supplement of the Crowns newspaper, The Gazette, on Saturday 10 October 2020.
Sally Shaw will join some 450 other nominees who have been put forward for an award, specifically for their contribution to the national response to Covid-19, and who are, as the Cabinet Office states exemplars of the wide range and exceptional community and front-line service given across the country in recent months.
Shortly after lockdown was introduced on 16 March, Sally created Art is where the home is, a free-to-download, online activity pack designed to keep children and young people entertained and engaged during the first weeks and months of having to stay at home.
Her innovative idea was such a hit that within a month of the first pack being made available over 27,000 had been downloaded, with several more versions following. In total the packs have now reached over 70,000 households. Each one features several fun activities that dont require special equipment.
What added to the appeal of Art is where the home is was that many of the contributions to the pack came from famous contemporary artists, including Grayson Perry, Antony Gormley, Jeremy Deller, Gillian Wearing, Michael Landy, Vanley Burke, Ryan Gander, Idris Khan and Annie Morris.
A French version of Art is where the home is was launched in partnership with Paris-based Théâtre du Châtelet, while Firstsites own packs were downloaded across the UK and as far afield as Spain and New Zealand.
Commenting on the announcement that is to be made an MBE, Sally Shaw says: "Our mission here at Firstsite is to empower people, no matter their background, to be creative together and lead happier and healthier lives - by providing them with new creative opportunities and promoting imaginative responses to contemporary issues. We did this by creating Art is where the home is but also by working with the community in and around Colchester with a number of post-lockdown exhibitions and events that have helped people to engage with art and in doing so, tackle feelings of isolation and anxiety during these troubled times.
She adds: I am hugely honoured and very proud to be recognised in this way. I think it is an important and very prestigious acknowledgment of the cultural importance of Firstsite and what we are doing here in Colchester. It reflects that what we are doing here is being so much more than just a gallery or arts centre, but supporting our community through culture creativity.
We have been running our Holiday Fun programme for three years now, which gives local children an opportunity to be creative, eat a healthy meal and enjoy physical activity, all for free. Th next one is scheduled for October Half Term, so neither I or my fabulous team will be resting on our laurels.
Although it is Sally, in her capacity as Firstsite Director that she will be made an MBE, she is keen to share the accolade with the people and organisations that the gallery works alongside: It would be lovely if everyone could have a gong! Especially as my colleagues have all put in so much effort into the activities during lockdown and beyond. The Art is where the home is packs were designed by Fraser Muggeridge, and my thanks also go to our local NHS Care Commissioning Group for their support of Holiday Fun, the Firstsite board of trustees for their guidance and infinite wisdom in supporting these initiatives. With all of these vital contributions we were the first arts organisation to create activity packs, one of the very first in the UK to reopen its doors, and the first to provide food to families facing economic and social problems during the height of lockdown. Firstsite was in a good place to respond so quickly because of its fantastic relationships with charities and organisations working on the ground, including African Families in the UK, Together we Grow, Refugee Action-Colchester, Community 360 and the Bangladeshi Womens group.