Black Country Touring have been honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest award a voluntary group can receive in the UK.
BCT is one of 230 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the prestigious award this year.
Frances Land, Black Country Touring, Co-Artistic Director Said: “This is a real boost for us, particularly as we struggle to adapt to lockdown and social distancing, when the community venues we work with are closed. Our incredible team has included 251 volunteers and we are delighted that our work has been recognised. It’s a real tribute to the hard work and commitment our volunteers bring to the community.”
Black Country Touring’s volunteers range from 7 to 70+ and can be with the organisation from 6 months to many years.
They train and support their volunteers to share the joys of having the arts as part of their lives with others in their community. The team enables local people, of all ages and backgrounds, to see high-quality theatre, dance and film in their local area at an affordable price, often in areas of high deprivation with very few professional theatres and venues.
Their volunteer programme supports and empowers people to be decision makers and create special, shared experiences that would not happen otherwise. When programming professional theatre, dance and cinema events in local venues for their community, the volunteers are supported by Black Country Touring at every step of promoting the event.
Volunteers learn how to select professional touring theatre shows and build a programme of events tailored to the local venue they use. Venues include libraries, schools and community centres.
Many people who attend would have no contact with the performing arts without Black Country Touring and its volunteers. Often these events are the only link with the outside world for people at risk of loneliness and isolation.
BCT could not operate at all without their enthusiastic volunteers. They are the people on the ground in the heart of the community who select, organise and promote the shows their audiences want to see. Black Country Touring support them to develop their skills, confidence and experience of organising events.
A key part of the work is about raising aspirations and improving people’s wellbeing through volunteering, by connecting them with other people in their local community and reducing the risk of isolation. Something that is very important during this time.
Julie Mckirdy B.E.M, Senior supervisor at Smethwick Town Libraries and BCT board member said: “I am over the moon to hear this wonderful news today that Black Country touring have been awarded the prestigious Queens voluntary award. BCT thoroughly deserve this accolade, they work so hard to bring the arts to Sandwell and the rest of the Black country.
All the team have helped with my personal development within the arts and played a massive part in how Thimblemill Library has become known and respected today within the arts cultural scene. So on behalf of all the community of Thimblemill library and beyond I would like to congratulate each and all at BCT and well done you wonderful people.”
Black Country Touring will receive the award from Mr John Crabtree OBE, Lord Lieutenant of the West Midlands later this summer and two volunteers from Black Country Touring will attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace in May 2021, along with other recipients of this year’s Award.
Peter Knott, Area Director for Arts Council England added his congratulations: “Huge congratulations to Black Country Touring and we’re delighted that their work with volunteers has been recognised at the very highest level possible. Black Country Touring is funded by the National Lottery; this is thanks to Lottery players so it’s right that so many people share the benefits.
The Queen’s award pays tribute to the volunteers ongoing commitment, people who offer their own time and experience ensuring that the role of arts and culture touches as many people as possible. Great work to everyone at Black Country Touring”.
Black Country Touring is hugely grateful to Arts Council England, Sandwell Council, Wolverhampton City Council and all their other funders and partners that make their work possible.