Louise Blackwell

ABCD for Cultural Recovery in Brighton & Hove

What now?

The Brighton & Hove ABCD Cultural Recovery Programme (ABCD) evolved through a common ambition to counteract the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the cultural sector in Brighton & Hove. It was also fuelled by a need to act to address longer-term inequalities in the sector and society. The programme oversaw 25 new commissions, 24 events and 48 workshops that reached 435 participants and over 12k audiences. This created paid work for over 300 local freelance creatives, we raised over £500k for the programme and have created a new model for a collective voice for the arts & cultural sector in the City. Our partners included Brighton & Hove City Council, Arts Council England, Brilliant Brighton Business Improvement District, Visit Brighton, the Pebble Trust and many funded arts organisations in the City. The ABCD projects were also funded by the Welcome Back Fund, part of the European Regional Development Fund.

In January 2023 ABCD entered a new phase. A new Project Manager is being recruited thanks to the continued support of Brighton & Hove City Council, University of Sussex, University of Brighton & Brighton Dome & Brighton Festival. A successor body (working title Culture in Our City Partnership) is being developed. To stay up to date with the most recent developments and to get involved click on the ‘Stay up to date’ tab here.

You can find out more about the projects and interventions ABCD led from March 2020 – Dec 2022 here.

You can access a whole load of free content on the YouTube channel here. From webinars about Meanwhile Space Access to stories of Brighton & Hove creatives there’s a huge amount of great information and valuable resources.

ABCD worked with an external evaluator, Dr Roz Stewart-Hall, who looked at the aims and outcomes of the programme as a whole and of the individual strands. Her report on the work undertaken between March 2021 and June 2022 is now ready to be shared.

Read the Executive Summary: ABCD Evaluation Report Exec Summary FINAL

Read the full evaluation report: ABCD Plan for Cultural Recovery Full Evaluation Report

If you have any questions,contact ABCD Programme Manager, Polly Gifford, pollyagifford@gmail.com

History of the ABCD for Cultural Recovery project

Click here and scroll down to see all the current resources and opportunities created and supported by the ABCD for Cultural Recovery Programme.

In mid-March 2020 the cultural offer in Brighton & Hove was put on hold, a national lock-down began and the cultural workforce and those in the immediate supply chain experienced significant impact. Our live events offer that attracts international, national and local visitors, informs Brighton’s reputation and accounts for 40% of the City’s economy was unable to operate. From freelancers with 100% loss of paid work to organisations with 100% loss of income and a need to furlough staff quickly. No two individuals or organisations shared the same experience, yet many people came together to find ways to collaborate, support and to start to re-imagine. We want to build on this energy for this short term project.

Brighton & Hove Arts and Creative Industries Commission, EPIC & What Next? Brighton & Hove have been commissioned to work with the creative community to produce an action based recovery plan for culture in the City.

Our ambition was that the plan outlined investment-ready, ethical products and services that support the economic, social and cultural recovery of Brighton & Hove.

Phase one of the project ran between August 2020 and February 2021. Between 14th and 25th September seventeen meetings took place with a range of participants from the cultural industries in the City. Following that phase the Co-Founding Team worked with the Outside Eyes to distill the many, many ideas discussed. Five main ideas were explored as part of the plan. Effort was made to explore how some of the other ideas could be taken forward as part of our networks. The draft Action Plan was shared with participants in November for feedback and a further series of feedback conversations took place in January and February 2021.

The final report can be downloaded here: The-ABCD-for-Cultural-Recovery-Brighton-and-Hove designed by DogFish Design

Phase 2: ABCD for Cultural Recovery 2021-2022

Three Working Groups (Enliven Brighton, The Engine Room and Creative Communities) developed specific targets for recovery, guided by the ABCD Cultural Recovery Plan and delivered against those targets.

A new working group called Space to Grow was set up in May 2022 and a plan for developing the Cultural Workers Income Guarantee Scheme developed in the final phase of the project from Sept – Dec 2022.

Polly Gifford was appointed as the freelance Programme Manager for Phase 2. Working Group members were recruited for 3 of the 5 groups plus Co-Chairs who formed the Governing Board alongside the founders.

You can read Polly’s blog here and sign up to the Culture in Our City mailing list to keep up to date.

You can read the blog I wrote about the process (to Aug 2021) here.

The Working Groups

The original make up of the first three Working Groups was as follows:

    Enliven Brighton

Co-Chairs: Tarik Elmoutawakil, Marlborough Productions & David Sheppard, Marlborough Productions

Sarah Davies, Creative Workspace Network (previously at Phoenix Arts Space)
Kim Jack-Riley, Tea & Grazing Ltd
Sally Oakenfold, The Hope and Ruin
Tristan Sharpes, dreamthinkspeak
Simon Vaughn, Creative Giants

    The Engine Room

Co-Chairs: Erin Barnes, Independent Producer & Marina Norris, Cultural Baggage, What Next? Brighton & Hove

Philippa Aldrich, Future Perfect Company
Julian Caddy, Brighton Fringe
Joe Shelton, University of Brighton

    The Creative Communities Network

Co-Chairs: Cath James, South East Dance & John Varah, Same Sky

Nicky Crabb, Little Green Pig
Faith Dodkins, The Spire / freelance
Lex Hollingworth & Paul Musselwhite, Komedia
Terri-Sian Lugosi, EPIC / freelance
Will Mytum, BOAT
Jess Starns, Dyspraxic Me
Jonathan Suffolk, independent

    ABCD Governance Group

Co-Chairs: Donna Chisholm, Brighton & Hove City Council & Kate O’Riordan, University of Sussex

Working Group Chairs plus:
Ian Baird, Event Producers Independent Committee (EPIC)
Louise Blackwell, LOOKOUT Brighton, What Next Brighton & Hove
Andrew Comben, Brighton Dome & Festival, Arts & Creative Industries Commission
Jane McMorrow, Creative Futures, Arts, Health & Wellbeing Network

In June 2022 a group of over 70 individuals working in the cultural industries in the city gathered to develop a collective plan for the next steps post ABCD. The ABCD programme ran to the end of 2022.

You can read the report from this Review & Reset open space session which informed the plans for remainder of the ABCD programme through to the end of December 2022: ABCD Review & Reset open space report Final.

August 2020 – Feb 2021: Phase 1


Aimie Rae, Alex Murray, Alex Proctor, Andrew Comben, Anna Alverez, Ann Backburn, Anna Dumitriu, Anna Moulson, Anne Marie Chebib, Ann-Marie Williams, Becky Stevens, Ben Price, Bern O’Donaghue, Beth Burgess, Bobby Brown, Carmen D’Cruz, Charlie Royce, Dan Lake, David Sheppeard, Donna Close, Ebony Rose Dark, Elena Italia, Ella Burns, Emma Higham, Erin Barnes, Faith Dodkins, Freya Wynn Jones, Harriet Morris, Jackie Alexander, Jacquline Rana, Jamie Wyld, James Turnbull, Jane Finnis, Jane Olser, Jane McMorrow, Jess Starns, John Varah, Jonathan Suffolk, Judith Hibberd, Julie Stacey, Ian Baird, Karen Poley, Kate Shields, Katy Beinart, Laura McDermott, Leonardo Lami, Lex Hollingworth, Lisa Creagh, Lisa Newnham, Lisa Norman, Liz Porter, Liz Whitehead, Lizzie, Coates, Louise Blackwell, Lou Rogers, Lucy Stone, Marina Norris, Mark Brailsford, Michelle Donkin, Naomi Alexander, Natasha Britton, Nicky Crabb, Nicole Monnay, Omeima Mudawi-Rowlings, Paule Constable, Peter Chivers, Phillippa Barr, Phil Sparkes, Poppy Heron, Rebecca Halifax, Rosa Firbank, Rosia Garcia, Romy Elliot, Sarah Pickthall, Subira Wahogo, Tamsin Sasha, Tanushka Marah, Thomas Buckley, Tim Benson, Toby Park, Tristan Sharpes, Zoe Toolan.

There were 94 participants in total.


Lizzie Coates


Kerry Dowding, Lou Cope, Lauren Craig and Tarik Elmoutawakil

    Outside Eyes

Saad Eddine Said and Shaun Romain

    Co-Founding Team

Andrew Comben, Ian Baird, Louise Blackwell, Marina Norris

    Organisations represented

Actors of Dionysus, Amaze Sussex, Audio Active, Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, Babyoke, BELTA, Brighton and Hove Arts Council, Brighton and Hove Arts and Creative Industries Commission, Brighton & Hove City Council, Brighton Artists Network, Brighton Dome and Brighton Festival, Brighton People’s Theatre, Brighton Photo Fringe, Brighton Pride, Brighton Shakespeare Company, Cast Iron, Choir With No Name, Creative Future, C3 Productions, Cultural Baggage, Culture 24, Dreamthinkspeak, EPIC, Fabrica, Hangleton & Knoll Project Hybred Events, Ironclad Creative, Komedia, KP Projects CIC, Little Green Pig, LOOKOUT Brighton, Lout Promotions, Melting Vinyl, Onca, One Inch Badge, OOPS Festival, Marlborough Productions, No Stone Unturned, Phoenix Arts Space, Parable Dance, Paradoxical Frog, Powerful Thinking, RAPT Theatre, Same Sky, Smart Power UK, South East Dance, Spymonkey, Swallowsfeet Collective, Theatre Royal Brighton, The Creative Post, The Green Door Store, The Spire, Tick Tock Bridget, University of Brighton, Vincent Dance Theatre, We Are Not Saints, Windmill Young Actors CIC, ZAP Concepts.


Arts Council England, Brighton & Hove City Council, What’s Next?