West Leeds arts project grant boosts skills to tackle digital divide

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A West Leeds-based arts project is one of five organisations across the city to scoop a £10,000 funding boost targeted and bridging the digital divide.

Armley-based The Highrise Project shares the experiences of social housing through participatory art projects. It is run by Louise Atkinson and Victoria Kortekaas and has carried out work across the city, including the high rise blocks in New Wortley and the Gamble Hills.

They’ve netted one of five grants from funds raised at last year’s Leeds Digital Ball, which raised money for The Leeds Digital Inclusion Fund.

Embedding digital art skills into the group’s core creative storytelling projects, where local people use photography, filmmaking, and animation to tell their stories.

Victoria Kortekaas, co-director of The Highrise Project, said: “The ability to provide digital arts workshops to Leeds residents has opened a wide range of new tools to our participants, from those with some digital experience to people who have never picked up a tablet before.

“It’s great to see the people we work with get excited about digital art, and learn ‘everyday’ digital skills along the way.” 

In total, £50,000 was invested through the programme. Other organisations awarded funding include Meanwood Valley Urban Farm, Smart Works Charity (Leeds), Burmantofts Senior Action and Your Back Yard for its work in Headingley Holt Park and Beeston.

By supporting community organisations to embed digital inclusion work throughout what they do, the Fund will mean people in Leeds will have the skills, support, and equipment to be active online, now and in the future.

Steph Taylor, Strategy and Programmes Director and Deputy CEO of Leeds Community Foundation, said: “Partnering with Leeds Digital Ball is vital to bridging the digital divide and creating a more equitable city to ensure that everyone in our local communities have access to the same quality of digital resources.

“We’re grateful of this city’s thriving tech and digital sector and great to see such energy and enthusiasm to make a difference genuinely and collectively in our city and create opportunities for those that need it most. A vision that is shared by Leeds Community Foundation.”

The Leeds Digital Inclusion Fund is a new partnership between Leeds Community Foundation and Leeds City Council 100% Digital Leeds. The Fund supports community organisations to incorporate digital inclusion in their day-to-day work, in sustainable ways.

The Leeds Digital Ball returns this year on Thursday, 11 May 2023, at the Royal Armouries in Leeds, from 7pm onwards. Tickets are available to purchase here.

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