As a founder member of the participatory arts company B-Arts based in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Hilary Hughes has devoted her life to empowering people through the arts both locally and internationally.
From large scale outdoor events, involving lanterns, fire and giant puppets to small scale intimate projects involving only a few people, B-Arts projects have enabled people from different communities to engage creatively and help build their aspirations.
She said: “Our work takes place in parks, city streets, village halls and beaches as opposed to traditional cultural venues and fuses art-forms such as theatre, film, digital media, live music and carnival arts. Everyone we work with, wherever we meet them, whether at home or abroad, stay connected and many go on to take part in other or develop their
B-Arts have had a huge influence on the development of community arts nationally and across Europe, receiving support and recognition from the Arts Council England, the Baring Foundation and the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.
With B-Arts, Hilary has taken a leading role in international work, notably working with women and girls to rebuild their communities in post-conflict Mostar, Bosnia Herzegovina. In 2000, Hilary saw the opportunity to engage with newly dispersed refugees in Stoke-on-Trent and created the project Crossing Frontiers. From this starting point B-Arts developed highly successful programmes, including The Bridge: 10 years of work with young unaccompanied refugees, The Kitchen: with newly migrant women and children, focusing on both developing their skills and confidence through arts and cultural activities and also enabling them to connect with their local community.
“We work with communities marginalised in society. In the past we have worked with jobless young people, migrant communities and refugees, gypsies and travellers. Currently we are developing initiatives that tackle food and fuel poverty, the challenges presented in caring creatively for an aging population while continuing with a programme of celebratory accessible outdoor arts and theatre, both locally and in Europe.”
The award of Honorary Doctor of Staffordshire University is bestowed upon Hilary in recognition of her vision in empowering local people through the arts. It also recognises the wider social impact of her projects with refugees and migrant communities in North Staffordshire and in Bosnia Herzegovina.