Cultural Sector Support


TestBeds impact

The Arts and Culture Projects team run a range of place-based projects and resources, which aim to support local cultural practitioners and organisations. This includes development programmes for entrepreneurial, partnership, business and fundraising capabilities.

The team initially developed their sector support model through TestBeds activity, which was delivered from 2016-2019 and funded by Arts Council England through the Luton Investment Programme (LIP). TestBeds saw the first of its kind university-led artistic and entrepreneurial skills hub.

The Arts and Culture Projects team have delivered funded and in-kind capacity building models ever since. This includes launching in 2021 a brand new capacity building programme in partnership with the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Responding to COVID-19, this project is for diverse cultural practitioners and organisations in need of support from their local university to grow and strengthen community heritage activity in Luton and across Bedfordshire.

The Arts and Culture Projects team show how a university can lead responsive place-based models that meet the current demands and knowledge gaps within the creative and cultural sectors, through a diverse set of offers, led by the community.


Current Projects


In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the University of Bedfordshire has successfully applied for funds from our partners the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) to extend activity and deliver an enterprise-focused support project for cultural practitioners and organisations working in the heritage sector in Luton and Bedfordshire. View more information about the funded project

Heritage Impact Accelerator is funded through this NLHF support. The programme offers a 10-month incubator programme that will be delivered to two cohorts between 2021 and 2023. It aims to build the capacity of 12 diverse local practitioners and/or organisations to deliver enhanced heritage-focused projects, develop new partnerships and increase levels of contributed and earned income.

Inspired by the tech start-up model, the programme immerses participants in a university hothouse for skills development. It accelerates and pushes practitioners to develop thriving heritage-focused projects and enterprises.

More about Heritage Impact Accelerator


In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the University of Bedfordshire has successfully applied for funds from our partners the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) to extend activity and deliver an enterprise-focused sector support project for cultural practitioners and organisations working across the heritage sector in Luton and Bedfordshire. View more information about the funded project

Funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Heritage Enterprise Hub takes on the learnings of the Artist’s Enterprise Zone that was initially funded by Arts Council England through the Luton Investment Programme. It provides a programme of needs-driven online and in-person training sessions and events. Delivered across Bedfordshire, the programme works alongside Heritage Impact Accelerator participants, regional delivery partners and colleagues from across the University's academic faculties and professional departments.

Sessions will include practical help with issues relating to working across heritage, completing bids, building strategic partnerships and networks, building digital infrastructure, engaging with schools, developing archives, and improving professional resilience and diversifying income.

More about Heritage Enterprise Hub


Previous Projects (Under TestBeds)


An externally funded 12-month incubator for early-career, locally based artists and creative practitioners.

Inspired by the tech industry start-up model, the programme immerses artists in a university-led hothouse for ideas.

It accelerates careers and pushes artists to develop their practice into thriving, socially-engaged creative enterprises.


An externally funded 12-month collaborative research and development laboratory for mid-career artists and arts innovators of any discipline.

With a thematic focus on collaborative practices and partnership working, artists explore their practice in the context of the artist as a catalyst for change, place-maker or global citizen.


An externally funded 6-month programme for locally based artists and artistic organisations, who either work with or represent specific Protected Characteristics as defined by the UK Equalities Act.

The programme mentors participants through a responsive programme of skills development before being mentored to apply for funding that demonstrates a step-change in terms of taking their organisation to a new level of impact.


An ad-hoc programme of flexible events, networking opportunities and surgeries that were designed to support Bedfordshire's local arts practitioners.

For more information email culture@beds.ac.uk

Data and Impact


Activity supporting the cultural sector has been highly impactful:

  • Supported local creative practitioners to apply for funding worth £916,374, with £501,472 secured for creative and cultural projects.
  • Mentored artists to develop creative projects that work across 50 UK local authorities.
  • Engaged over 9000+ participants through artistic development and entrepreneurial skills development, including 105 interdisciplinary arts’ development workshops.
  • Assisted 24 creative practitioners engaged in Artist Accelerator and Catalyst Co-Lab to develop over 75 interdisciplinary arts exhibitions, performances and curated events as part of 22 national and international creative commissions.
  • Brokered relationships between creative practitioners and over 17 local primary and secondary schools to deliver creative outreach opportunities to 500+ young people in Luton.
  • Supported creative practitioners to develop over 515 new collaborative partnerships across 14 interdisciplinary industry sectors internationally.
  • Guided local practitioners to form international partnerships and activity in: Egypt, Czech Republic, USA, Canada, Korea, Sweden, France, Russia, Germany, Croatia and Palestine.
  • Supported the development of 28 new artistic/academic partnerships with local creative practitioners and UoB academics of various creative and non-creative specialisms.
  • Delivered 155 Arts Enterprise Zone workshops to local sole traders and SMEs.
  • Linked creative practitioners to UoB academic faculties in order to deliver 106 hours of teaching to UoB students.
  • Delivered six conference days in two years, including a Sector Leaders Symposium, where over 25 national universities and large cultural organisations discussed partnership opportunities between the cultural sector, universities and local authorities.
  • Collaborated with the Institute of Research in Media and Performance (RIMAP) to publish a book entitled ‘Developing a Sense of Place’ (2020). This included a co-authored chapter by Arts and Culture Manager and the Director of RIMAP: “A model for University-Town partnership in the Arts: TestBeds.
  • Contributed to a Socio-Economic Study conducted by Hatch Regeneris, looking at the impact of UoB locally (2020).

For more information about TestBeds contact us via culture@beds.ac.uk