Diversity, accessibility and preserving heritage for future generations were on the agenda for the 200 delegates attending our first WE CONNECT conference.

Delegates heard from experts at Arts Council England, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Film Hub South West / British Film Institute and Historic England their various funding streams and  how Portsmouth organisations (and surrounding areas) could improve their chances of securing funding, as well as widening awareness of the types of projects that can be funded.

The thread of diversity, making art accessible to all and creating and protecting legacy ran throughout the conference. Phil Gibby, South West Area Director for Arts Council England encouraged more diversity-related projects to step forward, something that was echoed by Neil Ramjee from Film Hub South West, who said the BFI was doing more to financially support and promote independent films and make them more accessible outside of bigger cities. Marion Brinton, Historic England and Sarah Wicks, National Lottery Heritage Fund presented the modern context of History and heritage as reflective of people’s stories, communities and spaces.

There were also presentations from organisations that had successfully secured funding for their projects, such as youth project Motive8 and High Street Heritage Action Zones, which looked at preserving high streets from years gone by, saving their legacies and giving them a modern twist.

We Connect was hosted by Queer Artist, The Fabulous Josh, who also shared their story as to how they secured funding for Downtown Pompey, a project that invites storytelling in an inclusive and welcoming setting through theatre.

The day ended with breakout sessions where delegates were invited to put their questions to experts, who were also offering guidance and tips as to how organisations could successfully apply for funding – and how to make the most of it.

Portsmouth Creates CEO Gemma Nichols said: “The conference was a great success and we heard from many organisations that were able to make valuable connections and learn more about how to access funding.

“We want to build capacity of organisations and individuals so that they can continue to grow, but we also want to champion the need for greater investment across the city.”