Max Literacy Award 2021

In partnership with Westleigh Methodist Primary School, the Turnpike was awarded the MaxLiteracy Award 2021 for the Concrete Poems creative writing project. Working with poet Elmi Ali and pupils from Year 5 and 6, the project aims to unlock confidence in writing through playful explorations of The Turnpike Centre brutalist building and William Mitchell's Concrete Frieze. 

The MaxLiteracy Award provides a timely opportunity to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Turnpike Centre building to create a significant learning resource for this distinctive asset in the town, drawing on its artistic features and the original architectural vision as a dedicated community space for art, learning and wellbeing. Following an unusual year, The Turnpike will use the award to work with local young people to imagine the building’s future post-pandemic and beyond.

The Concrete Poems project will build on and learn from the recent excellent work the school have been doing to improve the reading and writing attainment of their pupils, by implementing an approach which draws on the arts as a key driver for learning.  The Concrete Poems project will build on this foundation of work to create a project and learning resource for older pupils in KS2 who need extra support or may have fallen behind due to the pandemic. The project will enable The Turnpike to situate the voice of children at the centre of the conversation around the role of public spaces and the value of culture as a tool for enriching wellness in everyday life.

Funded by the Max Reinhardt Charitable Trust, MaxLiteracy offers funding for museums and galleries in England to support a dedicated programme of creative writing and literacy work within learning settings through the visual arts. The Awards are run in partnership with Engage, the National Association for Gallery Education and the National Association for Writers in Education (NAWE).

This year three venues, Open Eye Gallery, Newark & Sherwood District Council and The Turnpike, have been awarded £8,000 to employ a creative writer to work with a local school on a creative writing or literacy project, taking inspiration from the venue’s collections, displays or building.

The activities will lead to the development of a new resource for each venue, designed to encourage engagement with the venue through creative writing. These will be widely shared within the arts and education sectors to encourage the greater use of galleries, art museums and visual arts venues by schools for creative writing and literacy work.

In response to the global health emergency the 2021 call out for venues had an adapted focus. The awards invited galleries, museums, and visual arts venues to propose activity that aims to support the mental health and wellbeing of children, young people or young adults through creative writing, literacy and the visual arts.

“We are thrilled to announce the awardees for the MaxLiteracy Awards 2021. All three of the projects chosen include a strong commitment to using creative writing and visual arts to support the mental health of children and young people who have faced unprecedented pressures over the past year. At the same time as losing access to school, friends, family, support networks, children and young people have also missed out on cultural opportunities that are so crucial to their development. We are so looking forward to working with the expert writers, curators and teachers involved in all three projects, and delighted to play a part in supporting young people to thrive through access to creative writing and visual arts.”


Seraphima Kennedy - Director, National Association of Writers in Education 


“With a particular focus on mental health and wellbeing, the 2021 Awards are aimed at both formal and informal learning settings to further enhance and better the life chances and creative opportunities for young people. This is an exciting round through which we hope will develop and strengthen creative partnerships between arts and cultural organisations, learning settings and creative writers, particularly at a time when developmental support for young people is most crucial.”


Ronda Gowland-Pryde – MaxLiteracy Coordinator



“We have tried to make the MaxLiteracy Awards as flexible as possible in 2021 to address the many challenges brought by the pandemic and the huge need to support the mental health of our children and young people.  We know that the visual arts have a crucial role to play in recovery. We want to encourage museums and galleries to develop partnerships with teachers and creative writers that can work within the confines of changing public health guidelines but still reach vulnerable young people at a time of pressing need.”


Veronica Reinhardt – Trustee of the Max Reinhardt Charitable Trust


“Engage is delighted to be working again with the Max Reinhardt Charitable Trust and the National Association for Writers in Education on MaxLiteracy. We want to support creative writers, children and young people to take inspiration from the visual arts. We are keen to explore how writing and engagement with art can support wellbeing. During this period of change, as a result of Coivd-19, we are keen to support children and young people to engage with creative writing and art.”

Jane Sillis – Director of Engage