artsNK History & Legacy

Photo: Electric Egg

North Kesteven’s arts development team was founded in 1995. A unique team of visual and performing arts specialists, artsNK initiated and supported creative projects across North Kesteven, Lincolnshire and the East Midlands. Based at The National Centre for Craft & Design and working in villages and communities, the organisation provided specialist support and expertise to enrich community-based projects and allow more people to take part in meaningful and inspiring arts experiences.

In 2018, artsNK merged with NCCD, bringing together staff, facilities, expertise and resources. The merger of artsNK and NCCD has seen the NCCD building become the home of an expanded multi-arts programme, delivering creative and cultural experiences across North Kesteven through a dynamic multi-arts programme of exhibitions, workshops and education initiatives, events, performances, community arts projects, festivals & retail. In May 2021, the artsNK and NCCD re-branded to become the Hub.

Public Art across North Kesteven

We have worked with many villages and communities to create and commission a fantastic range of public artwork over the past 25 years. Many of these sit within the numerous art and heritage walking and village trails that meander through North Kesteven.

Ridges & Furrows is an arts & heritage trail linking the Hub in Sleaford with Whisby Nature Park via the Lincoln Edge. The trail developed alongside a programme of cultural events and arts experiences exploring and celebrating communities, local heritage and the landscape across locations along the trail in North Kesteven. You can find more information on the website about the artworks around the Waddington Heritage Trail and other projects.

The Spires and Steeples trail, from Lincoln Cathedral to St Denys’ Church, Sleaford, brings together the rich history, heritage and local stories of the area. It has many beautiful artworks, churches, interesting landscapes and picturesque skies.

When in Sleaford… is an art trail inspired by the rich heritage of Sleaford. The trail features a series of beautiful bronze roundels, created by artist David Mackie, sited in pavements and on walls around the town. The artworks act as way-markers, mapping out pathways through and around Sleaford and signposting residents and visitors to other public artworks.

Public realm projects

artsNK was instrumental in the development and delivery of new artworks and enhanced public spaces and street furniture in partnership with communities, delivered by the team or commissioned artists and designers. Projects range from smaller scale single pieces and sculptures to whole town refurbishment schemes. The team specialises in shaping bespoke projects, taking residents and partners through each stage including creative consultation, research, project planning, fundraising, participatory activity, workshops, and education, through to production and installation.


From 2004 – 2017, artsNK created a range of magical community-inspired festival productions. Both teams, performance and visual arts, worked closely together to stir these in-house productions delivered alongside partners and funded through external funding with clear artistic direction, innovative and creative commissions, and the development of new areas of work. These included aerial dance, digital animation techniques, kinetic sculptures, and pyrotechnics. Working closely with communities, existing local groups and in partnership with educational institutions; Primary and Secondary Schools. The festivals offered opportunities to work alongside high-profile artists and designers to inspire ambition and enable creative skills development and direct involvement at every level of participation.

Primary Dance Festival

The twice-yearly Primary Dance Festival was commissioned by North Kesteven School and delivered by the artsNK Dance Team. Each festival saw our dance artists working in 5 primary schools, in the North Hykeham and northern NK area. The aim being for each school to create a performance piece over a 6 week period. The schools would come then together for a celebration performance of all the work created, as well as taster lessons with teachers at the NK School. Specifically targeted at children in years 4 and 5 (age 9-10 years), the performance was presented at the Terry O’Toole Theatre, which for many children, was their first time in a professional theatre and their first time on stage. The festival gave the young people, the opportunity to explore what both North Kesteven School and the Terry O’Toole Theatre could offer, as well as the experience of working with a dance specialist.

Photo: Electric Egg


Together with Transported, artsNK ran an Aerial Dance and Fitness programme. Classes took place as part of a wider county Circus Arts development initiative. Classes included work on Silks, Hoops and Hammocks (aerial yoga) as well as an Aerial class for young people and an annual Aerial Summer School.

Transported continue to run an aerial programme in Boston and South Holland.

Photo: Electric Egg

Dance Fit

Funded by NKDC, the Dance Fit Research Project was for children and young people to take their first steps into physical activity. Dance was used as a way of exploring healthy lifestyles, diet, activity levels and boost wellbeing. Dance leaders delivered dance classes for 1 hour per week in 4 different primary schools in Lincolnshire over two school terms. Using fun dance styles, creative tasks, partner work and cardiovascular tasks the aim was to aid health and wellbeing. Teachers, families, parents and carers were invited to take part and all participants were issued logbooks to diary progress and track their individual journey of change. We recorded intake of fruit and vegetables as part of educating participants on healthy nutrition. We also asked participants to rate their level of enjoyment, their level of perceived physical exertion, and to record their heart rate and number of steps taken using fitness trackers. The data was then collected to see what impact Dance Fit was having on the young people.

The project was successful and saw improvements in flexibility, activity levels and enjoyment in exercise. The full project report can be seen below. We continue to deliver Dance Fit Lincolnshire schools, please do get in touch if you would like more information.

Photo: Electric Egg

Download the Dance Fit Report

11 Million Reasons to Dance

Established by People Dancing, 11 Million Reasons to Dance (11MRTD) is a photography exhibition and short film programme including images of iconic dance moments from film, all reimagined with Deaf, sight impaired and disabled dancers. The aim of the work was to support diversity programmes and to help organisations embed inclusivity at the heart of what they do.

The original work inspired a number of developments, including the 11 Million Reasons to Dance - strategic touring programme. The project worked in partnership with six venues across the Midlands and North of England to deliver a strategic programme of performance, training and engagement, all focused around the current exhibition. As one of the touring partner organisations, artsNK hosted the exhibition in 2017 and programmed a performance evening, showcasing work by 11MRTD engagement participants, local dance schools and a guest performance by StopGap Dance Company. The following year as part of 11MRTD legacy artsNK delivered a programme of events to celebrate the project. This included: workshops with disabled artist Laura Dajao, a performance by inclusive company Casson and Friends and curtain raisers by artsNK’s own Dance and Disability community groups. 11MRTD had a big impact in the Lincolnshire area, it helped to establish the artsNK Dance and Disability programme by raising the profile of dance for all and providing role models for young Deaf, sight impaired and disabled dancers.

To read more about the impact of 11MRTD, take a look at this blog post written by artsNK Community Dance Artist Emma Bouch.

Image: Stopgap Dance Company | Photo: Electric Egg

Unify Dance Festival

2019 saw artsNK’s first Unify Dance Festival. Dance groups of D/deaf, disabled and non-disabled dancers from Lincolnshire and surrounding areas were invited to come together to showcase their skills on a professional stage. As well as performing, the dancers took part in workshops led by the Dance Team and renowned inclusive dance teacher Charlotte Tomlinson of SideKick Dance (Leicester). As part of the project two brand new Lincolnshire groups were formed; one with pupils from a Lincolnshire based SEND School and one community adult company, tailored for people aged 18yrs+ with a learning disability, autism or both. Both new groups created performance pieces for Unify Dance Festival.

The platform brought together dancers from a wide range of groups including:

  • SideKick Dance (Leicester)
  • Maneuver (All male break dance group – NK School)
  • Ambergate and Sandon (Grantham Additional Needs Fellowship)
  • Evolve Youth Dance Company (artsNK YDP Group – North Hykeham)
  • NK Dance and Disabilities (artsNK group – North Hykeham)
  • Dreamland Drama (Lincoln Drill Hall)
  • Sandance (Worksop)
  • Unify Dance Company (artsNK group – Lincoln)
  • Square Peg (Mansfield)

Bringing in well-established inclusive dance groups from out of county helped to inspire the new Lincolnshire based groups as well as share skills and meet others who share a passion for dance and movement. Dance undergraduates from the University of Lincoln were invited to take part in the workshops, watch the performance and volunteer with the team backstage. The project had overwhelmingly positive feedback and we hope to produce a similar event in the future.

Image: Grantham Additional Needs Fellowship | Photo: Matt Cawrey

Dance Factor

Dance Factor Lincolnshire was a free, county-wide youth dance project, which offered ten weeks of free street dance sessions to young people aged 11-18. Brand new street dance crews were formed across Lincolnshire and rehearsals were led by a professional dance teacher. Sessions were open to young people of all levels of ability and dance experience. All crews then competed for the chance to be crowned Dance Factor Lincolnshire Champions.


Altered – ‘Contemporary art in ancient churches’ was a unique partnership project between the Diocese of Lincoln, the University of Lincoln and artsNK that aimed to bring new audiences into ancient church buildings across rural Lincolnshire through site specific contemporary art commissions. The ACE and LCC funded project started in 2012 with a series of high profile commissions, provided an online step-by-step toolkit to enable church communities and artists to embark on similar collaborations and secured further funding to include additional commissions, a curator post and a touring/festival programme for 2015.


Glassumimass is a creative glass project initiated by artsNK and led by Marion Sander. In 2010, a small community group was brought together at the National Centre for Crafts and Design in Sleaford, Lincolnshire, to work on the design and creation of 3 large scale glass lanterns. Using kiln formed and stained glass techniques the project takes its inspiration from the beautiful churches along the Spires & Steeples Arts and Heritage Trail, from Lincoln Cathedral to St Denys’ in Sleaford.

The project title is a composite derived from the medium - glass - plus the words ‘illumination’ and ‘mass’, in reference to the churches which have inspired them. The individual lanterns are endearingly called ‘Glassumis’. Billinghay Blacksmith, Ian Caudwell has created the custom-made ironwork which was integral to the completion of the designs. Glassumimass is touring venues across Lincolnshire since October 2016.

Members of the Glassumimass group who have contributed to the project are: Gillian Wing, David Wing, Joan Dalton, Margot Charlton, Ann Hughes, Sarah Graves, Carol Hornby, Cecelia Gray Smith, Ruth Pigott, Carole Oliver, Liz Pearson and Marion Sander

Glassumimass is available for touring.

Woolly Spires

artsNK was commissioned by The Collection in Lincoln to undertake a countywide project that reflected the museum’s role at the heart of Lincolnshire’s historical and cultural life. The project sought out knitting groups from all over the county, who were asked to create these amazingly detailed, woollen versions of their parish churches.

Many of Lincolnshire’s beautiful medieval churches were funded by wealthy landowners who made their fortunes on the backs of the county’s iconic breed of sheep, the Lincoln Longwool. The knitting groups only used wool from this rare breed for the project.

The hand-crafted versions of the six churches were exhibited all together for the first time at Lincoln Cathedral in August 2017. The project includes one church from each district of Lincolnshire: St Denys’ (Sleaford), St Mary & St Nicolas (Spalding), St Botolph’s (Boston), St James’ (Louth), St Wulfram’s (Grantham) and St Mary’s / Stow Minster (Stow).

The much loved ‘Woollies’ are available for touring.

Community art groups

artsNK has been instrumental in initiating and supporting the set-up of local community art groups including Reflections Stained Glass Group based in Heighington, Reflections Fusing Glass group in Sleaford and MosArt, Sleaford’s mosaic group. All groups still meet on a regular basis and occasionally get involved with public community art projects.

Visit our Community Page to find out more.

The Nettles Volunteer Group

The Nettles Volunteer Group is a constituted not for profit organisation that meets on a regular basis to cultivate, maintain and enhance a public piece of land called ‘The Nettles’ in Sleaford. The Nettles host a range of temporary and permanent public art works including the largest living willow screen in the county. Additionally, the group provides and shares creative and conservationist skills to its members and the local community. Originally set up by artsNK in 2009 the group continues to look after this beautiful space along the river path with support from NCCD and Hill Holt Wood.

Visit our Community Page to find out more.


In 2012, artsNK initiated and became the lead organisation for ‘Transported’. Transported is funded by Creative People and Places from Arts Council England.

Creative People and Places is funded by money from the National Lottery and is about more people taking the lead in choosing, creating, and taking part in art experiences in the places where they live. It focuses specifically on parts of the country where people’s involvement in the arts is statistically significantly below the national average.

Transported aims to get more people in Boston Borough and South Holland district enjoying and participating in arts activities.

Since 2018 Transported is managed by the University of Lincoln.


artsNK initiated and managed Vitality, a Lincolnshire based programme of exercise classes set to toe tapping music for the over 60’s which is approved by the NHS.

The programme is now managed by OneLife/LiTC.

Vitality classes can help provide improved mobility, balance and coordination, together with fun, laughter and friendship through carefully planned gentle exercises designed specifically for you, no matter what your ability!

The classes are a great way to meet people and you’ll receive a warm welcome as well as feeling full of vitality afterwards! Many classes provide tea and biscuits too, so you’ll have chance to chat and catch up with the other participants after the class. So whatever your ability, join us now and enjoy.

Terry O’Toole Theatre

artsNK managed The Terry O Toole Theatre, situated in the north of the district in North Hykeham. Described as a “hidden gem”, by BBC Radio Lincolnshire, The Terry O’Toole Theatre is an intimate, 200 seat, arts theatre which presents a vibrant, high quality programme of professional drama, music, dance and children’s theatre, complemented by a wide range of community performances.

As well as performances, it delivers a lively participation programme, including LOV Young People’s Project sessions, Community Music workshops and ACTion Community Theatre.

Since 2018, the theatre is managed by Better, in partnership with North Kesteven Academy and North Kesteven District Council.

Taking pART

Taking pART was a series of artist-led creative workshops for people from Spalding and Boston with a special emphasis to integrate those experiencing mild to moderate mental health issues. This pilot project was delivered over a period of 6 months and examined the health benefits of creative activities for participants. A rigorous SROI impact study accompanying the project was designed and evaluated by MB Associates.