Teenage girls performing on the drums

The Ark T Centre is an arts project in East Oxford, and is situated in a high-risk area for Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE). Ark T is an open and inclusive community, where people, art, and powerful ideas come together, using the transformative powers of creativity to change lives.

Preventing child sexual exploitation

The Ark T Centre is situated in Cowley, Oxford, where 30% of children exist below the poverty line. The infamous Bullfinch grooming case and subsequent set up of The Kingsfisher Response Team is based in the area, and Ark T prioritises working with people who experience difficulties with emotional attachments, issues with trust and authority figures, negative attitudes to education and a vulnerability to adults wishing to manipulate and harm them.

Ark T’s ‘Herspace’ project has an excellent track record in engaging teenage girls at risk of CSE or poor mental health in the arts, boosting self-esteem and emotional resilience to help them avoid exploitation. The project works with up to 12 young women aged between 12 and 18, who have been been identified as being at risk of CSE as a result of high-risk factors, including living in the care system, and experiencing interrelated mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. Specialised creative intervention is particularly powerful for looked-after children and young people and care leavers, helping them make the transition into independent adult living. Ark T’s ambition is to become a leading creative provider in this preventative work.

Core costs funding to help the charity scale up

OCF has brought together funds from a series of different donors to support a significant portion of Ark T’s monthly core costs, enabling them to redesign their vision and define their purpose according to the needs of the community. This is allowing Ark T to pioneer new arts interventions which respond to need, such as Oxford’s first Youth Arts Disability Festival; develop multi-agency partnerships; and build relationships with other funders to improve facilities beyond the life of OCF’s support.

Lessons for OCF

This funding is an illustration of the power of collaborative philanthropy. By bringing multiple OCF donors together around an area of common interest, we have been able to give Ark T stability whilst they put new processes and initiatives in place that will help them continue to grow. We are now building on this co-funding approach by partnering with match-funding platform The Good Exchange.

“OCF funding and support has enabled Ark T to redesign its vision and define its purpose according to the needs of the community. We have been able to design and deliver Oxford’s first Youth Arts Disability Festival, broker commissioning relationships, and leverage in funding to improve our facilities.

Emmy O’Shaughnessy, Director, Ark T Centre

At a glance

Profile

Arts and community centre that uses creativity to build confidence in vulnerable girls and young women

Social themes

Child sexual exploitation

Young adults in the care system

Mental health

Results

Empowered young women who have the self-esteem to resist being exploited

A flourishing and inclusive community that embraces everyone