Whippet Up runs art and creativity workshops to improve people’s wellbeing and delivers a commissioned programme of art, culture, and science projects to help tackle social isolation. We were fortunate enough to work and support Paul Hyde, one of the founding members as part of our Creative Fuse Programme and recently had the pleasure of catching up with him.
Can you describe your early career and first jobs?
After studying 3D Design at Bradford College of Art, I worked for West Yorkshire Youth Association setting up art and creative workshops across the region. I moved to the Northeast to take up a post as a Community Arts Worker before working at the Co-operative Development Agency and later Cleveland Innovation. I have worked as a freelance consultant from the late 1990s onwards working with voluntary, community and social enterprises.
Where did you get the idea for your current business?
I had been doing some mental health development work with local VCSEs and became interested about trying a new model of creative wellbeing support. Many organisations deliver one-off wellbeing projects, such as art on prescription. Whippet Up is different in that every weekly session links into a wider programme of projects and events commissioned by clients such as Stockton International Riverside Festival, the Festival of Thrift, local authorities and social landlords.
What makes the business interesting for you?
The impact we are having. We support people with many different conditions including people with poor mental health, anxiety, people living with dementia and a range of physical and hidden conditions. We have seen people change as they work alongside us. We now have six members of staff, current turnover is around £150,000pa with a significant amount coming from the art commissions we deliver at festivals, parades and other cultural and community events.
How did you hear about DigitalCity?
We were looking for some validation for our work by having it measured and evaluated in a new way. The support from DigitalCity allowed us to evaluate our work with under-fives which led to an extra year’s funding for us.
How has the support helped your business?
We participated in the Creative Fuse Bounce Back Programme run by Creative Fuse. The programme helped us plan our recovery following the impact of the pandemic. We were linked with other organisations, did group sessions and also had one-to-one tutorials and online coaching. We were able to carry on throughout the pandemic, as festivals went online. We worked with people making films, online content we even did a drive-in dementia event for the NHS with musical bingo in a car park. We did over 250 workshops on Zoom and delivered material out to people.
What are your aspirations, hopes and plans for the business?
We want to expand geographically, we have a model that could be replicated.
Would you recommend working with DigitalCity and, if so, why?
Yes, it may seem impenetrable to some people but it’s not if you are persistent and creative. Often it’s just about finding the right person who can connect you.
As part of our Creative Fuse strand, DigitalCity helps businesses and freelancers in the creative, cultural, digital and heritage industries to innovate and grow. This includes a number of support opportunities including growth programmes, bespoke digital consultancy and internships. For further information and to discuss your ideas, please contact Wendy Parvin, Business Development Manager, on email: firstname.lastname@example.org