Ashford Arts Centre in Kent is a success story for community-based arts groups. Over 2 dozen freelance professionals in the Creative and Performing Arts teach and rehearse here. Nearly 600 people a week come to Ashford Arts Centre for music, dance, film and production training, recording or rehearsals. The project started with zero public funding, but recently hosted a gathering of local officials to celebrate its first year in business and to give elected officials a chance to see for themselves how two small funding awards from Ashford Borough Council and KCC were invested.
But Ashford may be going against a downward trend for community arts groups. The Arts Council and The New Local Government Network recently sponsored a speech delivered by Arts Council Chair, Sir Peter Bazalgette, which revealed local governments will face a 50% cut in their Arts budgets over the next 4 years. Sir Peter stated local councils have shielded arts groups from the full brunt of cuts made this year.
In Kent, just two days after Sir Peter’s announcement, the Mayor, Councillors from Kent County Council and Ashford Borough Council alongside a host of invited guests and officials toured Ashford Arts Centre to see for themselves how two small grants, recently awarded to the project by Ashford Borough Council and KCC, were invested.
The gathering listened attentively to a speech by the Founder and Creative Director of the project, Rhonda Merrick. The subject of her presentation was partially in response to the speech made earlier that week by Sir Peter
A movie about the resident artists in the project was presented and is available in this blog post to view.
The centre is about to celebrate its first year in the building with the 2nd annual Ashford Fringe Festival on the 28th of May to the 5th of June.
Sir Peter stated that small capital investment designed to create self-sustaining revenue streams for arts groups is the way forward. Ashford Arts Centre, a project of KATFM, may be exactly the sort of business model Sir Peter had in mind. The project can survive on its own, but to grow and meet increasing demands for affordable spaces to teach and train in the arts, it requires intelligent investment from local councils, art funds and corporate sponsors.