Bridgwater Arts Centre – Scaling Up Impact
“Something for Everyone”
Bridgwater Arts Centre is a community theatre and arts venue serving the people of Bridgwater. It has a historic past as it opened in 1946, and was the very first Arts Centre to be funded by the Arts Council. The centre has a bar, café, theatre and arts space, and offers a diverse range of programming under its slogan: “Something for Everyone’.
The Centre relies on grants funding to supplement the funds brought in through the arts programme and to extend arts into the community. In particular, grants are needed to reach out to groups of people who are less likely to get involved in the arts or to pursue their talent in this area.
In 2014, Bridgwater Arts Centre applied to Somerset Community Foundation for a grant to reach out to young people in the area to find out how they would like to be involved in a programme of arts events during the summer.
Bridgwater is in the highest 10% in the UK for deprivation in youth unemployment, health, disability and crime. Since 2008 over 30% of shops, bars and clubs have closed down in the Town Centre. Drug use and crime within 16-24 year olds has risen over this period. The Centre aimed to see a rise in engagement and participation from young adults in gigs and arts events, which they believed would lead in the long term to a reduction in anti-social behaviour.
The Centre began to reach out to young people in nearby areas, and immediately after being awarded the grant they saw an opportunity to put in an application to the Arts Council England for a large scale Apprenticeship scheme to build on their engagement with young people. Their track record of success in managing grants and the pledge of matched funding from SCF was a vital part of their ability to be successful with this bid. Three young people were appointed as Live Events and Promotion apprentices, working to a Level 3 qualification in arts events. They worked during the summer of 2015 to put on a series of exciting music and performance events, culminating in a stage at the annual Bridgwater street party. All together, the events attracted upwards of 3000 people to take part, a major contribution to Bridgwater’s Arts scene.
“The Somerset Community Foundation grant was critical in enabling us to scale up our plans” says Kate Goodale, Centre Manager. “The grant allowed us, via our success in recruiting young apprentices, to offer exciting arts events to hundreds of young people in the Bridgwater area, who wouldn’t otherwise have had an opportunity to experience them.”
The Arts Centre plans to build on this success with another year of funding from the Arts council for the Apprenticeship scheme. Another 10 events for young people will be offered over the coming year including a free street party.
Somerset C community Foundation was able to offer this crucial grant from the King James Exhibition, a fund which exists to benefits educational projects in the Bridgwater area.