Future is looking bright for Rye’s Creative Centre

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THE future of Rye’s School Creative Centre has been secured for the next three and a half years.

The project, based in the former Freda Gardham Primary School building provides a home and studio space for 36 resident artists and has helped reinforce Rye’s reputation as a centre for the arts since opening it’s doors in 2009.

It has been in involved in a number of youth projects, staged ambitious productions and established a monthly comedy cabaret night in the town.

The School Centre also plays a key supportive role in working with students from Rye College.

Now in recognition of it’s success East Sussex County Council has approved a three and a half year extension to the lease.

Ian Ross, who established the School Creative Centre, said it has grown far beyond any original expectations to become a significant cultural hub and a major player in the South East’s arts scene.

He said: “We are thrilled. When we started this we did not think that we would be in a position where it is so self-sustaining. People in Rye have been incredibly supportive.

“We always wanted to show where the bar was in terms of what we can do here and I think we have achieved that.”

Sally Lampitt, from the The School, said: “This is a perfect example of utilising what would otherwise be an empty, decaying building and turning it into an asset, not only to the artists in residence, but to the local community as well.

“From the outset we held three key objectives: to provide an environment in which artists and the arts can flourish, to engage the community in its activities, and develop a “mixed economy” in which partnership working generates exciting new opportunities.

“The School was launched by B&R Productions, an independent company that specialises in developing and promoting creative arts and entertainment at both community and professional levels. An Arts Council funding application was submitted, a grant was awarded, and The School was born. 

“It’s resident artists have remained at the core of operations – among them painters, sculptors, ceramicists, textile artists, jewellers, weavers and performance artists. All benefit from a highly supportive creative environment and a broad selection of studio spaces and facilities.

“All are expected to take part in The School’s regular outreach and education programmes, including open studio events, educational workshops and masterclasses.

“Visitors from the local community and beyond have every opportunity to learn new creative skills, engage in hands-on educational programmes, and even buy individual artworks that have been created on site.

“The School’s unique relationship with Rye College has enabled the college’s students to engage with professional working artists and participate in a diverse range of events.

“The School’s business model has been used by the college as a case study for curriculum learning, providing a real example of how arts, business and community can work successfully together.

“The School’s partnership with the Youth Development Service has enabled it to offer regular workshops targeted at developing confidence and team-building. One hugely successful ongoing partnership is with AudioActive, which works to challenge disadvantage and enhance young people’s development through music.

Local charity, ARRCC, which provides services for people living with a wide range of physical and sensory impairment, regularly uses The School’s facilities to run art workshops for its clients.

“The School has provided new opportunities for writers in the South East as a result of successful partnerships with performance poetry group Apples and Snakes, creative writing hub New Writing South and Word County, part of the East Sussex Arts Partnership.”

The School’s facilities include a purpose-built auditorium, complete with adaptable stage, sound platform, dancefloor/performance space, PA and lighting rig. The auditorium is now the venue for a regular series of live music concerts and a new cabaret revue.

Ian Rosss said: “The School is going from strength to strength. So much so that we have managed to grow the operation in these troubled times.”

“We are delighted that East Sussex County Council are demonstrating their continued support by extending our lease

“In an uncertain financial climate we have demonstrated the ability to remain flexible and seek out new opportunities while retaining artistic integrity. We’re now looking forward to developing new initiatives in the coming months.”

“This is an exciting time for The School Creative Centre and as we move forward we will continue to raise cultural aspirations through the development of dynamic partnerships and the creation of new opportunities.”