Lynne Foster, Chair, Ignite Chelmsford Cultural Partnership
7 Oct, 2022
Feasibility Study: A community-owned creative space for Chelmsford

For some time the Ignite Cultural Partnership has been aware of a growing desire and established need for a collaborative community creative space in Chelmsford’s City Centre.

In response, we set up a working group to explore and steer the concept of a community-owned creative space and begin work towards realising this ambition.

Whilst Covid slowed the pace somewhat, it also reinforced the need for this kind of space and demonstrated a thriving community spirit.

Our big idea…

As a Cultural Partnership we want to help the City build a brighter future beyond the impact of pandemic, enabling the people of Chelmsford to realise their ambitions through inspiring and connecting creative spaces across the City Centre.

We want to help provide people with the space to meet, collaborate, share and create, which we believe will positively impact on health and wellbeing and supporting the city’s wider Covid recovery.

We believe by building on common purpose, Chelmsford people – of all ages – will have something to do, make or be part of. And through cooperation and self-organised initiatives, we will raise aspirations for individuals and communities, inspiring volunteering and civic pride.

Moving the idea forward..

To help us stay focussed, we established some core principles and some essential criteria that Chelmsford’s community-owned creative space should be:

  • ‘Localism in action’, for local people, by local people building on the work of Changing Chelmsford in 2012 and Essex 2020
  • Community owned (democratic) for the long term
  • Flexible/ adaptable spaces
  • Accessible and near transport links
  • Potential to have character and personality
  • Financially sustainable and independent

It should also be aligned with the principles in the Arts Council England-commissioned Wavehill Report, which places importance on cultural assets and spaces to “provide physical spaces for people to come together, to share cultural experiences and to develop mutual trust and understanding.”

We held a conversation with the Leader, Deputy Leader and Senior Management of the City Council and Trustees of Culture Chelmsford about the prospect of fundraising for such an initiative. We all agreed that it was essential to better understand and articulate the needs, opportunities and ingredients required to make such a space reality.

We were awarded a small amount of European Covid Recovery Funding via Chelmsford City Council, Cultural Service department to commission a feasibility study an external consultant to:

  • Objectively evaluate our conclusions about the need for this space
  • Test, challenge and/or substantiate any assumptions made to add robustness and strengthen a future case for support and to engage other stakeholders including potential funders.
  • Provide example case studies, best practice, models and metrics to demonstrate the size, potential location(s) and configuration of space that might be sustainable based on income generation potential.

The completed report can be downloaded below:

Feasibility Study: A community-owned
creative space for Chelmsford

 

We will continue talking to key partners in the interim to explore any immediate opportunities to further our ambition. Our intended next steps are to establish a new working group, made up of a mix of existing partners and external experts who have the essential knowledge to lead this next phase.

 

At high level they will identify and publish

  • The lines of enquiry/recommendations that we intend to follow up on that will strengthen the case and help identify the most viable routes
  • Any gaps in knowledge that remain that we wish to explore post study
  • A combined presentation which reflects the ambition of the original vision and draws on the key messages in the feasibility study and support the way forward

Getting involved…

After reading the Feasibilty Study, if you have fundraising, local planning, project management, architecture, facilities management, creative programming or general experience of similar projects and are interested in being part of the new working group supporting our next steps please email the Chair of Ignite Chelmsford at chair@ignitechelmsford.org.uk

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Email: hello@ignitechelmsford.org.uk

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