Ideas Test started life in 2012 when a group of Swale & Medway based voluntary and arts organisations passionate about the value of arts and culture formed a consortium led by Swale CVS to apply for funding from Arts Council England’s Creative People & Places programme.
Ideas Test started life in 2012 when a group of Swale & Medway-based individuals and organisations – passionate about the value of arts and culture – formed a consortium led by Swale CVS to apply for funding from Arts Council England’s Creative People & Places programme. When that application was successful, Ideas Test became one of the first seven Creative People & Places projects in areas of England where people have fewer opportunities to get involved in the arts.
From the beginning, Ideas Test’s vision has been rooted in empowering the local community to make their own creative choices. We recruited a network of Community Catalysts to act as our eyes, ears and hands – can-do people nominated by their local community who cared about getting things done and encouraging positive change. In the first year alone, we received 85 nominations – far exceeding our expectations.
To tap into the energy and creativity of local people we offered funding for Small Experiments – projects which would enable more people to take part in the arts in new ways. Funding decisions were made by community panels, with support from an Artistic Critical Friend or artistic advisor. In the first year alone 45 projects were supported, all showing the passion and enthusiasm of local people for new ways to get creative.
Since then we have developed organically, listening and learning as we progress, pausing to reflect and review with local people before designing the next stage of the programme based on what works and what we’ve learned. Today, Ideas Test supports the local community through a programme that comprises three main strands of activity: Ideas Test @ No.34 – an arts programme taking place at our venue on Sittingbourne High Street; Ideas Test presents – commissioned arts events and activities taking place at locations across Swale & Medway; and the Ideas Test Creative Network – a programme for artists and creative businesses that supports them to extend their reach and develop sustainable business models.