New year, big plans

It may feel like January should be over already, but there’s still just enough time to wish you all a very Happy and Creative New Year. This year marks the beginning of the final phase of the current Ideas Test programme, which – since we launched in early 2013 – has seen more than 28,000 attendances at cultural events and over £1.1 million being invested in Swale and Medway into more than 70 different activities.

Huge thanks are due to everyone who has helped us to make this possible – the Community Catalyst network, members of Impact our young people’s group, and everyone who has created a project or taken part in something. Thank you!

Ideas Test is an action research programme, which means that we adapt what we do based on what we learn from our activities and community – sharing that learning locally and further afield. For example, you told us that there is huge local interest in writing, reading and poetry, so we developed Wandering Words, an online platform for writers and readers.

You also told us that public transport makes it difficult for you to travel to arts events and that you enjoy taking part in your local community. In response, we have been supporting more touring shows to come to village halls and community venues, working with local residents to choose and promote events where they live.

Between now and October we’ll continue in this vein: supporting the best of the arts to take place locally. We’ll take advantage of our new home at No.34 High Street, Sittingbourne to offer co-working space and support to local creative businesses; as well as a programme of exciting creative activities.

You can expect to see more events happening for young people, including #Squad34; a programme of exhibitions and events linked to our projects; and beyond No.34 some very exciting large scale events across Swale and Medway…Watch this space! If you’re interested in getting involved in making the case for the importance of the arts, come along to the next What Next Kent Chapter meeting on 2 February at Sun Pier House.

We’re also planning for the future, looking at phase 2 for Ideas Test and applying for funding to enable us to continue to take risks and offer new opportunities for anyone who lives, works or plays in Swale and Medway. The future looks exciting and full of potential, and with your help we can make it happen!

Steph Fuller, Director, Ideas Test