Battersea Arts Centre

Amount Given:

£545,000 over three years (grant made in 2016)


Arts with a social impact

Battersea Arts Centre

Alison Holdom,

Grants Manager, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation

We were interested in Battersea Arts Centre’s Collaborative Touring Network as a model for addressing the sustainability of arts provision in smaller towns and cities outside London. The work of the first eight partner organisations has had a profound impact in the areas where they work and we were pleased to be able to support this network to continue, particularly at a time when financial sustainability is increasingly challenging. We receive a number of applications from cultural organisations working together (and sometimes with organisations in other sectors) to address difficult issues and needs. This type of grant enables us to fund areas and organisations that we might otherwise not reach and offers great potential for shared learning.

Battersea Arts Centre,

in collaboration with:

Heads Up (Hull),

Strike a Light (Gloucester),

Jabberwocky Market (Darlington),

Platform 8 (Peterborough),

Doorstep Theatre (Torbay),

Wigan Arts Festival (Wigan),

Paint The Town (Medway),

Looping The Loop (Thanet).

When we first conceived the Collaborative Touring Network (CTN) over three years ago, it was primarily a reaction to the imbalance of opportunities and funding support for culture in towns and cities in England outside of the capital. Eight inspirational producing teams came together to change the cultural infrastructure in their area, countering the traditional parachuting-in of touring performance to form regular, biannual arts festivals which embed cultural opportunities through debate, discussion, participation and access to world-class performance for everyone, no matter their social or economic background.

Now in its fourth year, CTN has presented work in over 170 community spaces including schools, nightclubs and unused shop fronts; the landscape is changing and appetites for culture are growing nationwide. However, the challenges facing the network now are those of sustainability and resilience in the face of diminishing public funding for the arts and increasing costs of living. The new challenge for the network, having sparked transformative cultural change in their areas, is ensuring that we continue to produce, present and promote diverse cultural events, realising our vision of a nation where everyone has inspiring art and culture on their doorstep.

Over the next three years of this grant, our aim is for our eight partners to develop as sustainable organisations that provide long-term, challenging and engaging cultural opportunities for people in their town or city. We want to encourage widespread support for work made outside of London; work that can better reflect the diverse voices in our communities. We will continue to support diversity through improved access for artists and audiences locally, and increased opportunities for BAME and disabled artists making work and touring nationally. As a national network, the project aims to see a reduction of social exclusion and increased community cohesion through the grassroots opportunities for engagement and participation that the CTN producers facilitate year-round.

The work of CTN advocates for the importance of productive, creative hotspots outside of London, and we hope that there will be an increased awareness of the work of the festivals and producing teams nationally, as a model for social and cultural change.

Doorstep Arts,

Erin Walcon, Producer

The work of CTN affects us as parents; it has meant that our own children can now attend participatory arts groups in Torbay that we can afford, here on our doorsteps. It affects us as neighbours; it means that struggling libraries, community centres and youth clubs in our community who are facing decimating budget cuts are getting a much-needed boost and an injection of exciting culture, increased aspiration, and positive intervention at a time when they most need it. It affects us as artists; it means that we can now work to serve our own community's complex needs, instead of commuting to the nearby areas of affluence to deliver paid artistic work. Over the last three years, Torbay has transformed from being somewhere where ‘nothing happens’ to a place which is an emerging model of best practice, nationally. We are so proud (and astounded!) by the work that is happening here on our doorstep.

CTN is long term, and that means long-term real changes are occurring.

Local Torbay young people have watched touring performances in their neighbourhood community centre, and their own ideas have been ignited by artists like Sean Mahoney and LUNG, inspiring them to develop their own emerging performance work which then features in the festival in later seasons. CTN has created a long-term grid of high quality theatre activity in Torbay, which has become a sticky web on which we can build other projects, strategic plans, infrastructure, and partnerships. Because of the longer six-year duration of CTN, it serves as a backbone for Torbay’s small struggling arts organisations to link together other engagement activity, platform events, and to build emerging partnerships which simply would not be possible otherwise due to rural isolation and limited capacity. Because of CTN, we have worked with a range of other local arts organisations, strengthening the web of arts infrastructure across the Southwest, and building bridges which will exist long after the funding ends. CTN has been a total game-changer for us, and the landscape of Torbay will never the look the same again.