Culture Chat National Portfolio Organisations

This month's Culture Chat focuses on Arts Council England's (ACE) six National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) in Surrey. We'll learn more about what it means to be an NPO and explore what plans are in place for community engagement and development opportunities for the culture sector.

What are National Portfolio organisations?

Bringing creativity and culture to your doorsteps

Established in 1946, Arts Council England (ACE) is the national development agency for creativity and culture, investing public money from Government and The National Lottery to help support the sector. 990 organisations across England have National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) status meaning that ACE will support them over three years to deliver varied arts and culture programmes as part of their Let's Create strategy and delivery plan.

Hazel Edwards, Area Director, South East, Arts Council England, said

"Our 2023 to 2026 National Portfolio is the first developed under the ambitions of Let's Create. At it's core, we sought to invest in a wide range of organisations that helped us ensure that more people, in more places, had more opportunities to participate in, experience and enjoy amazing arts, culture and creativity. We were delighted to be able to deliver that in Surrey – with a perfect mix of extending our support for organisations like Stopgap Dance, New Adventures and Farnham Maltings, whilst also welcoming three new organisations to the National Portfolio. Second Hand Dance, Freewheelers Theatre and Media Company, and The Lightbox will all extend the reach of our investment across children and young people, underserved audiences, and particularly those who experience barriers. The 2023 to 2026 National Portfolio kicks off this April, and I am excited for what it will bring, not just for audiences and participants – which are hugely important - but also for the work we will support around individual and sector development."

So, let us venture on a whistle-stop tour of Surrey's NPOs, hearing first from those that have held the status for several years.

1. Farnham Maltings

Housing several artists, makers and creative companies (including New-Adventures and Stopgap Dance Company), Farnham Maltings is a multi-use venue that works beyond its walls.

Peter Glanville, Chief Executive Officer, says

"Farnham Maltings is a cultural organisation that provides a host of creative and participative opportunities, not only at our home in south west Surrey, but also locally, nationally and internationally. We have a commitment to artist development, including artists' surgeries, networking and training opportunities, and seed funding for emerging artists through 'No Strings Attached'. We programme and tour theatre and cultural experiences that reach and engage new audiences - working with village halls, libraries, shopping centres, and town partners. We reach communities with less cultural infrastructure and help them to access and programme more arts activity. We are also committed to providing opportunities for makers to develop their craft skills, with an annual programme of workshops and festivals which take place across our World Craft Town"

More information can be found on the Farnham Maltings web pages Find out more about Farnham as a World Craft Town here Farnham Craft Town - Craft brings the community together.

2. New Adventures

Sir Matthew Bourne OBE, Artistic Director of the dance-theatre company New Adventures, has staged numerous productions since the company launched in 1986. National and international audiences have witnessed productions such as The Red Shoes, Sleeping Beauty and are awaiting the upcoming Romeo and Juliet tour this summer. However, their work goes beyond the stage, allowing communities to get involved first hand.

Kerry Biggin, Take Part Creative Director, said

"We are delighted to offer a variety of dance programmes from our base at Farnham Maltings and in Surrey's local communities. Our over 55s workshops get everyone moving as we explore choreography from much-loved New Adventures shows. While our Doorstep Duets programme brings the joy of performance directly into communities and familiar spaces, removing physical and social barriers, as well as improving access and opportunity for audiences to encounter work in their own locale. (See the Doorstep Duets video below). Overture, our professional development programme, brings artists working in the community dance sector from all over England together in Farnham to develop their practice and supports the impact of this work within the wider dance sector."

The company also has a strong education strand; Kerry adds, "We are also excited to be using our unique New Adventures storytelling approach in our school residency programme, Danceventurers, to explore curriculum contexts within Surrey schools in partnership with Culture Box Surrey and Surrey Arts."

To see the productions and programmes of events mentioned here visit the New Adventures website. Visit the Culture Box Surrey and Surrey Arts websites for more information on what they offer in Surrey.

3. Stopgap Dance Company

Driven by a diverse creative team Stopgap Dance Company is world-renowned, using inclusive choreography and teaching to break down barriers and open up access to dance, including training for dance artists and teachers.

Already receiving regular funding from ACE, Sho Shibata, Executive Producer says

"Stopgap Dance Company will continue to run inclusive community dance classes for disabled children, young people and adults in the county, culminating with an annual showcasing performance at Farnham Maltings in December. Our company will continue to employ great disabled role models to run these projects too. Our professional company will also be touring from Spring 2024, and the new production will be universally accessible for D/deaf, disabled and neurodivergent audiences. It will be performed in Surrey at some point in 2024, so sign up for our newsletter to be kept in loop!'.

Visit the Stopgap Dance Company website for more details and to sign up to their newsletter.

The next three organisations joining the NPO portfolio in April have lots to offer to their communities, encouraging more people to engage in arts and culture.

4. Second Hand Dance

Second Hand Dance Show Reel

Receiving investment from ACE over three years offers stability to the NPOs and allows them to develop their work beyond one-off funded projects and engage with the communities their work is aimed at.

Rosie Heafford, Artistic Director says

"Second Hand Dance creates dance performance for young audiences, so as well as touring throughout the UK and internationally, we'll be heading into nurseries and SEN schools in Surrey. Collaboration with audiences is vital in the creation and performance of our work. With each project we engage with children and adults throughout the research and development periods; We dance together, we talk together, we observe together, and this informs our creative decisions."

Second Hand Dance also offer workshops and training in schools and community settings. Visit the Second Hand Dance website for more details.

5. Freewheelers Theatre and Media Company

Working in partnership is vital for the cultural sector, whether you apply for one-off funding to create projects or receive regular funding as an NPO. Something that Freewheelers knows well, having developed a breadth of opportunities and engaged audiences for over thirty years. Under new leadership, they have achieved NPO status for the first time. What does this mean for the company?

Chief Executive Officer, Karl Newman, says:

"We enjoy collaboration and look forward to co-creating new work with our associate artists built upon the lives of our diverse and amazing company members and those in our local communities. We also look forward to working with Surrey Hills Arts this year on the WonderDusk community arts event on Box Hill in September and then leading a joyous disability-led community carnival celebration event in North Leatherhead in 2024, which we promise will be spectacular, vibrant, inclusive, full of colour and loads of fun." More information on Freewheelers Theatre and Media Company can be found on their website.

6. The Lightbox

Established in 2007, The Lightbox is an iconic building in the heart of Woking. An award-winning museum and gallery presenting a changing programme of modern and contemporary visual art exhibitions, it is home to The Ingram Collection and Woking's Story. It delivers an ambitious and innovative engagement programme creating experiences within and beyond the gallery walls. There is also a delightful shop and café where you can reflect on everything you have seen and engaged with in this creative space.

Sarah Brown, Director of The Lightbox says:

"The Lightbox is incredibly grateful to be awarded Arts Council England National Portfolio status for the first time as we celebrate our 15th year anniversary. We know that it is a hugely challenging time, and this year marks an important milestone in our organisation's history. The vital support from ACE will allow us to positively transform the lives of people across Woking and beyond through art and creativity."

It's exciting to hear about the wide variety of work these six organisations deliver and the breadth of their reach to communities in Surrey and beyond. They and their cultural sector peers are working hard to create innovative arts and cultural opportunities for residents and visitors to engage with. More information about The Lightbox can be found on their website.

To discover more cultural organisations visit the Culture Map web pages; are you on there? Should you be?

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