Kent Community Foundation has been supporting community theatre groups for the last twenty years and now more than ever, this help has been essential in ensuring their survival

Josephine McCartney, Chief Executive, Kent Community Foundation, said, “Community groups offer a lifeline for many, as they provide a channel to express themselves creatively while also being a fun and reassuring space where individuals can gather with others in similar, often challenging, situations.

“There has been much talk of ‘Culture in Crisis’ and the plight of theatres and the arts during the pandemic. Kent Community Foundation has been supporting community theatre groups for the last twenty years and in the last 12 months alone has distributed £155,000 in grants to support these important organisations. The Government Road Map has now given theatres a possible reopening date but there is still much to be done if these groups are to recover fully.”

Since 2019 the Trinity Theatre and Arts Centre in Tunbridge Wells has received grants from Kent Community Foundation totalling £70,000.

Jason Lower, Youth and Learning Manager, Trinity Theatre, said, “Kent Community Foundation has been invaluable in supporting our work in the community. It has enabled us to support 5–7-year-olds with speech, language and communication needs through our Speech Bubbles programme, in addition to addressing isolation and wellbeing issues for those living with dementia through our Trinity Encore choir. It has also helped us to fund workshops and activities with drama therapists, tackling anxiety and isolation during lockdowns. We are really grateful for Kent Community Foundation’s support, helping us to deliver these programmes to such a wide range of people across Kent and are proud of the positive impact of these activities.”

Naked Frank Theatre specialise in mental health recovery through arts engagement. They host free outreach events, engage communities in arts, culture and heritage projects, produce and tour original theatre, host participatory workshops and educational sessions, run campaign projects, and collaborate with charitable organisations to provide engagement opportunities for vulnerable and disadvantaged people with limited or no access to the arts.

Carly Pettard, Naked Frank Theatre, said, “In December 2020 Naked Frank Theatre received £5,000 to help fund Noël Festival, an engagement festival for mental health patients at the Bracton Centre in Dartford. Kent Community Foundation helped the project to reach a wider audience and provide the local community with future opportunities. Naked Frank Theatre recognise the importance of Kent Community Foundation’s work and are extremely grateful to have provided a high-quality arts festival to the Dartford area. The grant provided vulnerable adults with a holistic care plan that ran alongside their NHS recovery, this guided them through the harshest Christmas during the pandemic.”

Since 2008 Kent Community Foundation has supported the Canterbury Theatre and Festival Trust with grants totalling £83,000. The Canterbury Theatre and Festival Trust commissions and promotes performances and exhibitions, builds audiences, fosters creative ambition, and develops talent and skills. In November 2020 they received £3,000 towards their ‘New Tricks - Beat This’ project for over 65s with movement or mobility issues, loss of hearing or different types of dementia.

Amanda McKean, Deputy Director, Canterbury Festival, said, “The support of Kent Community Foundation has been incredibly helpful to the year-round work of the Canterbury Festival. They are funders who know the local scene and understand how patchy access to arts and cultural activity can be for certain communities in Kent. With their help, we can demonstrate the beneficial impact that participating in group projects in the arts can have on mental health and well-being, for people at risk of loneliness or social isolation.”

Square Pegs Arts offers inspiring and innovative drama, music and arts projects for young people with learning disabilities and autism in Kent and Medway. Kent Community Foundation has been supporting Square Pegs Arts since 2017 with grants totalling £35,000 and in February 2021 awarded the community group £3,500 from their Covid Fund to partly close the funding gap caused by lost income during the pandemic.

Beth James, Artistic Director, Square Pegs Arts, said, “Square Pegs Arts is delighted to have received funding from Kent Community Foundation since 2017 and we are very grateful for their continued support. It has allowed us to deliver a range of theatre, music, and other creative projects for learning disabled and neurodiverse young people across Kent and Medway. We know that our work has significantly impacted the wellbeing of our young people by giving them opportunities to engage with high quality arts projects that are inclusive and accessible.”

The Music Man Project community group is an accessible music education service creating inspirational opportunities for people with a learning disability to learn, enjoy and perform music together. Since 2019 they have received £18,000 in funding and in January 2021, they received a further £4,500 to help towards theatre hire and concert day expenses, renting rehearsal space and administration costs.

Sarah Mann, Director, The Music Man Project UK, said, “We have had incredible support from Kent Community Foundation throughout lockdown and, to be honest, I don't think we could have survived without them! Right from the start our income was severely reduced due to the project having to cease operating and the subsequent cancellation of all concerts and fundraising events that we had planned. However, the Covid Grants from Kent Community Foundation have meant that we could minimise the impact of this shortfall and help cover the cost of continuing to deliver sessions, communication, support and lesson resources via online platforms.”

The Sheppey Little Theatre provides a venue for local performance arts groups to rehearse and perform at affordable prices in a professional-standard setting and bring affordable live theatres and free film shows for local schools and community groups. In October last year, they were awarded £2,500 to help with a project to introduce additional accessible toilets to enable more people to participate in theatre activities.

Janys Thornton, Sheppey Little Theatre, said, “The funding from Kent Community Foundation enabled us to complete phase one of a project which will eventually enable us to provide more accessible toilets in more easily accessible places within the theatre. Currently the location of the accessible toilet means people with mobility issues need to use the lift and travel through the theatre which during a twenty-minute interval can be challenging if several people need to go. Our project will put toilets outside the auditorium so that they can be accessed more easily and quickly.”

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MASSIVE 'thank you ' to everyone at Kent Community Foundation. Your funding support is HUGELY appreciated and has enabled us to get into the heart of local communities with REAL, affordable, healthy and tasty food that does so much more than feed people.

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