Why focus on the Arts in Chelmsford?

The importance of the Arts for wellbeing has long been established and the impact well demonstrated in numerous numerous studies. This is set out clearly in the recent All Parliamentary Enquiry Report on health and wellbeing https://www.artshealthandwellbeing.org.uk/appg-inquiry/

Chelmsford is a City of between 120,000 and 170,000 inhabitants (the latter if the parishes are included). It is situated between Colchester (which counts 3 decent-sized art galleries and 5 NPOs – National Portfolio Organisations with associated funding to support arts and culture) and London (with its strong reputation and funding for arts and culture).

Chelmsford by comparison is suffering badly from a lack of Arts. It has no dedicated gallery, no concert hall, just a small number of public art pieces (almost all hidden away) and a small central theatre. It also has limited funding available for arts and culture.

Chelmsford’s geographical situation may be the reason why the local authority has not invested in the arts, feeling that it can focus on retail and it is easy enough to go to London and/ or Colchester for the arts.

This, however, presents a number of issues:

  • The cost of travelling to London has increased dramatically which is a real barrier for the increasing number of residents with modest salaries to access arts and culture (an off-peak adult return is around £20, so taking a family is not viable for many local residents)
  • The cost of travel for schools is also too high. Schools can sometimes bring performing arts into the schools, but this leaves a gap in terms of access to Visual Arts.
  • Local creatives cannot display their work, and therefore struggle to create business opportunities and an income. There are over 750 creatives in Chelmsford and nowhere for them showcase their work
  • No NPOs in Chelmsford and no Arts Council England recognised artists
  • The Ideas Hub is the only Art organisation outside Local Authority provision (such as the theatre and museum)
  • The wellbeing opportunity created through art (as outlined above) is being missed
  • There is no opportunity to use art to support community/ multi-cultural education, insight and collaboration
  • There is no opportunity to use art to engage young people (as there are no art classes/ workshops for young people in the centre of Chelmsford)


The Role of the Ideas Hub (“by the community, for the community”)

  • Catalyst for a local Cultural Partnership and LCEP: Successful supported the community to lobby Chelmsford City Council to create a local Cultural Partnership to represent and support the development of local art and artists: http://ignitechelmsford.org.uk/
  • Creating projects to bring more arts to Chelmsford: Through projects including the Light Sculpture Trail, Festivals (Ideas Festival and Chelmsford Festival), local school projects (often using arts and creativity within the STEAM concept), etc
  • Creating projects to support local artists’s work and enable further development: art trail, exhibitions and other projects
  • Creating projects which provide an income for artists: Ensuring the projects provide an income to local artists, not simply expecting them to do things for free in the hope they will use each opportunity to promote themselves (as is often the case).
  • Creating STEAM projects to address the skills needs for tomorrow and equip adequately our young people
  • Use creativity as a tool to tackle loneliness and sustainability in Chelmsford
  • Working with the Chelmsford Civic Society to provide an independent assessment on the plans and delivery to develop the arts
  • Supporting discussions on the potential value for the stimulation of arts and culture in the City through a potential City of Culture Bid for 2025