Creative Island Ident (Teal)
The Cultural Development Agency for the Isle of Wight
Drone Shot of Big Top at Ventnor Fringe

Big Top arts centre to offer dynamic programming for Isle of Wight communities

Sally Perry
8, May 2024

Ventnor Exchange, one of the five National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) we now have on the Isle of Wight, is set to receive a £225,000 Capital award, allowing them to commission the construction of a Big Top as a dedicated portable arts centre for the Isle of Wight.

They are one of 67 cultural organisations across the country who will be supported with a slice of more than £24.2 million of Arts Council England funding.

Taking dynamic programmes into the community
The bespoke tent will come equipped to host a multitude of tech specs, art forms, and audiences.

By taking their dynamic programme into the community, the NPO hopes to provide a vital space for culture and co-creation on the Island – an Arts Council England Priority Place.

Stride: The perfect way to celebrate every part of the Island
Gavin Stride, Director of Creative Island said,

“This is great news for the whole Island and shows, once again, the extraordinary ambition and leadership that our colleagues at Ventnor Exchange bring to our community.

“Having the opportunity to provide flexible, high quality resources to where people live is the perfect way to celebrate every part of the Island.”

Stisted: New training, placements and work opportunities
However, the investment is not just about creating a travelling space for events to be held, it brings with it a chance for young Islanders to develop a career in the creative industries.

Megan Stisted, Creative Projects Manager at Ventnor Exchange, explains,

“We’re incredibly excited about the opportunities this will create for our Brave Island programme which supports young people on the Isle of Wight with new training, placements and work opportunities.

“From circus skills to gig nights, new on-stage and backstage roles will be created and we will have a phenomenal new space based right here on the Island to train young people with.”

Whitewood: A new town hall for the whole of the Isle of Wight
The travelling Big Top is the brainchild of Jack Whitewood, Creative and Development Director, Ventnor Exchange. He adds,

“We want to re-imagine what a theatre or arts centre can be. This will be a new town hall for the whole of the Isle of Wight, ensuring every community can have access to an amazing facility.

“Working with local residents from the outset, together we’ll decide what this new venue is called, how it’s used and where it visits. Local ownership of this key piece of infrastructure will also help secure the long term future of Ventnor Fringe Festival.”

Reaching communities where cultural investment has historically been low
Darren Henley, Chief Executive at Arts Council England said,

“This infrastructure investment will help a whole range of different cultural organisations across England to flourish, increasing opportunities for people to enjoy creatively excellent cultural events close to where they live.

“It’s particularly important that we’re making this happen in communities where cultural investment has historically been low.”

Helping everyone to access excellent, life-changing cultural opportunities
Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Libraries added,

“Cultural venues enrich our lives, and it’s vital that their infrastructure matches the excellence of the creative work that goes on inside them.

“Our funding is helping both to create new venues and to adapt existing ones to make them more accessible, helping to deliver the Government’s plan to make sure that everyone, no matter where they live or what their background, has access to excellent, life-changing cultural opportunities.”

Unlocking creative potential throughout the South West
Phil Gibby, South West Area Director, Arts Council England, adds,

“We are thrilled to be investing over £2.7 million in ten organisations, unlocking creative potential throughout the South West.  It’s not just bricks and mortar – with better buildings comes improved accessibility, new technology and a reduced environmental footprint.

“This public funding comes at a crucial time and matters more than ever to staff, volunteers and visitors. We can’t wait to see plans take shape.”

Find out more about Ventnor Exchange and their plans, by visiting their website.

Arts Council England offer a range of awards to support those in the creative industries. See their website for more information.

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