A Hub for performing arts in the Chew Valley
Chew Valley Performing Arts (Valley Arts), is a charity that supports and promotes the performing arts, in all its forms among the people in and around the Chew Valley.
Valley Arts vision is to make the performing arts accessible for everyone. We seek to promote creativity, diversity and a shared sense of well-being throughout our local community.
The charity began life in 2015. Since then it has grown a regular programme of professional performances, workshops and community activities, bringing cultural enjoyment and new experiences to over six thousand people to date.
Valley Arts annual Fringe Festival delivers a packed programme of events each Autumn. It has proved hugely successful, and is firmly embedded on the local cultural map.
‘A wonderful evening, awe-inspiring! We need more local events which make us think about our world’. Audience member
Benefiting the Community
Rural isolation and loneliness have long been identified as concerns in the Chew Valley Neighbourhood Plan. The challenging circumstances brought about by the recent pandemic have only amplified these issues.
The benefits of the Arts on mental wellbeing and society have long been recognised:
‘There is strong evidence that participation in the Arts can contribute to community cohesion, reduce social exclusion and isolation, and/or make communities feel safer and stronger’.
Poor transport links across the Valley also mean many people are less able to get out and enjoy live performances for themselves.
Valley Arts varied programme of events and activities brings the positive benefits of culture into our local community – enabling everyone to have access. By doing so we also support local businesses and venues. And by bringing events here, we help reduce the environmental impact caused by travel to Bristol, Bath and beyond.
‘It was lovely to see such a quality performance without having to travel into Bristol or Bath’. Audience member
The interest from local communities is proven to be strong and our performances in local venues, churches and village halls are often sold out.
Currently, we use a range of venues in the Chew Valley for our performances, fitting the venue to the event:
- Chew Valley School Hall
- Village Halls
- Local pubs
- Valley events, like Valley Fest
- The Community Farm
- Online streaming – e.g. our Lockdown Liberation film; Sherlock in Homes
Involvement is also successfully fostered in young people through local schools, especially Chew Valley secondary school (an Artsmark Gold school).
‘Thank you so much for organising the excellent contemporary dance workshop with Deep Raj Singh, my daughter had a great time’.
By bringing people together for a shared collective experience, the arts are a perfect medium to address societal barriers. Exposure to different cultural influences inspires creativity, improves cultural knowledge. It is particularly important for young people in isolated rural communities, where opportunities for diverse cultural engagement are so limited.
‘Of all sectors, the arts must be where diversity and inclusion should be taken most seriously. Works that explore, challenge and reflect contemporary society are naturally richer if they are informed by a wider range of social perspectives and experiences’.
Nik Miller, Chief Executive, the Bridge Group (leading cultural organisation supporting social equality)
What we aim to achieve
- A higher level of community and audience engagement with the performing arts
- An improved network of community and professional arts organisations
- Engage and develop artistic talent. Particularly amongst young people and emerging artists
- Develop a strong participatory programme to benefit local people of all ages
- Become a respected voice for global issues, using the local stage as a platform for the world
- Improve levels of diversity and inclusion
‘Take Notice’ was an evening of spoken word, delivered to a small live audience in a Covid-safe environment. It was live streamed, and featured the refreshing talents of Beth Calvery, Malaika Kegode and Caleb Parkin.
Incredible talents with Beth, Malaika and Caleb. Such a balm in this time and such a pleasure to attend, thank you’. Audience member
Before the pandemic Valley Arts was working in partnership with Chew Valley School towards a vision to jointly develop a new Performance Centre in the heart of the Chew Valley. Since 2021 Valley Arts has focused on building its audience before building a venue, in order to prove the viability of a rural performing arts hub. It has developed relationships to use the wide variety of existing venues in the Valley, including Village Halls, Yeo Valley’s Organic Garden for outdoor summer events, Churches and more. Our aim is to ensure we have the audience, staff, processes, programmes and revenue streams well established before we make further commitments about a venue.
Valley Arts is in a much stronger and secure position through this approach and is now capable of providing an amazing range of performing arts to all sorts of communities in the Valley. Our long term aims are:
To increase community connection, fulfillment and wellbeing
To reduce barriers to accessing and participating in live performance in the Valley, increasing the range and diversity of audience and participants
To enable people to take their next, or first, purposeful step in the arts
To increase opportunity for artists to co-create new work grounded in a sense of place and belonging
To increase sustainability of organisation and become more financially viable through ethical management
To raise our profile and be seen as a creative hub that is integral to life in the Valley
Valley Arts remains supportive of all its partners in the Chew Valley, especially the schools, and will readily participate in any joint opportunities that may arise in the future.