Who We Are
Chew Valley Performing Arts was incorporated as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation in August 2015, with charity number 1163177.
Its purpose is “to promote, maintain, improve and advance education and appreciation of the arts in all forms among the people and communities of the Chew Valley and the surrounding area.”
The charity’s aim is to fulfil that purpose by developing a new purpose-built Performing Arts Centre in the Chew Valley.
Trustees of the charity are:
Valley Arts enquiry
Please get in touch with the relevant board member if you have contacts or expertise you can offer to a specific action group.
Dairy farmer Michael Eavis is best known as the founder of Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts, which takes place on his farm in Pilton, Somerset. The world-famous festival began after a casual visit to the Bath Blues festival in the late 1960s: Michael decided to have a go himself in 1970.
Glastonbury Festival did not make a profit for several years, but when it did Michael began to look for good causes to support, both locally and internationally. Today each festival aims to raise £2 million in aid of Greenpeace, Oxfam and WaterAid, as well as hundreds of local causes.
“I’m delighted to support Chew Valley’s arts centre project,” says Michael. “Rural areas deserve to share the energy and creativity generated by the performing arts.”
In-between raising four children Sarah opened Holt Farm Gardens in Blagdon under the National Gardens Scheme. It’s now known as Yeo Valley Organic Garden and is part of Yeo Valley’s Venues.
Sarah now works full time alongside her husband Tim Mead for Yeo Valley and as part of their marketing strategy is responsible for creative input at Yeo Valley HQ and the Organic Gardens.
Sarah spent three years at dance school in London (She formed a dance troupe with Liz Hurley: they toured the capital and were regularly pelted with food.) She is involved with a range of charity projects including the Southern Spinal Injuries Trust, raising money for Horatio’s Garden.
Of the Chew Valley Performing Arts Centre, she says: “I’m chuffed to bits to be part of this fantastic project, which will enable everyone to be more involved in the artistic life of the valley.”
She doesn’t get much time to spend in the garden these days, but she may be found in the herbaceous border with her pug Mabel, or throwing some shapes at any festival she can manage to get tickets to.
A local NHS doctor, broadcaster, Private Eye journalist, writer and comedian, Phil Hammond has lived in the Chew Valley for over 20 years, and loves it.
Phil has done four UK comedy tours and shows at the Edinburgh Fringe spanning 26 years. He has won a Writers’ Guild Award for his Radio 4 comedies and has written five books, most recently Staying Alive – How to Get the Best from the NHS. Phil writes regularly for the Mendip Times and is a presenter on BBC Radio Bristol on Saturday mornings.
“The Chew Valley is a wonderful place to live,” Phil says, “but an arts centre would make it perfect. Art is great for education, health and happiness.”
Geraldine Hill-Male (Chair)
Geraldine was Director of Performing Arts at Cotham School for 20 years, and instrumental in attracting key funding from national and local funders to build a £2 million music, arts and drama centre there, which has become a hub for community and school-based arts activities in North Central Bristol.
She has worked closely with local and national arts organisations such as the Royal Opera House and Bristol Old Vic Theatre, developing outreach programmes ensuring that inner-city students and their families are introduced to the highest standards of participation and performance in the performing arts.
Geraldine has lived in the Chew Valley for 20 years. She is a founder and board member of The Community Farm in Chew Magna, a membership owned community enterprise which grows organic vegetables. She is currently a senior lecturer at Bath Spa University.
“It has become more and more evident to me that a creative community is a happy, fulfilled and generous community,” says Geraldine. “Getting involved and being part of something is what matters – whatever an individual’s capacity or ability.”
Geraldine also reshaped the governance structure of Cotham School to become one of the country’s first cooperative academies, where a forum which invites and encourages stakeholder participation in the decision-making and governance of the school is now flourishing.
Steve is currently Head of Performing Arts at Chew Valley School, an Artsmark Gold and specialist performing arts college for over 10 years. A teacher with over 25 years of experience teaching drama, Steve also contributes to BBC Bitesize and has helped develop new GCSE and A level specifications. The author of a textbook on drama in the classroom, Steve believes passionately in the power that the arts have to transform lives and last year worked with the Arts Council helping to develop the new Artsmark programme, a scheme that helps to celebrate and promote the best of the arts in schools across the UK.
But Steve believes it’s a tragedy if all that creative expression ends when we leave school. “Picasso said ‘All children are artists. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”
One of the things that attracted Steve to the Chew Valley was the amazing variety of involvement of people of all ages in a wide variety of arts activities. “There are so many people who live and work around the valley who belong to dance companies, choirs, theatre groups, orchestras and bands. This is an extraordinary level of community involvement compared with some inner-city communities, and these activities not only provide a huge amount of fun for many people, but also knit together village communities.”
However, he has found that residents in a neighbouring village might be completely unaware of all the energy and creativity that’s going on in a nearby village hall. “I’ve come away from shows thinking ‘That was absolutely fantastic – but why haven’t more people been able to enjoy it?’”
He believes that an arts centre which offers a bigger venue could draw together audiences from all around the Chew Valley and act as a creative hub bringing all the communities together. “Valley Arts is not trying to take any activities away from the vibrant network of village halls, but would offer every group the chance to showcase the amazing work that they create in a larger, purpose-built arts venue.”
Matt has a background in advertising and marketing, having spent well over 30 years in leading agencies helping clients grow. He is the founder of Mindset, a marketing consultancy based in Bristol specialising in community insight and intelligence. He is also a director of P15, a specialist, insight-led media independent.
As teenagers his children have both been active drama and performing arts students at Chew Valley School. “Performing arts run deep in our family,” says Matt. “I’ve spent half my life drumming in rock bands, whilst my wife trained as a professional dancer at Arts Educational School in London, and later in her career was part of the management team at Northern Ballet Theatre.
“I believe Valley Arts gives a much-needed boost to the performing arts in our part of the world, and that can only ever be a good thing.”
The Stewart family have lived in the Chew Valley since 2000. When not working, Matt can be found hill-walking or listening to a constant diet of BBC R4 and Radio 6 Music.
Camilla is a corporate lawyer and moved to the Chew Valley with her family in 2016. She enjoyed exploring her new surroundings whilst on maternity leave with her second child and has quickly fallen in love with the area and its charms.
Camilla became involved with Valley Arts after attending a couple of the fundraising events with her husband and two young girls and agreed to become a trustee earlier this year.
From a young age Camilla learned ballet, played the violin and took part in school plays. She is keen for her daughters to have the same opportunities and experiences and believes passionately in our vision and the benefits that a new Performing Arts space could deliver to the Chew Valley and its people.
Patrick has recently retired after a long career in Change and IT Management, working for major corporations including AXA, Somerfield and Thomas Cook. He has delivered many complex programmes with responsibility for strategic planning, project management, financial control and governance.
Patrick’s retirement plan is to combine the Valley Arts project with his other passions of pottery, travelling, walking and skiing. Patrick and his wife Rachael have lived in the Chew Valley for 30 years and all three of their children went to Chew Valley and Chew Stoke Schools where Patrick was a Governor.
Patrick and Rachael have a shared love of the performing arts having been long-time members of Winford Players. Rachael also ran Sutton Youth Theatre for a time. “Over the years, local amateur theatre groups would combine to form ‘Valley Players’ and put on bigger productions at Chew Valley School. It would have been marvellous to have been able to do this in a professional community Arts Centre” says Patrick.
“The idea of a Performing Arts Centre in a rural area is very exciting and has so much potential. I envisage a hub at the heart of the community, providing unity, entertainment and pride for everyone from toddlers to pensioners. If we can provide an accessible, easy to reach venue where you can find professional productions, children’s shows, live music, classes, a cafe and more every week of the year, think of the buzz it will create!”