Funding boost for Medway arts and culture

Arts, culture and creativity in Medway have been given a boost by almost £1million in additional funding.

Recent weeks have seen Arts Council England award Medway Council three different grants for projects, including £406,000 approved from The ACE Place Partnership Fund for the Creative Health Place Partnership.

The two year partnership-driven project will transform how the creative and health sectors work together and with communities to make creativity central to wellbeing and preventative health interventions in Medway. 

It will bring together local and national partners including Medway and Swale Health and Care Partnership, Creative Medway, University of Kent, The National Centre for Creative Health and Medway Council’s Culture & Libraries, Public Health and Public Housing teams alongside local and national arts organisations including Icon Theatre, Ideas Test, Nucleus Arts and Live Music Now. 

Carol Stewart, Chair of Creative Medway said: “We are proud to be supporting this much needed programme for Medway. We know that taking part in creative and cultural activity contributes to making peoples lives happier and healthier. We are delighted to be working with local, regional and national creative, cultural and health sector partners on this ambitious project to address health and wellbeing challenges in Medway and make creativity central to improving the lives of local people and communities.”

Esther Watts, South East Creative Health Associate for the National Centre for Creative Health said: “The National Centre for Creative Health is delighted to be part of this project to support more Creative Health in Medway.  As stated in the Creative Health Review, ‘Creative Health is fundamental to a healthy and prosperous society and its benefits should be available and accessible to all’. We look forward to supporting this work”. 

Arts Council England has also awarded a further £30,000 to enhance programming for the Rochester Sweeps Festival – which takes place this weekend – to enable people of all ages to participate in the international folk festival as performers, participants and volunteers.

The funding supports a day of new participatory creative activities and workshops for families and provides opportunities for local people to perform alongside Medway community groups showcasing folk tradition from across the globe. These include Turaka, McManigan Sullivan Academy of Irish Dance, Nucleus Arts – Flora Installation, Nicole Mollett and Jane Pitt – Art & Sound Installation, Gurukul Arts and Dance academy , Mess Room, Gurkha Nepalese Community Medway, and Emily Cave – The Fairy Trail.

Now in its 42nd year, Sweeps International Folk Festival is believed to be the largest UK gathering of Morris dancers.  The festival takes over Rochester Town Centre for May Day weekend, celebrating international folk music and dance and showcasing Medway’s diverse cultural folk traditions. The Sunday community programme will be BSL interpreted.

Celebrate our shared humanity

Aduke Aladekomo, from Turaka, drumming and dance group, said:  “Thanks to the generous funding from the Arts Council, we’re expanding our reach and sharing the vibrant rhythms of African culture with more people. Removing financial barriers allows us to welcome everyone into our programs, fostering a deeper appreciation for cultural diversity.”

Aduke said the group has recently opened a centre on Chatham High Street, allowing them to continue their mission of enhancing understanding and connection in Medway.

She added: “Our work is crucial for fostering integration and inclusivity within our community. African creative arts not only showcase beauty and engagement but serve as a powerful tool for bridging cultures. As our community grows more diverse, our programs offer a meaningful way to connect and celebrate our shared humanity.”

Crucial for communities

Nicole Mollett and Jane Pitt said the funding had enabled them to realise a collaborative idea they had been thinking about in various guises for over 4 years.

Nicole added: “The project aims to activate public spaces, whilst inviting individuals to contribute creatively and it is an exciting process to engineer. Having a socially engaged creative project showcased at such an important and popular folk festival will make a real difference in elevating the impact this work has, and justifying why investment in the Arts is crucial in terms of community cohesion and enrichment.

“Participants will benefit by having fun, expressing themselves creatively, and seeing what they have helped create showcased at a large public festival.”

Meanwhile, Medway’s libraries are also set to benefit from £409,552 from the Libraries Improvement Fund (Round 3).

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) funds the Libraries Improvement Fund, which is administered by Arts Council England – and the money will be used to improve digital access and remote access to Medway Council’s library and archive services.

Improvements will include a new pop-up mobile library service which aims to launch in 2025, new self-serve kiosks at some of our libraries and community hubs allowing residents to self-issue and return books, as well as interactive play tables being installed at some of our libraries.

The funding will also be used to install interactive displays where residents will be able to access other council services. Medway Archives Centre will also benefit from new equipment to help develop our digital archives.

Much of the success comes after being named an Arts Council England Priority Place in 2021 to 2024, on the back of Medway’s Bid for City of Culture and the development of the Creative Medway Cultural Strategy, and this is their commitment to strengthening cultural and creative opportunities, ensuring culture and creativity have a deep and lasting effect on Medway and the people who live here.  

Central to what makes Medway special

Cllr Harinder Mahil, Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Heritage, Culture and Leisure, said: “Creative arts and culture are a central part of what makes Medway special, but we need funding to help realise the potential in that creative spirit. The support from ACE is fantastic news and I would urge everyone to get along to the groups, shows, exhibitions and festivals that have benefitted from it. It is also great that we have been able to secure this funding to further improve the offering at our libraries, community hubs and Medway Archives Centre. These sites provide important services to residents, and I am excited that we will be able to build on our existing offering, improving both the digital offering and improving accessibility for residents.”

Find out more about arts and heritage in Medway.

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