LETTER OF THE WEEK: We want to see creativity at the heart of this county

Peter Knott.
Peter Knott.

A few summers ago, I took my seat at The Core to watch No Way Back – a brilliant physical theatre production made by the people of Corby.

Ten local people with a passion for acting worked with award-winning theatre company Frantic Assembly to create the play.

And it was one of the most entertaining shows I saw that year.

Bold, energetic and incredibly relatable, No Way Back told powerful stories of local people and their lives.

Hailing from Northamptonshire, Frantic Assembly’s artistic director Scott Graham achieved critical acclaim for his direction of hit show The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time.

His artistic vision and creative talent has inspired thousands, from the West End to Broadway and back in his hometown of Corby.

As the national development agency for art and culture, it’s the Arts Council’s job to nurture creativity wherever it starts out.

And for more than 70 years we’ve been investing in artists and cultural venues across England – including Northamptonshire.

It’s our ambition is to see creativity at the heart of a great future for the county.

Which is why I want to share the plans for our new ‘National Portfolio’ with you.

Between 2018 and 2022, this group of around 844 leading arts organisations will receive regular funding and form the backbone of our work.

We’ll be investing £4,511,768 in four National Portfolio organisations in Northamptonshire – with NN Contemporary joining the portfolio for the time.

We’ve previously supported NN Contemporary to create one-off exhibitions and a place in the National Portfolio is a vote of confidence in its work.

Our latest funding will support its artistic ambition, making its aspirations to commission new art and bring international artists to the county a reality.

Creativity and culture are important to all our lives.

They have the power to bring people together, making communities stronger and improving our health and wellbeing.

Art and culture can also be a powerful force which shapes the places we live; drawing on the history and heritage of a place; inspiring civic pride and enhancing its reputation.

The money we invest comes from the government and the National Lottery. So as taxpayers – and National Lottery players – we want you to enjoy these benefits.

Our latest investment will bring a wealth of creative opportunities to the area - from great theatre, dance and music to digital art.

We’ll be increasing our investment in the Royal & Derngate. Its home-grown productions – from Soul to The Herbal Bed and most recently A Death of a Salesman – attract critical acclaim, positioning the theatre as one of the best in the country – and Northampton as a town where creative talent flourishes.

Threshold Studios will also remain part of the portfolio.

Threshold are ambitious about mixing art, culture and digital technology, wowing audiences and inspiring curious minds. They produce artistic commissions, workshops and events in Northampton and beyond.

And in Corby, we’ll be maintaining our investment in The Core, bringing more great theatre, music and dance to its stage, and supporting emerging artists and companies making their home in the town. While its programme of workshops and events for children and young people will continue to nurture creative talent.

We believe that no matter where you live, you should be able to enjoy art and culture, and have opportunities to pursue your own creative talents – for fun or as a career.

No Way Back was part of Made in Corby’s programme – the second in its Big Night Out series.

As well as investing in National Portfolio organisations, our Creative People and Places programme supports Made in Corby to bring local people together to decide what art and culture they want.

Putting people in control of choosing and creating the art they want to see happening locally in Northamptonshire is revealing that there is a creative spark in all of us.

We want to continue working with artists, cultural venues and local communities in Northamptonshire, using our investment to help this creative spark flourish into a vibrant and exciting future for the county.

Peter Knott

Arts Council England’s director in the Midlands