Open to all, an inclusive place to learn, play, create and discover.
20 years ago the Attenborough Arts Centre opened its doors for the first time in the presence of our Patron Lord Richard Attenborough and the Princess of Wales. The Attenborough family remain very closely connected to our work, with Richard’s son the theatre director, Michael Attenborough now acting as our Patron and David Attenborough taking an active interest in all that we do. The venue represented a unique and ground breaking design concept, a purpose built centre founded to meet Lord Attenborough’s vision of widening access to the arts – where physical and psychological barriers would be actively removed so the arts would be open to all.
Even today it is one of only 5 purpose build arts spaces across the country so remains a very special resource both locally and nationally.
Our initial focus was on providing opportunities for people to participate in practical courses and workshops but over the last few years we have expanded to an all year programme of public events with a focus on music, theatre, dance, comedy and children’s events as well as offering social and retail opportunities through our café and venue hire.
Two years ago we were able to open our splendid gallery spaces providing the largest contemporary art gallery in Leicester and one of the largest in the East Midlands area. Our galleries are dedicated to the exhibition of contemporary British and international art that references socially engaged practice as well as increasingly being used to celebrate our school partnerships and young curator scheme- Next. Gen Creatives. We have seen a year on year increase in our visitor figures and last year welcomed a record 118,000 through our doors.
Leicester is the most culturally diverse city in the UK (2011 census). Despite this, the local picture is challenging: Leicester is ranked 25th worst out of 326 local authorities in the social deprivation indices, with 41% of the population living in the most deprived areas and with over 33% of children living in poverty (Leicester Joint Strategic Needs Assessment, 2012). Leicester is in the lowest 20% of culturally engaged areas in England and is ranked the 9th lowest for engagement with the arts nationally (ACE report).
The Arts Council has recognised these challenges and has supported the cultural sector by creating bridge organisations such as Leicester based The Mighty Creatives, to create connections to the education sector. They have also championed Arts Mark and Arts Award to encourage schools to recognise the potential of the arts in delivering not only within wider curriculum agendas but also in building confidence and transferable skills for pupils. Their latest initiative has established Cultural Education partnerships across the country designed to foster dialogue and engagement between schools. In Leicester this is represented by The City Classroom, for which we are a venue that is enabling more local people to engage with high quality culture in their local area.
Attenborough Arts Centre became an Arts Council England NPO in 2012, we embarked on a new learning and outreach programme, working with children, young people, schools and families for the first time, with a focus on increasing access for children with disabilities. In 2017 we were delighted to be awarded one of the highest percentage uplifts in NPO funding that will run for four years from April 2018 through which we hope to expand our offer to children and young people.
The Learning and Outreach programme at Attenborough Arts Centre offers cultural and creative learning opportunities, working closely with local schools, colleges and communities to widen access and participation in the arts. We have a dedicated team of officers and artists working to increase access to the arts at AAC, for groups and communities and supporting schools to access great cultural experiences.
In 2016-17 we ran 944 sessions with 13,080 participants, in our venue, in schools, and in the community.
We programme inclusively for children and young people to reflect the dynamic and culturally diverse city of Leicester and the East Midlands, by commissioning bold imaginative and engaging art, performances, workshops and events to our venue. Diversity is reflected throughout our programming for children and young people, through curating performances, creative learning and workshops by diverse companies and artists, and/or tailored for the needs of participants, e.g. theatre for children with profound and multiple learning disabilities, PMLD.
Our venue and programme is designed to remove barriers to access, and celebrate diversity, particularly for local people, artists and organisations. Our learning team builds capacity for this work through fundraising, building new partnerships and creating new opportunities for children to engage with high quality culture. Our dynamic learning programme has a person centred approach to facilitating access to the arts, by creating tailored resources such as sensory suitcases, differentiated session plans for gallery visits, tactile tours for children with complex needs, and workshops all tailored to the needs of the group.
We design and produce events to complement our ACE funded what’s on programme and exhibition programmes to enable more local people to access our high quality cultural offers, in response to consultation with children, families and schools. We are a founding member of The City Classroom: Leicester’s Cultural Education Partnership. We deliver tailored projects that include Arts Award and support schools on their Artsmark journey.
We are ambitious for CYP and wish to increase capacity for new and high quality cultural experiences in Leicester. Our Gallery and performing arts programme are animated by our learning programme which endeavours to widen participation and access to the best arts locally regionally and nationally.