Monday 20 October 2014

Getting Arty in Eltham

For anyone interested in developing the arts locally, the place to be in Eltham at the weekend was a conference called Creative Eltham – Developing the Arts’. 
Over 70 people gathered last Saturday afternoon at the Friendship Centre, Glenure Road in Eltham for an afternoon of lively talks, debate and sharing, The aims of the event included discussing how the various arts in and around Eltham could be developed, both for practitioners and for audiences. 
Under the umbrella of Eltham Arts, the community organisation established in August 2013, many people were brought together ranging from local arts organisations, local residential groups, businesses, local councillors, individual artist practitioners and interested locals wanting to get involved (see below for list).  A range of the creative arts seemed to be represented - visual art, drama, dance, music, crafts and the voice and language arts.
Photo courtesy of @Eltham Arts
In her introduction to the proceedings, Gaynor Wingham, Chair of Eltham Arts, spoke about how the great value of all these arts has long been acknowledged for society, for individual health and for the environment and business. So how can we encourage them in Eltham and make more people aware of what’s going on in our wonderfully talented community?
The audience firstly heard from Miranda Williams, Cabinet Member for Culture and Creative Industries, who despite battling a cold, spoke about the role of Greenwich Council in developing the arts in Eltham. Inevitably audience questions homed in on funding. We were told about the Greenwich Community Arts Fund, a Council budget to which groups are encouraged to apply for funding. But we also later learnt about a Mayor’s High Street Fund,] in which grants of up to £20,000 are available to successful applications (this year by 1 December 2014, so skates on!).
Another need by local arts groups was space - the Cabinet Member undertook to find out about availability of Council spaces for such groups who are hard-pressed to meet commercial rates.
Next up was Heather Lilley, Senior Lecturer in Drama at University of Greenwich who spoke about the fascinating Reminiscence Theatre. In this initiative students work from the archives of Pam Schweitzer, performing for elderly audiences extracts from the poignant recorded reminiscences of people from times gone by. Hearing about these intergenerational encounters brought us back to the connection between the arts and well-being. The company had performed in sheltered homes and units and were open to invitations to perform in Eltham too - and they are free!
Providing an international perspective, our third and final keynote speaker was Amy Ash - artist, curator and teacher - currently the Learning and Participation Curator at the Gerald Moore Gallery in Mottingham. She spoke about experiences in her native Canada about connections between the arts and community and the nurturing of new talent. We heard how the Gerald Moore Gallery has been reaching out to the community with its public programme, courses and workshops.
Having been suitably enthused, the conference attendees were now ready to contribute their ideas. People divided into workshops, each looking at one big theme with the aim of coming up with at least one big idea. The themes were:
  • Publicity and Marketing
  • Business and Regeneration
  • Health and Wellbeing
  • Funding and Development
  • Arts for All
Much animated discussion later, we came together to hear the ideas which had been discussed. What were they? You shall have to wait for that - the ideas are being collated and will hopefully be shared soon on the Eltham Arts website. Photos from the event can be seen the Eltham Arts Facebook.
This first conference by Eltham Arts was a great success in bringing together such a wealth of talent, experience and interest from within our community. Keep tuned for the next steps.
Here’s the list of the organisations who were on the attendance list, showing the vast range and potential we have on our doorstep:
·         Avery Hill Winter Gardens
·         Bob Hope Theatre
·         CANE (New Eltham)
·         Conran Estates
·         Creative Arts Net
·         Eldorado Musical Productions
·         Eltham GPO
·         Eltham Park Residents’ Association
·         Eltham Regeneration
·         Emergency Exit Arts
·         Folkmob
·         Friends of Avery Hill Park
·         Gerald Moore Gallery
·         GLL - Eltham Library
·         Greenwich Heritage Centre
·         Greenwich Mind
·         Greenwich Theatre
·         Greenwich University
·         Lanaart
·         New Eltham Operatic Society
·         Priory Players
·         Progress Estate Resident’s Association
·         Royal Eltham Writers Circle
·         Royal Greenwich Council
·         St Thomas Moore Secondary School, Art Dept
·         White Hart pub
·         and many individual locals artists