Cultural Hub Grows at the National Centre for Writing as Award-Winning Rural Arts Company Moves in to Dragon Hall
Already partners in a regional and national scheme to bring arts and culture to rural communities, Creative Arts East (CAE) and National Centre for Writing (NCW) announce their plan to share work space at NCW’s home, Dragon Hall, in the heart of Norwich, England’s first UNESCO City of Literature. Responding to the difficulties brought about by COVID-19 and in the spirit of collaboration between charitable arts organisations providing vital work to communities across the East of England, CAE will be taking up residence alongside the NCW at Dragon Hall later this month.
Originating as a Merchant’s trading hall in the 15th century, Dragon Hall is now home to NCW as an international centre of excellence for creative writing and literary translation. It is delighted to expand its reputation as a cultural hub for the arts by welcoming CAE into the venue and offering office space to an organisation facing challenges due to the pandemic. As well as providing crucial accommodation support to CAE and enabling them to continue their fantastic work in the region, it is hoped the new arrangement will provide opportunities for even closer collaboration between the two organisations, with the aim of developing new creative experiences for communities to enjoy when restrictions lift.
Chris Gribble, chief executive of NCW, said:
‘We’re delighted to offer CAE a home and base at Dragon Hall: the work they do with and for the communities of our region is vital. We saw the chance to help them protect their ability and capacity to improve the lives of those they work with while some of our spaces are underused due to the pandemic and are delighted that they felt the same. At the same time the arrangement gives us the chance to think about how we might collaborate on more projects in the future, offering important access to cultural opportunities to people in our region during and after the current crisis.’
CAE is an arts and community development charity committed to bringing the very best arts and cultural activities to rural and/or under-engaged audiences across Norfolk, Suffolk and the wider eastern region.
NCW was established to provide a physical place for Norwich’s status as England’s first UNESCO City of Literature. It creates writing, reading and translation opportunities for community groups across the city as well as hosting writers from all over the world through its year-round programme of festivals and events. This work has moved online for much of the last 12 months and the organisation looks forward to opening as soon as possible to bring audiences back to the much-loved venue.
Emerging from a conversation between the two organisations’ CEOs during their participation in the Collaboration: Place: Change leadership development programme for Norfolk and Suffolk, the idea of pooling resources in response to COVID-19 then blossomed into a plan that benefited both partners. The CAE team officially take up residency within Dragon Hall this month, although staff continue to work full-time from home while lockdown restrictions apply.
Natalie Jode, executive director of Creative Arts East, said:
‘When the pandemic hit most public and private funding streams were closed and repurposed for emergency aid. This has been, and continues to be, an essential lifeline for the sector but also poses a real long-term threat for project-funded arts organisations like ours.
‘Project funding contributes essential income to cover salaries and overheads at CAE, and it is our staff who form the bricks and mortar or our organisation; we simply cannot achieve our charitable aims without their energy and expertise. In order to reduce operational overheads, secure jobs, and support our organisational future we took the difficult decision to leave our long-term office-based in Wymondham and move to an entirely remote approach. However, thanks to the generosity and friendship shown by the Board and staff at NCW we have a safe haven and some operational continuity during this period of transition, which we are hugely grateful for.
‘This pandemic has demonstrated just how important it is to work together and at CAE we are committed to supporting our partners across the sector to weather this storm; it feels very emotional and reassuring to know that there is an offer of support there for us too. We have a lot to be thankful for and to progress for the future; myself and all the team at CAE look forward to doing so alongside our new roommates and wish to say a public word of thanks to Chris and all the team at National Centre for Writing.’
NCW and CAE are already partners on Inn Crowd; a unique national arts project which supports the touring of live literature, performance poetry and new writing to rural pubs, reinforcing the pub as a central, vibrant part of community life. Both organisations are excited at the prospect of ‘hitting the ground running’ when normal practise can resume and for the potential for further creative collaboration on new projects which will benefit the local sector, audiences and communities across the region.