Arts academy to open in West Sussex

PLANS to launch a new West Sussex arts academy for talented and gifted young people have been unveiled.

They will take a step forward this week, when a conference takes place to explain more about the concept.

The idea is being promoted by the county council, and the conference will be hosted by Cllr Peter Griffiths, its cabinet member for education and schools.

In a letter to potential supporters, Cllr Griffiths says: “West Sussex County Council is supporting the launch of a new and exciting community-based initiative to ensure that all children and young people in the county who show exceptional promise in the arts can continue to experience the highest quality provision and achieve the highest possible standards at a time when public funding is becoming increasingly restricted.

“West Sussex is fortunate in having a wide range of renowned artistic and cultural venues together with a strong community of arts professionals, and many schools and further and higher education providers producing excellent results for their students in the arts.

“The county also hosts many ‘movers and shakers’, philanthropists and benefactors with a keen interest in supporting young people to excel in the arts recognising the personal, social and economic benefits that this brings.”

He adds: “A key purpose of the Academy is to enable talented children and young people to come together to spark off each other and to work alongside professionals to develop their personal, artistic and technical skills to achieve at levels beyond their expectations.”

Cllr Griffiths said a key aim of the November 7 invitation-only event at Sedgwick Park House, near Horsham, was to identify people who would be prepared to be part of a ‘shadow’ board to oversee the development of the academy’s business plan and its move from concept to reality.

He commented: “Public funding for the arts is limited, but the county council has worked hard behind the scenes to develop a community-based initiative that could have significant and lasting benefits.

“For example, we have already seen much of the work of the former West Sussex Youth Theatre being taken under the wing of Chichester Festival’s Youth Theatre thanks to partnership working”.

Explaining how the academy might work, Cllr Griffiths said: “Initially, the county council is prepared to take the lead in consulting on the arts academy concept, identifying foundation partners, and working with these partners to develop a viable and sustainable model of delivery.

“As soon as possible, the academy should become a free-standing organisation, for example a company limited by guarantee with charitable status.

“Governance would be provided by a board of trustees who could, in the first instance, be drawn from the foundation partner group.”