When writing this report I try NOT to look back at the previous year’s account as there is a real danger of repetition which as time progresses blurs the distinction between one year and the next. Also some of what we do is constant; hence there is a danger in the mind of the regular reader that the restating of some of these activities comes across as waffle! So I will only dwell quickly on these topics, but need to emphasise that for a small voluntary Arts organisation the “routine/regular” requires as much determination and effort as the “new and sparkling”.
At the end of 2015 it dawned on all of us that we were moving into the 25th year of The Test Valley Arts Foundation’s (TVAF) existence. This is no mean achievement for any voluntary group particularly one that has kept true to its original mission to support and promote “The Arts” – in all its forms in the Test Valley. It was inevitable that as a Board we were going to put a great deal of creative energy into planning a suitable innovative response to mark this occasion. Interestingly one important fact has emerged - that over the years TVAF has levered into the Borough just over £700k of real extra cash for projects and activities. This has enhanced the original investment made by the Colvin estate and Test Valley Borough Council of some £200k – much of this from a sum given to the Borough Council for the Tesco’s development in Andover. TVAF still has some of this resource which it invests wisely to ensure it continues to flourish.
This sort of investment at the time was brave, imaginative and new. As the availability of public funds to support the Arts (and so many other things!) reduces, this sort of ingenious long term planning has delivered a degree of long term sustainability that so many voluntary groups crave for. So a big Thank You needs to be recorded to all those who had the courage to make it happen!
Michael Widen who has worked as our Development Officer for the last ten years retired at the end of March 2016. Michael – and his wife Ruth’s contribution to TVAF have been outstanding.
Michael’s dedication and tenacity is legendary. No job was too big or small – be it negotiating with funders to support the Chapel Arts Studios (CAS) to helping with drinks at a private view – he threw himself into everything with a determined spirit. His personal support to me and many at TVAF has been invaluable. So much of what he did was well over the hours we were able to afford, from driving our Arts Bus to ensuring the lights and boiler were working at the Chapel Arts Studios. We were able to say thank you to him and Ruth at a dinner in Stockbridge attended by most of the current Board and former Chairmen. We all wish him the very best for the future.
Sue Messa an experienced, enthusiastic and very versatile person was appointed as our “new” Development Officer at the end of 2015 to ensure a smooth hand over, which has taken place very successfully. David Thomas resigned as a Trustee during the year to concentrate on his art and we were all saddened to learn of the loss to Michael Johnson – a very long standing Trustee- and his family of a beloved daughter.
We continue to make small awards to a number of local arts groups like the Andover Young Musician of the Year, Rum’s Eg in Romsey for the Summer Open Art Exhibition but have had to slow down on these contributions to both conserve our funds to support CAS and our growing project activity including plans for the 25th Anniversary.
“Now We Tell Our Tale” the multi-media play about the recent history of Andover based on the oral histories collected by local young people - was revived using professional actors under the guidance of John Baxter as Director and Roy Chatfield as writer. The play toured many local schools making a huge impact and engaging many hundreds of young people. It concluded back at The Lights in Andover to a packed audience with many wanting “the next episode”! “No Small Town”, a similar project, is being planned for Romsey when time and money are available. John Baxter has now been appointed by the Board to lead on the 25th Anniversary programme.
Chapel Arts Studios continues to work across the whole community involved in many projects; on Andover High Street –The Bureau of Exchange, a five week project involving 800+ people demonstrated the viability of associates’ groups working together on public art initiatives, CAS continues to work with local schools and increasingly is in demand across all of South England. The “Laboratory of Dissent” a five week project where 16 CAS artists worked with the Winchester School of Art Gallery curator to put together a phased experimental project was very well received. David Dixon as Lead Artist is in constant demand working with the Arts Council, NADFAS, the University of Southampton but finds a great deal of his time being taken up with making grant applications. Here it is still the firm objective of TVAF to work towards CAS becoming an independent organisation which secures its own funding thus standing on its own feet. CAS organised a very successful 10 day Hampshire Open Arts Programme where the public were given the opportunity to view and become involved in some of the art being created.
The Arts Bus – or as it is becoming known, “The Bus of Many Things”, enjoyed its formal launch at the Garden Gallery in Broughton on a lovely summer’s day. The Bus has had its fair share of mechanical problems which has kept it off the road –BUT it was used at the Hat Fair (an international street performing arts event) in Winchester and subsequently at the Woolly Hat Fair at Christmas. It was also working in Romsey with Rum’s Eg and on a number of the new Andover housing estates where local artists were commissioned to engage with local residents on the development of local facilities. The Bus is also being booked regularly by local artists as an exhibition space. We are really grateful to Rygor for keeping it on the road, all our voluntary drivers particularly Rodney Allsop-Seward and Peter Boulton, on whose farm the Bus is parked under cover. The Bus is going to be a central part of the planned 25th Anniversary programme!
The TVAF website continues to offer all an exciting window into the work of TVAF and CAS. Maija Liepins a Trustee is central to keeping it attractive and up-to-date. Given the increase in the number of projects TVAF is involved in, it was clear to the Board that we needed to develop some guidance on Marketing – Maija and Crescens have been working on a TVAF “Marketing Project” which has already produced some very useful tips that are being used by project leaders. The Board also approved an Equal Opportunities Policy, a Health and Safety Policy, Volunteer Policy, and Child Protection Policy with responsible persons appointed to ensure we adhere to these important matters.
“A Celebration of Young Writing” sponsored by Bewiser Insurance and organised by Cat Randle and Sally Startup, launched on the 24th June – some 40 entries were received from Andover young people and this was celebrated at The Lights, with readings and video performances of the excellent work. Initially the work was available for all to view on the TVAF website- it is now supplemented by a lovely book distributed free to all participants.
Julie Drury and Michael Widen were involved in organising for our local Member of Parliament, Kit Malthouse, his Christmas card. A number of primary school pupils were involved in producing designs –in the end Kit was spoilt for choice. Julie with Crescens George a fellow Trustee and a senior manager at Bewiser Insurance have been working hard at creating a new photographic website entitled “Live, Laugh, Love Test Valley “–this inclusive project will build a library of current and vintage photographs available on-line to view or purchase-the launch will take place at the end of April 2016. A grant from AVIVA Insurance of £1k was awarded to TVAF which will be used to take this project forward.
When I was elected Chairman we set about drawing up a manifesto for the future –on looking back on our plans we have delivered on most of what we agreed to do. The coming year will build on this as we loudly celebrate with the community of the Test Valley our achievements, not forgetting the many lessons we have learnt along the way including doing more fund raising! There will also be an opportunity to thank the many people and organisations both past and present who have and continue to contribute to our work. We try as much as humanly possible to remember and value ALL those who have done so much- inevitably we will miss some, for which I apologise.
It has been another eventful year, I could have added much more to this report but it was becoming too long. There is no sign of things slowing down – our task for the future is to continue to broaden the range and diversity of our activities engaging more people of the Test Valley and the wonderful County of Hampshire.
Yinnon Ezra MBE MA FRSA – Chairman Test Valley Arts Foundation