Chair’s Report, AGM 2014

Andrew Baker.

SDAC is an independent and voluntary organisation whose main purpose is to allocate grants, from an annual grant to SDAC from Stafford Borough Council, to support the arts in Stafford Borough. The members of the committee, which meets every month to consider grant applications, include some who are from local societies and some who are simply interested in the artistic life of Stafford. Some of the committee members may happen to be councillors but they are members of the committee in a completely independent capacity as supporters of the arts.

We are always, as any organisation is, on the look out for new committee members, especially when the AGM comes along. Anyone who sees the Arts as an important aspect of life has a chance to be on the team. Stafford is a very creative place. There are many talented people with new outlooks and interests in new audiences. Please spread the word.

This arrangement is probably quite unusual and it means that SDAC can make a difference to the life of the town. We have a Service Level Agreement which defines our role.

1.1 The SDAC shall utilise the financial grant awarded by SBC in accordance with this agreement in providing a service within the geographical boundaries of Stafford Borough, and in accordance with the SDAC operational plan, with specific regard to the following:

a. To promote the arts in Stafford Borough

b. The provision of guidance and support to member societies and individuals

c. The provision of grant aid to arts related societies and individuals

d. To facilitate interaction between individual artists and societies and SBC

The following requirement in our SLA has become increasingly important over the last few years:

3.2 The SDAC shall at all times consider the manner in which its service can be developed so as to become accessible to the maximum number of Stafford Borough residents as possible.

Though we continue to give grants to support traditional local societies, which are of a very high standard and often have activities which reach large audiences, we have been particularly interested in events which reach new audiences, children and people who would not usually be affected by arts events.

SDAC awarded grants totalling £15,660 during the financial year 2013/4.

Societies supported by SDAC grants include Stone Choral Society, Stafford Photographic Society, Stafford Operatic Society, Stafford Players, Chanteuse and Stafford Jazz Society.

Perhaps the SDAC supported project which reached the largest audience is the Shakespeare learning and Participation Outreach Programme. For the summer 2013 festival a £1000 grant supported workshops at Doxey Primary School, Quest Day Centre for Adults and Milford House residential unit at South Staffordshire & Shropshire NHS Foundation Trust.

These workshops, involving children, and people with mental health issues supported by Quest and the NHS, produced colourful banners inspired by the Stafford Shakespeare production. The project involved engagement with the play as well as the creative work itself and the participants were also given tickets to see a performance which they all thoroughly enjoyed.

The work created at the workshops was transposed onto vinyl banners and showcased at Stafford Castle for the duration of Stafford Festival where they were seen by the many hundreds of people who went to the production.

All the groups who receive grants are required to send evaluation reports to SDAC so we have evidence of the success of the events and the audiences reached. The success of the Shakespeare outreach activities has meant that a similar project was run in this year’s festival.

The largest single grant of the last financial year was £2500 to the Stafford Music Festival which itself is expanding its audiences with a wider range of music.

A grant of £1000 supported the very successful “There is no Planet B” event in St Chad’s church which drew in audiences to art displays and musical performances. Another £1000 grant went to the Stafford Jazz Society to enable them to develop what has long been a very high quality and successful series of performances.

SDAC also continued to support Adbaston Community Concert Society which puts on very high quality concerts in a rural area at the far edge of the Borough and also gave a grant towards part of the Church Easton Festival. Perhaps more should be done to promote SDAC’s work to organisations in the rural parts of the Borough.

I feel this year demonstrates more than ever that the grants awarded by SDAC are an essential part of the Arts in Stafford. The funding can clearly be seen to be affecting the lives of an ever increasing number of local people. The support for the Arts has a direct effect on the well­being of the community and I hope SDAC can look to the future and continue to develop its role in supporting and encouraging the Arts in new ways and to new audiences.

By demonstrating the impact of the grants which Stafford Borough Council allocates through an independent SDAC we hope we will be able to argue for the importance of our work and to continue for the next few years.

In this new financial year, 2014­15, SDAC has launched into a new and exciting direction. We have long been responsible for a costume collection. The collection includes many costumes of the highest quality, particularly those donated by local costume artist Jane Dew who has worked for the world’s best opera houses. In the last few months a team of enthusiasts have begun sorting and cataloguing the costumes and rediscovering what treasures there are there.

As this is my last Chairman’s Report I wish to thank the members of the committee who come out every month to our meetings and in particular Ray Braziel, who has acted as secretary for many years, and Jade Zhu our treasurer. The work may be voluntary but it is often very complicated and time consuming. Being Chair is an easy task, The Secretary and Treasurer are the essential backbone of the organisation.

8th October 2014

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