What does Artsreach mean to Dorset?

Mon 2 Nov 2020

How do you place a value on Dorset's touring arts charity?

The value of Artsreach to Dorset has been highlighted in a new report which shows not only how important the arts charity is to rural communities, but also its actual value to the economic life of the county. Artsreach co-directors Kerry Bartlett and Yvonne Gallimore hope the findings will help their case for ongoing support from the new Dorset Council and other funders, including Arts Council England.

The report, commissioned by Artsreach, calculates thatevery £1 of annual public funding for Artsreach’s work generates a further 93p in benefits for the rural Dorset economy.

The research shows that volunteers contribute the equivalent of more than £60,000 annually in support of the Dorset arts scene. This economic windfall is generated by profits from shows being retained by rural communities – directly supporting essential facilities such as village halls while other benefits come from visiting audiences shopping at the village shop or having a meal or drink in the local pub.

The Artsreach performance programme is managed by a small team at the Little Keep in Dorchester, working with a network of more than 300 volunteers to put on more than 150 professional events every year, mainly in village halls. The report shows that the equivalent of an additional two and a half paid staff would be needed to deliver this programme without volunteer help.

Volunteers told the researcher how much they enjoyed working with Artsreach, and why they give up so much time to get the arts into their villages. One said: “I get to meet really interesting people and I love meeting the artists.” Another said: “I’m providing something for the community and it enables other people to get involved too.”

It’s also an affordable way for rural communities to see first class professional music, dance and theatre. “We can have an internationally award-winning group for £10 a ticket, with no transport costs for the audience,” said one hall promoter.

It is well documented that arts and culture improves wellbeing and helps to create a strong sense of community and belonging. The social benefits of having professional shows in small rural venues can be felt right across the Artsreach programme. One volunteer believed that meeting up with friends for a chat and a drink was an important part of the evening: “People often roll in at about 6.30 for a 7.30 show!” he said.