I started the role of Programme Manager within Chippenham Town Council last April to oversee the refurbishment of the former Neeld Hall and to put in place a strong artistic programming for the new venue. Coming from a theatre management and arts programming background in the commercial sector, it was a fascinating new challenge to embark in an artistic project within a local authority.
The Neeld has been at the heart of Chippenham for centuries – as its Corn Exchange and cheese hall, even a wartime hospital, then a community hall. Now it begins its latest life as an exciting new community and arts centre bringing great professional shows and local groups’ activities and projects.
The refurbishment is the most important the Neeld has ever had and the space benefits from a new tiered seating unit, a technical area, new professional sound and light equipment, a new bar area and obviously a good paint job! This revamp has also allowed us to reposition the venue with new branding, renaming it the Neeld community and arts centre.
We launched the new venue and our first new programme of professional performances on 9th October. The Neeld was opened by GBBO’s Mel Giedroyc in front of 300 people which was followed by a professional music show. We have had our first professional performances since then and the staff and I are really excited to see such great enthusiasm and interest for this new space.
The next step is now to make sure we have sufficient staff to drive the venue to its new high standard. While we are putting in place a box-office system, we are also very pleased to be able to recruit in new areas that will be vital for the future of the Neeld such as box-office and front of house! If you are interested in being part of the team, find out more and download applications packs here.
My artistic vision has always been to offer high quality shows but also to stay focused on the community by making sure we could put in place new projects where they could easily be involved. We want to make sure we are offering a wide range of mentoring services to community groups by using the expertise of people in place in various area ( event management / box-office / technical). We have also just started two new artistic community projects we are really proud of:
‘Take the Stage’ which is a music competition for local young bands in partnership with Riverbank Studios in Chippenham. It is a bi-monthly event where bands are playing on stage in a professional setting. The winner of this season will get an opening slot on the Neeld stage, free recording sessions at Riverbank Studios as well as being the main act for ‘Rock in the Park’ during Chippfest 2016.
‘Mind my Words’ which is a programme around spoken words through creative writing workshops for young people with learning disabilities. The project will start next month and is being mentored by two professional authors / poets Babs Horton and Hilda Sheehan. The programme is in partnership with Barnardos Wiltshire and we are delighted to already have a group of eight young people signed up.
It is definitely an exciting time for the arts in Chippenham and across Wiltshire, as we are also putting in place partnership projects with the Pound in Corsham and Wiltshire Music Centre in Bradford-on-Avon.
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Isabelle Leclercq, Programme Manager.