Arts in Ramsgate: Mixing creativity and community to combat isolation and nurture skills

Madeline and Kathy at Arts in Ramsgate

An arts and community centre in Ramsgate is hoping to encourage more youngsters to join in sessions and more volunteers to come and share their skills.

Arts in Ramsgate in Harbour Street is an unusual mix of creative classes and a community centre, aimed at reducing isolation and nurturing artistic activities.

It is run by Madeline Wright with help from volunteers including Kathy Smith and works with an eclectic mix of people from those on the streets to disaffected youngsters, university students, mum and child groups, people living with a range of disabilities and anyone who may feel alone.

Madeline said: “We work to develop skills, including social skills, and build confidence. We have people who just come in because they want to try out something creative. So maybe someone hasn’t drawn for years or they do not have confidence or someone who is isolated and just wants to talk to people who will understand and accept them. We often use art to build confidence.

“We understand people’s needs so when they come through the door we can talk to them and assess what is going to work for them.

“People understand an arts centre or a community centre, we want to show them that we are both and that we are developing a holistic approach.”

AiR holds a variety of classes, from drawing to pottery, and also exhibits work which gives people a starting point to talk about art and ask questions. Many of those who use the centre happily share their own expertise as well as learning from others.

Madeline said: “It is about developing people and improving their quality of life. But we are struggling to get children involved, many come for a couple of weeks and then disappear even though they have been really creative. We don’t know if this is due to the children or the parents so we would like to encourage them to get involved.

“We work will all ages, including students who are not in education or employment. Youngsters have come to us from CXK and Liberty training  and we have had some fantastic successes because they feel comfortable in our environment and we are not judging them.

“We also want to work with schools and community groups and share our expertise as well as parents, teachers and teaching assistants sharing their skills with us.

“Our whole philosophy is really about integration and developing community, being inclusive for all our community.”

Kathy works with a group whose members have learning disabilities. The sessions have been taking place since January.

She said: “Our group consists of people who are able to those who are very disabled but they have all really gelled. When they create they do really well but it is also about having fun.”

AiR is run by volunteers and is dependent on grants and income from sessions, which mostly covers the materials used. It has been running for four years and has grown considerably in that time.

Popular sessions include the annual workshops to make  items for the Christmas parade and the annual carnival.

They are hoping more people will join the team and share skills, particularly needed are those who are adept in IT and fundraising, and are encouraging parents to bring their youngsters to try out the children’s programme.

Arts in Ramsgate is at 18 Harbour Street. Find out more about what’s on offer on their website here