6 October 2008

A Carnival Arts Centre Plan

Journeying to a Carnival Arts Centre of Excellence. Activating a Plan – a Centre for Carnival Arts in Belfast. A company that wants to stay relevant in a changing city must change too: we stretch our skin, burst it, grow another.

In the settling turbulence of Belfast’s evolution, during the second half of the Nineties, Beat established carnival as an artform actively making a contribution to the positive changes being wrought in the city landscape. By the end of that decade we had skills-training and event programmes with lots of people, covering a wide range of arts areas: a growing carnival community, making its creative presence felt. We needed a better infrastructure to facilitate it all.

So at the beginning of the new Millennium, the company embarked on the next transformative stage in its growth. The first couple of years saw Beat search for accessible premises where large-scale carnival construction could happen. The operation moved from the former East Belfast YMCA in Albertbridge Road to an industrial warehouse and yard at the end of the Newtownards Road. There was space, height and roll-in/roll-out facility for carnival parade float construction and good accessibility with proximity to the travel and transport networks.

The next stage was to concentrate on making the organisation more business-like: improving the management capability that is needed to ensure long-term effectiveness. A new board was assembled and Beat’s leadership set to work on strategic actions both within the company and with key external partners in the city.

Now, into the second half of the Noughties, it’s time for transition and transformation again. Upwards and onwards or down and out? Forwards or backwards, or round and about? We’ve been through two years of peering over the edge; consulting the maps and the stars; signalling to new lands and now we cast off: embarked on the next adventure.

Now is the beginning of a new journey-plan.

Beat’s strategy has developed through two years of wide consultation with stakeholders – locally, in Ireland, in Europe; with artists; community and cultural organisations; education providers; development agencies and carnival producers. The process included an initial feasibility study on Carnival Centre premises. Beat then entered 2008 as a transition year, embarked on the first actions that will see us progress and transform in the 2008 – 2012 period. The first BIG action has been to identify and move to new premises: a place to pilot a Carnival Arts Centre – to research, test and trial the vision for a new, purpose-built Carnival Arts Centre of excellence for Ireland, in Belfast, for 2012.