BHAC (16th December 2017)
“Oh would some Power the gift give us, to see ourselves as others see us” – Robert Burns
This article was included in the recent edition of “Comment” – the in-house magazine of one of our sponsors, Coffin Mew Solicitors.
“A champion for amateur artists”
The Brighton and Hove Arts Council has for more than 40 years championed the arts in Brighton and Hove. Artists – whether poets, painters, sculptures or actors – work alongside this important local charity to celebrate a vibrant amateur art scene and reach out to new audiences.
Comment Magazine spent the morning with Vaughan Rees, the charity’s vice chairman and discovered the beating heart of Brighton’s cultural scene.
Brighton and Hove is a creative hub for the arts in the UK. Its eclectic and diverse arts scene offers something for everyone – whether it is the large international blockbusters that come with the Brighton Festival, first class music, or the alternative arts and culture found in the Lanes. Self-expression is what the City does well. The City’s arts scene runs deep, and it is its talented and enthusiastic amateurs that really are its beating heart.
The Brighton and Hove Arts Council was created back in 1974 by a group of art enthusiasts as a charity to support and promote the not-for-profit and amateur arts community. Today, the charity is the first port of call for those wishing to discover the best music recitals, performances, poetry recitals and exhibitions.
“Brighton and Hove is an oddly creative and vibrant place,” says Vaughan Rees, long-term Brighton resident and vice chairman of The Brighton and Hove Arts Council (BHAC). “There are a lot of amateur groups that struggle to market and promote what they do. And that is where we step in.”
BHAC has over 70 member arts groups across the City, ranging from amateur dramatics companies with some 200 members through to water colour painting clubs with just a few individual members. It also has a growing individual membership.
The Arts Diary, published in print and online by BHAC, was one of its first major initiatives and remains today the backbone of its activity. It is published four times a year and lists all of the amateur arts events happening across the City.
“The Arts Diary lists some 200 plus events in each edition for the months ahead,” explains Vaughan. “It is where members turn to promote their events, and where members of the public can access Brighton and Hove’s most comprehensive arts listing. It is as popular today, both in print and online, as it was when it was first launched back in 1974.”
BHAC also organises a number of showpiece events each year. Its annual art exhibition in the spring continues to grow, as does its drama awards – dubbed Brighton’s Oscars – held in early December.
“We are thrilled to have the actor Trevor Jones judge this year’s drama awards,” says Vaughan. “Trevor has appeared in six West End productions, at the National Theatre and in two major Clive Donner movies. He will watch all of performances and give creative feedback to all those entering. He will also hand out our ten awards – it will be a terrific evening.”
And this year, BHAC has introduced a one-day Sussex poetry competition and festival, to be held in November at the Old Market in Hove, with a prize of £1,000 up for grabs for the winning entry. The Poet-Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, will be the star attraction and will be joined by Brighton’s own punk-poet Attila the Stockbroker and Edinburgh-based John Samson, a classical and jazz musician well-known for his collaborations with poets.
“We are enormously excited by our first poetry festival,” says Vaughan, “and judging by the hundreds of entries into the competition, so too are the residents of Brighton and Hove. The festival will, I’m sure, become one of our flagship events.”
BHAC is run by a small committee of just 10 volunteers, who are responsible for all the charity’s activities. Funding comes via modest member subscriptions, a grant from Brighton and Hove Council and from sponsorship.
The local business community is increasingly important to BHAC as a source of revenue. Local businesses, including Coffin Mew, sponsor and support individual events and the Arts Diary.
“We are a charity and it is important that we are well-funded and financially secure,” explains Vaughan. “We are enormously grateful to the local business community and will continue to work closely with them in 2018 and beyond.” (Coffin Mew)