Arts centre promotion push looms

AN INTENSE promotional campaign aimed at vanquishing myths and extolling the benefits of a multi-million pound cultural project is to be launched next month.

AN INTENSE promotional campaign aimed at vanquishing myths and extolling the benefits of a multi-million pound cultural project is to be launched next month.

The move is to try and persuade people living in and around Colchester that the Visual Arts Facility proposed for the St Botolph's area of the town will not just be an art gallery but a building with many different roles in the community.

It comes after an independent review of the project concluded that it was in a healthy state but that not enough people were aware of what it would offer them.

The "Gateway 1" review was conducted earlier this year and its results were made public yesterday.

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The three consultants who analysed the plan for the VAF gave it an "Amber" status, meaning it should proceed while accepting some recommendations for change.

All of these were accepted by the project team – who were praised by the consultants for the quality and volume of their work – including a commitment to further publicise the end uses of the £16.5 million landmark building.

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"Not only will it provide an art gallery but social activities such as weddings, business conferencing, school education, music etc which it is hoped to be used by a wide cross-section of the community," the report said.

"It is strongly recommended that the time is now right to launch a promotional campaign to coincide with the planning permission.

"This will give the benefits of informing the public at large on the new facilities and attract the must need investment and communicate with wider regional communities."

Yesterday Robert Davidson, Colchester Borough Council's cabinet member for regeneration, agreed that mistakes had been made in the way the project – which is mostly to be funded by outside bodies - had been presented to the town.

"The community needs to understand the advantages of this building for them as a whole, not just the cultural elite.

"I think we have possibly failed to get across the multiple advantages of this building to Colchester.

"That is a job the Gateway review has identified and we need to do it sooner rather than later."

Yesterday David Grocott, marketing officer with firstsite, the arts organisation which will be based in the new building, said: "If, as we hope, planning permission is approved in September we will of course use this as the starting point to step up the promotion of the building and the excellent facilities it will bring to Colchester.

"Since 2003 we have led an engagement plan across the borough, with road-shows, talks, focus groups, tours of the site and a fully transparent planning process.

"If the project is approved we will ratchet this up to ramming speed to ensure that Colchester people become familiar with what is on offer and understand the amazing benefit this will bring to their town.

"There is a lot of work to do, many people still don't understand fundamental details about the building like the fact it includes a cinema."

Mr Grocott went on to explain that schools, social groups and clubs in Colchester could all expect the offer of a presentation on the building later this year while advertising and tours of the site would step up a gear.

High profile ambassadors for the scheme would also be pulled in to raise the scheme's profile both locally and across the country.

"It is an amazing project. We just need to tell as many people as possible about it," Mr Grocott said.

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