Future 50: Norfolk Painting School’s global success

Artist Martin Kinner and Bryony Reed of the Norfolk Painting School

Martin Kinnear and studio manager Bryony Reed of the rapidly growing Norfolk Painting School - Credit: Norfolk Painting School

Few businesses can have been transformed by the Covid-19 pandemic as dramatically as the Norfolk Painting School. When the Fakenham studio welcomed students back with the easing of lockdown restrictions on May 17, it was the first time the school had been fully open in 15 months... And a lot had changed in that time. 

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The Future 50 programme is supported by the partner businesses - Credit: Archant

"On March 24, 2020 I had never even heard of Zoom," says general manager Jane Kinnear. “By May 8 our whole business was hanging on it.”  

Jane Kinnear of the Norfolk Painting School

Jane Kinnear says the lack of investment in super-fast broadband for North Norfolk is a disaster for online businesses like the Norfolk Painting School - Credit: Norfolk Painting School

However, the move to Zoom made it immediately apparent that broadband speeds in North Norfolk weren’t upto to the task of streaming the lessons delivered by Jane’s husband, the award-winning artist Martin Kinnear.  

“For us to survive the pandemic, we had to set up a new business in North Yorkshire, where the county council has invested in super-fast broadband to all businesses,” says Jane, explaining that the Bolton Estate had been trying to attract the school to Bolton Hall, near Leyburn, for some time. 

Martin Kinnear of the Norfolk Painting School

Students from around the world are taking online lessons with award-winning artist Martin Kinnear - Credit: Norfolk Painting School

“They designed a purpose-built studio for Martin,” Jane explains. “We couldn't have been more courted – or made more welcome." The move to Yorkshire not only allowed the school to provide online lessons but also saw them dramatically increase its reach.  

“Now we can talk to 10,000 people all over the world, not just to 16 people in North Norfolk," says Jane. “Going forward we will be a hybrid business. We will be online, in person, and on demand. That is our new business mantra, and that isn't going to change.” 

In-person art lessons at the Norfolk Painting School's Fakenham studio

In-person lessons at the school's Fakenham studio couldn't be conducted under Covid restrictions - Credit: Norfolk Painting School

Artist Martin Kinnear delivers a lesson at the Norfolk Painting School

The Norfolk Painting School is growing exponentially as a hybrid business: in person, online and on-demand - Credit: Norfolk Painting School

The school doesn’t prerecord lessons – each interactive session is transmitted live. The on-demand element is that students can rewatch the lessons, as they need.  

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Having started the digital expansion, the school now aims to reach hundreds of thousands of people. “The only limitation is that we broadcast in English,” says Jane, "But we have clients who log in each week from India, America, Australia, Finland... 

“We are the biggest, fastest-growing specialist painting school,” she says. “Our hearts are in Norfolk, our heritage is in Norfolk... The question is, can we stay in Norfolk?” 

For more information, see www.norfolkpaintingschool.com 


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