The next step for our company – developing a brand for the future
It is an exciting time for Kala Sangam.
In 2017, building on our expertise in delivering South Asian arts, we launched a new strategic vision and business plan focussed on being inclusive to all. Our aspiration was to offer a diverse artistic programme, increasing our relevance to and engagement with more of Bradford’s communities.
Through dance, literature, music, theatre and visual arts we have reached more people than ever before. Our audience figures have doubled, with over 60% now coming from Bradford. We attract some of the most diverse audiences in the country. The percentage of our audience who identify as Asian or British Asian has increased to more than a quarter. Our switch to Pay What You Decide ticketing in 2018 helped open access to people from areas of very low arts engagement, with 37% of our audience now from this group.
Our support for artists has significantly increased, as has our role as a key partner in strategic projects and development across the district. Our success in reaching more of Bradford’s communities means we are better placed than ever to support our major funders in achieving their aims, such as the Arts Council England’s new Investment Principles, or the 10 targets of Culture Is Our Plan – the new cultural strategy for Bradford district.
We are proud to say that our support for Indian classical artforms has never been stronger, with an increase in performances and the number of artists supported.
In 2024 we hope to begin delivery of an ambitious capital redevelopment project. This will see us create a new 200-seat theatre, 4 new studios – for both artist use and community engagement, a home for community broadcaster BCB Radio, and deliver a range of work to improve access and remove barriers to entry in our Grade II listed building.
This capital project will be transformative for Kala Sangam and the people of Bradford. Bradford is one of the most diverse districts in the country and we want to celebrate that diversity – we want all our city’s communities to know who we are, what we do and feel welcome to come into our building to make and see shows, use our facilities or just be. In the youngest city in the country, we will be able to provide more opportunities for the children of the district to grow, learn and develop a love for arts, culture and heritage. We will be a space where creativity and culture make a difference to people’s lives and aspirations, regardless of background.
Since 2018, we have been engaging with the public – not only with existing audiences and users of our building, but with communities which do not currently use our spaces – to identify what barriers to access there might be. We have surveyed audiences, held focus groups, talked to communities, and commissioned an independent consultation in 2019. Evidence shows that once people enter our building, they feel welcome, safe and see themselves reflected in our work (regardless of their heritage). However, for a number of communities, our name is unfortunately a barrier to them even walking through our door.
We want more local communities to develop a sense of ownership over our publicly funded space. The evidence is clear that changing our name will enable more people from Bradford to develop a sense of loyalty to, and engagement with, our arts centre.
As we look to be an arts organisation that is relevant to all, we will look for a name that will allow us to be that. We will look for a name that people from diverse backgrounds, who may speak English as a second or third language, can easily understand. We need a name that roots this organisation in Bradford. We need a name that communities do not feel ‘belongs’ to someone else, and that can ‘belong’ to them if they choose. We will look for a name that excites and inspires local pride. We will look for a name that reflects who we are now as a company but honours the organisation we have grown from.
We will always be proud of our roots, and our commitment to supporting Indian classical artforms as key strand of delivery will continue. We will continue to embody the values that have made Kala Sangam successful over the last 30 years, whilst increasing our reach. Although our name will change, our delivery will remain the same – with all work that we support or present aligning with one of our programming strands.
Our historic attenders remain hugely important to us. As we look to craft a new identity that is more reflective of our organisation now, we will ensure that this new identity does not create a barrier to those who have traditionally supported us.
As we aim to open the doors of a new state of the art, flagship facility in 2024, our vision is for a space filled with communities from across Bradford. A space that all people will be proud to stand up and say – ‘this is for me’.
A modern, accessible arts centre for all.