Aviva Community Fund Winners – A4 Studios, Altrincham

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Over the last couple of years, I’ve been thrilled to be able to chat to some amazing community groups who have benefited from additional funding thanks to the Aviva Community Fund. Last year I visited Twinkleboost, who deliver speech & language training to parents in deprived communities and the year before I spoke to some of the girls at Farsley Celtic Girls FC about how they benefited from being part of the team.

Last month, I visited A4 Studios in Altrincham who secured funding the 2018 Aviva Community Fund.

The Aviva Community Funds invites applicants to apply under one of three categories – Environment, Health & Well-being or Skills for Life to secure up to £25,000 in funding. You can then have your say, voting for groups close to your heart who would really benefit from the funding!

The Aviva Community Fund also offers ‘more than money’ support through a range of toolkits, helping local groups to shout about the great work they are doing! This helps groups to future-proof themselves for whatever tomorrow may bring.

The Skills for Life category focuses on projects which help communities and individuals to improve their lives by learning new and useful skills; often literacy and digital skills. These are the projects which aim to help people live easier, more fulfilling lives thanks to the new skills they develop. As such, A4 Studios fits perfectly into this category.

A4 Studios are a not-for-profit organisation founded by a group of disabled and able-bodied artists with the aim of providing affordable studio space for artists in the North West.

I didn’t really know what to expect when I arrived at A4 studios but was quickly won over by the quirks of the building and the passion of its inhabitants.

A4 Studios are based in a large warehouse right next to the tramlines in Altrincham. There’s so much natural light and the individual studios are clad in pallets giving an industrial feel. Because the studios have been built almost entirely from donations, each studio has a different front door giving it an eclectic, individual look and, making it feel a little like a street. I imagine that, for the creators, the studios soon become a home from home.

The studios themselves have been built in a range of shapes and sizes to meet the needs of a variety of different artists – currently including a guitar teacher, videographer, upholsterer and a tattoo artist to name but a few!

There are 28 accessible studios in total, which are rented out monthly to artists with additional needs – be that mental or physical. The rents are set lower than the market rate to provide artists who might not normally be able to access studio space with a place to work. This is a really community focused space – when a vacancy comes up, applicants are vetted to ensure that the studios maintain a variety of crafts (rather than having six photographers) and that also the studios are let to creatives who will complement the current set up to maintain a safe environment for tenants.

Centered around Air Gallery (a small art gallery showcasing work from around the world) A4 studios is a place of inspiration, creativity and safety for its artists and visitors from the wider community.

As well as the individual studios, A4 studios has a newly made event space for workshops, events and other community projects and this is where the Aviva Community Fund comes in. The money from the Aviva Community Fund is being used to hold Accessible & Inclusive Workshops run by experienced artists with the view to increasing health and well-being. These workshops are free and open to anyone who would like to take part thus providing a creative, collaborative place for individuals who might otherwise have felt isolated.

When I visited A4 Studios, they were holding a free needle felting workshop with Claire Tindale. Six people attended the session, all were artists in some form and most had studied art at college or university level. There was such a lovely atmosphere within the group – it didn’t matter what level of skill or experience people had, this was about learning something new, having a brew and a biscuit and taking some time out from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

All the attendees commented that they found the class relaxing, even therapeutic, and some planned to invest in materials to do more needle felting at home. The work created in this session will be displayed as part of an exhibition of 800 houses made by Claire herself and in community sessions such as this one.

Moving forward, the team at A4 Studios are looking to run a series of professional workshops for visual artists covering the realms of grant applications, portfolio building, social media and marketing, mentoring, writing an artist statement, creative problem and business planning solving to name a few.

The aim of the Aviva Community fund is to help build stronger communities together and their funding is helping A4 Studios to do just that. If you are local to Altrincham then pop down for a look around the gallery and see what’s going on and keep your eye out for the next workshops too !

You can check out other winners by visiting https://at.aviva.uk/celebrate

#Stronger Communities


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