Ingleton Wood has successfully supported Firstsite, an iconic art gallery and cultural centre in Colchester, to receive almost £700,000 from the Arts Council England Capital Investment Programme to invest in a number of improvements.
Over £22 million has been awarded to 66 cultural organisations nationally, including Firstsite, for 2021-22 and 2022-23. The Capital Investment Programme helps cultural organisations transform their buildings and equipment to operate safely post-pandemic, improve access, seize technological opportunities, and reduce environmental impact.
Firstsite Director Sally Shaw MBE said: “Thanks to this generous funding, we can begin a series of improvements that will have a major impact on Firstsite’s operating model, helping us to reduce our carbon emissions and dramatically improve both the quality and accessibility of our spaces for everyone in our community.
“These exciting enhancements will also ensure we are fit for purpose in a ‘post-Covid’ world with the ability to respond to emerging future challenges.”
Our Colchester office supported Firstsite with the funding application bid and has been appointed to provide multi-disciplinary services for the project including building services, project management, and health and safety.
Director and Building Services Engineer Wesley Henderson said: “We are thrilled to have helped Firstsite receive significant funding from Arts Council England to reshape its sustainable future, having used our expertise in successfully obtaining grant funding to make a strong and compelling case for Firstsite’s investment and the community and sustainability benefits that it will deliver.
“The new LED lighting system in particular will play a major role in future-proofing the much-loved community venue whilst reducing its carbon footprint. We look forward to working with Firstsite on these exciting plans.”
Over half the funding (£582,175) will go towards replacing all the existing light fittings with LED equivalents – reducing Firstsite’s carbon footprint from energy used by up to 68%.
Firstsite Director Sally Shaw MBE added: “The new lighting alone will improve our sustainability and reduce electricity costs by £41,000 annually. Our new lighting system will ensure our public spaces are fully visually accessible, and will allow us the flexibility and precision to best present our amazing exhibitions, lighting all artworks effectively; this lighting will also enable us to highlight and celebrate our building’s unique architectural features so our visitors see the Firstsite building design in all its glory.”
Firstsite’s cinema will benefit from an investment of nearly £110,000 with new projection equipment and an upgrade to the sound system. Firstsite also has ambitious plans to broadcast live streamed events from around the world. This functionality will also be shared with Firstsite’s community partners to allow them to dramatically expand their reach online.
The floor in the Firstsite studios will also be replaced after 10 years of wear and tear from a variety of daily activities, including art lessons, dance, school visits, parties, community groups and the regular Holiday Fun programme which provides free family meals plus art and sports activities to families who require additional support during school holidays.
Nearby 15 Queen Street, which Firstsite owns, will also benefit. The building is used by community groups and offers an important location for Refugee Action Colchester, which supports over 300 families in Essex.
Parts of the exterior and interior will be refurbished and repaired to ensure the building can continue as a valuable resource for local organisations that work with residents.
While hearing loop facilities are already available at Firstsite, they are only installed in certain areas. With the Arts Council’s Capital Investment Programme funding, the facility will be expanded into Firstsite’s meeting rooms and studios. Furthermore, the project will provide a mobile hearing loop facility for visitors in the gallery spaces.
Sally added: “This is a literal and metaphorical ’light bulb’ moment for Firstsite. Not only will these upgrades enable us to make our entire building more accessible and support the needs of our communities, but through this project we are starting on a path of evaluating the full breadth of our environmental responsibility and shining a light on that for ourselves and for others.
“This will be the first in a series of projects that we will deliver to achieve net zero carbon by 2030 in accordance with the COP26 outcomes. Along the way we will share our progress with our audiences, which we hope will light the way for others to collaborate with our team, and others, and together build a more sustainable future for us all.”
Darren Henley, Chief Executive, Arts Council England, said: “World class creativity and culture needs a resilient and sustainable infrastructure to allow it to flourish. With these investments in the buildings, equipment, and digital systems of cultural organisations across England, we are helping to secure the future of that infrastructure, and making sure that people from every part of the country can continue enjoying all the benefits it delivers for years to come.”