Creative Chilmington Green

Initially commissioned by Ashford Borough Council to produce a Public Art Strategy, our challenge was to help the client consider how to incorporate the arts into a 20-year construction project for 5750 homes at Chilmington outside Ashford in Kent. We worked closely with different council teams and liaised with other public and private strategic partners to establish how culture can be a fundamental part of this new community, delivered through a range of different projects and approaches.

A major urban extension to Ashford
A major urban extension to Ashford
A major urban extension to Ashford

Ashford hasn’t benefitted from the level of strategic cultural investment that continues to be seen across the region, especially across the coast and increasingly in the Thames Estuary. Towards the end of 2019 however, Chilmington was designated a major part of The South of Ashford Garden Community bringing strategic recognition as a large scale development area. Our strategy is helping to position the scheme as a place where culture and creativity can support and benefit existing and new residents as a core part of place shaping.

“It is the single biggest planning application the borough of Ashford has ever dealt with and one of the largest in the country. It will be the longest running, largest and most complex corporate project in the Council’s lifetime.”

Ashford Borough Council

Reflecting local heritage is key to the strategy which focuses on a series of cultural projects and ongoing exploration of where and how culture can be integrated, for example through schools initiatives, arts-focused health and social activity and provision of affordable creative workspace and the public realm.

Commissioning a variety of art projects

Local residents have been involved in development consultation over many years. Rather than add to this, we involved residents in a creative project, commissioning artist Janetka Platun to explore and respond to Chilmington as the first houses were being built and to establish the intention to actively plan for culture.

Janetka got to know the local community and explored the area. She produced a creative response which will be gifted to participants and new residents and exhibited in the first Community Hub which will open in 2020. Celebrating local heritage and involving the community at this pivotal moment of change will help set a quality benchmark in terms of how engagement should be integral to creative projects, and to establish the quality of artistic responses we want these projects to generate.

More information about Janetka’s project can be found here

“The Creative Chilmington Strategy provides a great platform from which the CMO and its partners can help create a community which participates in arts and cultural activities, through creative projects which engage with new residents.  A local community leader has already remarked on the quality of the strategy. Thank you to Susie and David for their work, for listening, bringing creative and innovative approaches to the development of the strategy and helping to ensure ownership is in place by many of those involved in the delivery of Chilmington.”

SallyAnne Logan, Chilmington CMO Project Manager
Ashford Borough Council

Chilmington will be developed and stewarded through a new Community Management Organisation (CMO). Creative Chilmington will be governed by the CMO board, and via a Creative Steering Group made up of Ashford Borough Council, CMO members and local residents. Our strategy set out recommendations for how to ensure delivery sustains a clear ambition and quality, whilst allowing the flexibility required by the 20-year development timeline.

We also provided a horizon scan of strategic culture and how participation in culture and creativity continues to be at the heart of programmes and investment. In particular we showed how different kinds of cultural engagement can support a range of strategic aims such as developing skills, building social connections, creating unique public realm and celebrating local heritage, building local pride.

Project 1: An artist-in-residence
Project 2: New primary school public realm
Project 3: Artist and community co-production

“Creative Chilmington allowed us to think long-term while working with the here and now by commissioning a socially engaged public art project with existing local residents of all ages and so building appetite for future projects amongst the council, the CMO and the local community”

Susie Gray, Cultural Associate

We have proposed that residents should be encouraged to take an active role in the commissioning of future projects by being part of steering groups, participating in creative activities and helping to set the strategic direction of Creative Chilmington.

“This strategy responds to the growing cultural economies within Ashford Borough and will ensure that community arts are central to the many projects and programmes being delivered by the CMO, the Council, development partners, voluntary organisations and residents themselves.”

Ben Lockwood – Chair
Chilmington Management Organisation

We were commissioned by Ashford Borough Council and worked closely also with the Chilmington Community Management Organisation, a new strategic partnership overseeing the development of Chilmington. The project ran from September 2017 to early 2020. In late 2019 the strategy was adopted by the CMO and by Ashford Borough Council and launched in February 2020.

Ashford Borough Council

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