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The Albany looks to the future with new Head of Creative Programmes

Theatre news

THE Albany has announced that Rachel Nelken has been appointed as the venue’s new Head of Creative Programmes. She will join the Albany in October 2017 from Roundhouse where she is currently Senior Producer.

The Albany has grown and changed significantly in recent years but the mission to serve the diverse communities of South East London remains at its heart. The organisation is putting the success of its work with local people at the centre of its artistic planning for the next four years, aiming to make a step change in the way the organisation works and what it can achieve.

Rachel Nelken will be working with the CEO and Artistic Director Gavin Barlow on ambitious new plans which will be announced in 2018.

CEO/Artistic Director, Gavin Barlow said: “We’re delighted Rachel is joining the team and excited to work with her over the coming years to confirm our place as a world class community arts centre. We have a rich and radical history, including a pioneering focus on community arts in the 1970s and we’re proud to reinvent that tradition.”

Rachel Nelken, newly appointed Head of Creative Programmes said: “I’m really excited to be joining the Albany at such an important time. All my work to date has been about reaching and supporting the widest group of artists, participants and audiences. The Albany is a ground-breaking example of success in including and welcoming people and helping to unlock their creativity. I am really happy to be a part of that going forwards.”

Significant achievements in building partnerships with local communities and co-creating work are central to the Albany’s current success. The recently published Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation’s Inquiry into the Civic Role of Arts Organisations, acknowledges the key role of the Albany and similar venues, and sets a challenge to arts and culture organisations in the UK to meet new social challenges.

Projects which empower and engage groups who are least likely to access the arts – such as Meet Me at the Albany, working with isolated older people, and the pioneering partnership with social housing provider, Lewisham Homes – sit at the heart of the model. A number of awards have recently acknowledged this success, including the first national Hearts for Arts Award for Meet Me at the Albany’s contribution to social cohesion.

The approach has allowed the Albany to reach audiences and participants most organisations don’t, with an audience closely matching census data for the local populace including over 40% of audiences from BAME backgrounds. 30% of audiences are from groups who don’t usually access the arts (against an average for London venues of 13%).

Over the last five years, the Albany has extended its reach across three venues, and now manages and programmes two cultural and community hubs, Deptford Lounge and Canada Water Culture Space, which both include libraries as part of their offer. The Albany itself has become the most significant cultural hub for South East London, with 26 resident organisations based at the venue, including nine Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisations and the international Fun Palaces campaign.

Gavin Barlow added: “The Albany is at a crucial point in its development, at the same time its local area is facing a process of significant change. We aim to rise to the challenge of changing needs, both as an essential local landmark and as a leading UK arts centre. It is fantastic that Rachel is able to join us at such an important time.”

The Albany’s 2017 Summer Season.