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Arts Factory in Ferndale Seen as “Vital” in Brand-New, Wales-Wide Study on Strong Communities

Written by on 1st December 2020

Tuesday 1 December 2020: For immediate release

The “vital work” of Arts Factory in Ferndale has been highlighted along with just 14 other groups in brand-new research, commissioned by leading community development charity, Building Communities Trust (BCT), and partners WCVA, Wales Coop, DTA Wales, Coalfields Regeneration Trust, and Planed. Mapping Community Assets in Wales, is a report written by Funding Assist, and showcases Arts Factory as providing vital services to the community, holding it up as an example of good practice that other groups elsewhere in Wales could emulate. 

Published on 25 November, the study maps out, for the very first time, the largely unrecognised work of community groups like Arts Factory across the whole of Wales. BCT is calling on Welsh Government to recognise and nurture the largely unpaid work of over 400 community groups, and to include it as a vital component in its future plans for Wales.  

Arts Factory is a Limited by Guarantee Company with Charitable Status and any profits are ploughed back into the communities they serve for social benefit. Arts Factory’s aim is to develop a strong portfolio of businesses that will fund an extensive community programme, focusing on meeting the needs of the most marginalised people in their communities, continually reshaping their programme of work over time to achieve this goal. They want to reach a point where their businesses, which are all social enterprises, are strong enough to support the core costs of Arts Factory. 

Often the lifeblood of towns and villages, the research unveils over 400 community groups, like Arts Factory, across Wales that are sustaining the very fabric of Welsh society, saving buildings from falling into disrepute, and providing vital services to locals in times of crisis (like the Covid-19 pandemic and the floods) as well as day-to-day essential services, like transport services, cafes and post offices. This research demonstrates the extent of this work in Wales and its value – estimated to be worth at least £50 million

Chris Johnes, Chief Executive of BCT, says: “The work of groups like Arts Factory should not be under-estimated. On the strength of their exemplary work, we are calling on Welsh Government and Local Government to relax their paternalistic instincts, and put faith in local people to know – and do – what is in the best interests of their communities. 

“Welsh Government needs to take seriously the role of community groups, like Arts Factory, in propping up the country’s services, particularly those who have stepped in to take over publicly owned buildings and schemes. Many have been built from the ground up, and are now extraordinarily successful social businesses. Welsh Government needs to nurture community groups and inspire others elsewhere in Wales to follow suit. That’s why we’re calling on the next Welsh Government to put in place a Minister for Communities that will prioritise this work.” 

Lisa Wills of Arts Factory says: “We’re delighted to be recognised in this research. We work hard to support these services and it’s important that each area in Wales has the opportunity to come together if they so wish and have more say in how their community is run.”

The unique research and map, was launched during an online event, How Strong are Welsh Communities?, on Wednesday 25 November and also outlined BCT’s conversations with over 250 people from grassroots community organisations. Community groups often improve the life chances of residents, particularly older people, children and young people and other vulnerable groups, by: 

o    enhancing their health and well-being, by running activities like youth clubs, parent and toddler groups and mental wellbeing support services;

o    offering popular social events, like coffee mornings and community cafes;

o    employing staff and contributing to local economies (over half of the community groups listed have an income between £100,000 and £1m, with 5% making at least £1m turnover);

o    providing vital services, via pop-up shops and post offices; and

o    protecting local environments.

You can learn more about community groups across Wales by visiting Building Communities Trust’s website: www.bct.wales