Food insecurity is a common issue faced by people in all thirteen areas that Centrestage works in within North and East Ayrshire. For that reason, food is placed at the heart of all Centrestage’s activities – designed around their ‘Fun, Food, Folk’ model.
At the heart of Centrestage’s success is an approach to food provision which creates a social setting that can facilitate a dignified transaction.
“Our motto is Fun, Food, Folk, so what we like to do is go in with activities, build up that trust through talking and engaging with the community,” explains Sheena, who heads up Centrestage’s EAT Eat & Train programme – a 12-week cookery course based around nutrition and food budgeting which also comes with a recognised hygiene certificate.
“A relaxed atmosphere helps immensely with people, just to calm down and find out what the root cause is – why they have to come for their food, what the problems are. Then we can link them up with other organisations. It’s just about trying to signpost them to the right help.”
At each of the EAT sessions, support organisations from across the sector, as well as public sector partners, are invited to present to the group, opening up avenues for vital services to reach potentially vulnerable individuals in an environment where they feel more comfortable to talk about the issues they are facing.
“Our project uses the arts and food to bring people together to catalyse the energy of communities. We are now located in 13 community facilities enabling the team to provide information about health and wellbeing including; healthy diet, smoking cessation, alcohol and drug advice and signposting and debt management. Our aim is to collaborate with statutory and non-statutory organisations, ensuring the most appropriate help and support is available at the right time.”
The extent of Centrestage’s activities goes far beyond its EAT programme, giving them scope for numerous avenues for enterprise activity.
Predominantly an arts organisation, Centrestage runs several music, dance and drama classes for anyone and everyone – from pre-school to pensionable age groups.
Many of the classes have a charge applied, with the courses building towards ticketed performances, musicals and cabaret nights which also drive revenue up.
Fundraising events raise an average of around £50k every year, while the ‘pay-it-forward’ model is very much a part of Centrestage’s activities.
All monies raised through various enterprise activities are pooled into a central pot of unrestricted funds to help meet Centrestage’s social goals, which can then be distributed to programmes which have lost funding or have met a shortfall.
Centrestage recently completed a £2m Community Asset Transfer with help from the Scottish Government and the Regeneration Capital Grant Fund, which has seen them acquire the entire site of the former Kilmarnock Academy.
A five-year plan will see Centrestage base its entire operations at a new ‘Centrestage Village’ on the site. The village will provide like-minded organisations with spaces for lease to allow wider support to be offered onsite, while also providing additional revenue sources.
A new theatre space is also part of the plans, allowing wider public performance and conference opportunities, ultimately allowing Centrestage to be less reliant on grant funding in future.
Centrestage’s Dignified Food Provision programme has so far supported 1,158 adults and 783, with over 290,000 portions of food being distributed.
Meanwhile, Centrestage’s EAT & Train programme has so far engaged around 200 people, with around 83% of participants completing the latest course.
By exposing participants in the programme to vital services in a trusted environment, Centrestage is able to greatly increase the likelihood of individuals getting the support they need, whether that be accessing benefits, mental health services, employability programmes or support from a range of statutory and third sector bodies.
When you get fun within a community, then you get your trust, then you tend to find solutions to the problems within a community.