Creative Colchester is a partnership that represents and champions the cultural, creative and digital sectors, bringing together the major arts organisations, educators, businesses, freelancers and artists in and around Colchester. We aim to:
- Support the development of Colchester as a centre for culture, creativity and digital innovation, building a positive sense of identity
- Support young people and students to access training and careers in the creative and digital sector
- Support freelancers, businesses and not-profit organisations within the creative and digital sector to grow and thrive sustainably.
We do this through:
- Developing collaborative projects that build audiences, increase participation in creative activities and offer opportunities to emerging practitioners
- Working with schools and colleges to support young people interested in a creative career
- Providing support for freelancers and businesses to grow and thrive
- Giving strategic input to city-level initiatives and policy development
- Advocating for the importance of culture and creativity at all levels
The creative sector in Colchester
Colchester is home to a thriving and expanding creative, cultural and digital sector, employing over 5,000 people across the city and anchored by five Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisations – Firstsite, awarded Art Fund Museum of the Year in 2021, the Mercury Theatre, Colchester Arts Centre, the Colchester + Ipswich Museums service, and Signals.
Colchester is recognised nationally as a hub for creativity: by the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) as a Creative, Cultural and Digital Hub for North Essex, by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) as a creative cluster as well as being recognised in the government’s Industrial Strategy Sector Deal for the Creative Industries.
How we work
Creative Colchester is a Community Interest Company overseen by a Partnership Board representing the cultural, creative and digital sector in and around Colchester. The board includes:
- Representatives from all four National Portfolio Organisations in the borough
- Representation from the University of Essex and Colchester Institute
- Further board members (up to maximum of 15 board members in total) providing wider representation of the sector, including businesses, freelance practitioners, young and emerging professionals and non-NPO organisations.
Representatives from Colchester Borough Council and Essex County Council (including officers and lead members/portfolio holders), Arts Council England, and other key partners are invited to attend board meetings as observers and to contribute to discussion when appropriate but hold no decision-making role.
Cameron Abbott Betts
First Thursdays Festival Producer
I am a composer, performer and theatre director After growing up in Colchester, I’ve been really lucky to create work for organisations ranging from the Barbican to the Royal Opera House to companies showcasing our unique region including the Mercury Theatre and Eastern Angles. A major passion of mine is creating projects which connect communities to where they live, and being able to do this by developing a programme which promotes, connects and upskills the incredible creative talent we have in this city through Creative Colchester is a huge privilege.
I am a festival producer and academic from Colchester. My journey in the arts began in 2015 as an actor and theatre maker for multi-award-winning physical theatre company Royal Kung Foolery. In 2021, I co-founded Colchester Fringe Festival and have been its director since its beginnings. I firmly believe in promoting culture and new artistic talent in our city, whilst actively looking to provide stages to art makers from all over the world to perform their work in Colchester.
Hana is co-director of HAT Projects, an award-winning Colchester based architecture, urban design and planning practice working primarily in the cultural and community sectors. HAT Projects also developed and manage Trinity Works, a creative workspace hub in the centre of Colchester. Hana is a chartered town planner and co-chair of the Suffolk Design Review Panel. She was previously a board member of DanceEast and Roman River Music.
Anthony Roberts is Director of Colchester Arts Centre, which he has led for more than 30 years. The venue presents an eclectic mix of performance, championing new work, experimentation and innovation. Anthony is also chair of Frozen Light Theatre Company, a trustee of Bobby Baker’s Daily Life Ltd and acts in an advisory capacity for the arts partnership Hunt & Darton. He has worked extensively at the Edinburgh Festival where he has long campaigned for better access for artists and audiences with disabilities.
Sally is Director of Firstsite, winner of the Art Fund Museum of the Year 2021 award. Previously Sally was Head of Programme at Modern Art Oxford, Deputy Head of Culture for the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, Chief Curator for London Underground, Director of Media Art – Bath and Residency Programme Manager at Spike Island, Bristol.
Frank is Museums Manager for Colchester + Ipswich Museums and a trustee of the Colchester Museums Development Foundation.. He was previously director of Norton Priory in Cheshire, where he led a £4.5m redevelopment.
Abbi Roberts is Development Director at the Mercury Theatre.
Susan is Faculty Dean of Research in Arts and Humanities and Professor of Literature at the University of Essex.
Ben is Head of FE Music and Performing Arts at Colchester Institute. He has extensive experience over many years in actor training and educational leadership.
Steve Goatman is an independent coach, educator and contemporary performance producer based in Brightlingsea. He co-founded Colchester Fringe Festival in 2021, was an Associate Producer for the SPILL Festival from 2015-18 and has produced work at the Colchester Arts Centre, Nottdance Festival and Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the University of Essex’s Lakeside Theatre and Art Exchange and many other venues.He has raised nearly half a million pounds from the ACE small project grant fund to support arts projects and in 2020 he established Steve Goatman Coaching and began working with clients from the creative industries, academia and third sector leadership.
Rachel is Director of Signals, a centre for creative digital learning in Colchester. Rachel has managed the company since 2007 and has many previous years experience of working in media, education and arts organisations.
Ben is Creative Director at the Creative Coop, a Colchester-based creative studio. They specialise in branding, design and web development and primarily work with social enterprises, community projects and organisations, charities and the public sector. With over 15 years of industry experience and 10 years as part of a worker-cooperative, he aims to grow Colchester’s creative network, and provide opportunities and connections for both individuals and like-minded organisations in the local area. Alongside facilitating social events, he is an advocate for worker-cooperatives and has provided speaker sessions for universities both home and abroard.
Tom is the founder of Constellation Marketing, a strategic marketing agency based in Colchester. For Tom, creating an effective marketing plan comes from a deep understanding of our clients. His greatest asset is his strategic insight, with his energy and creativity influencing both national and global campaigns. As part of the thriving Essex Knowledge Gateway ecosystem, he has helped dozens of SMEs and innovative tech businesses to launch their brand. The face of the business, he is adept at building strong working relationships with industry and academic stakeholders, as well as managing collaborations with suppliers.
Carla Hales is a professional musician who plays for Essex Concert Band, The London Recorder Orchestra and sings with the National Teachers choir. She is the founder of the Colchester Musicircus project and runs the Bits “n” Pieces concert series. Carla also works for the Essex Music service as a piano, brass and woodwind tutor. She is the District Lead Tutor for the Colchester area and has responsibility for working with the community.
Remi is the founder of Red Cactus Media. She is a Nigerian/British producer who has credits including music videos, feature films, corporate videos and short films. After nearly ten years in music and media PR in London, Remi has worked for some of the biggest radio stations in the UK working on campaigns for national artists and LoveBox Weekender. won Female Entrepreneur of the Year 2019 at the BME Business Awards and Red Cactus Media was shortlisted for Business of the Year. She is part of the programme board of Suffolk Libraries, and also works with Future Female Society where she runs workshops for young women to get them into the creative industries. She is also an Enterprise Advisor for the New Anglia Careers Network.