The new creative hub provides facilities for the dance company to expand and create its touring productions and rehearsals. Dedicated studios will grow the company’s acclaimed educational programmes, currently provided for about 60 schools and colleges in Kent. There will also be community classes and additional incubator space for small creative businesses.
The main dance studio measures 19 metres by 22 metres and has a fully sprung dance floor, retractable seating and a full lighting, sound and audio-visual rig. The studio is designed to accommodate the ambitious scenery and vigorous movement which characterise the work of Jasmin Vardimon and will also be available to hire by external creative companies. There is also a café and meeting rooms which will provide flexible community spaces.
The building forms the centre of a major new arts hub in Ashford known as the Creative Enterprise Quarter. The location is also home to Kent Music, an education charity and lead partner for the Music Education Hub for Kent.
The project has been largely financed by an innovative and unique approach by KCC, which has built 26 commercial units on an adjoining site and used the income from them – a combination of sales and leases – to provide investment for new building.
Further capital investment has been secured from Arts Council England, the Cultural Recovery Fund’s Capital Kickstart Fund, Ashford Borough Council (ABC) from the Business Rates Retention Pilot (a fund which aims to support housing and commercial growth in the borough) and the South East Local Enterprise Partnership’s Getting Building Fund. Local materials have been used wherever possible.
Kent Music develops musical opportunities to support the aspirations of children, young people, adults and teachers in Kent. The organisation will consolidate its current operations into a single building which will house its office and meeting room space, music library and musical instrument store and repair workshop.
Of the 26 commercial units, KCC has 15 under offer for sale and 10 others under offer for leasing, all at full market value, meaning only one unit remains available. Sales and lettings have exceeded original expectations due in part to growth in market demand and values in the industrial sector following the pandemic, as well as the positive benefits of having the Jasmin Vardimon Dance Company as the council’s “anchor” tenant.
Guests at the opening event included Peter Bolton and Geoff Miles from Kent Music, the bosses of WW Martin, the company which built the venue, and representatives from Spider Project Management, McCombs Quantity Surveyors and Arts Council England.
“The Creative Enterprise Quarter, Ashford, is one of Kent’s largest cultural infrastructure projects and its development has been an exciting journey.”
KCC's Cabinet Member for Community and Regulatory Services, Mike Hill said:
"The Creative Enterprise Quarter, Ashford, is one of Kent’s largest cultural infrastructure projects and its development has been an exciting journey."
"The Creative Enterprise Quarter, Ashford, is one of Kent’s largest cultural infrastructure projects and its development has been an exciting journey. There have been a number of challenges along the way, including navigating a worldwide pandemic and its ongoing impact."
“We are very pleased to have worked with such a talented team of experts and are very grateful to all of you for the way you have all pulled together to find technical and often creative solutions to drive the project forwards and get us to where we are today.”
An official opening event of the facilities is scheduled for December.