Icon of the Modernist movement, pioneering arts organisation, People’s Palace – these overlapping and sometimes conflicting roles characterise the De La Warr Pavilion built in 1935 and re-furbished in 2005 as a national centre for contemporary arts for the south east region and beyond.
NEA’s De La Warr Pavilion – Analysis of Generation of Social Capital is a report that comes out of an adventurous three month research project which looked at the Pavilion’s connections, networks and partnerships – in other words, the social capital it generates.
If the core thesis of social capital theory is “relationships matter” then the Pavilion can be defined by those relationships with the people who support it, whether that be through its 350,000+ visitors a year who buy tickets, browse the galleries, drink coffee and admire the view or thso that have a stake in us through funding and artistic, education, commercial and business partnerships .
Social Capital has offered a new way of thinking for the Pavilion, reinforcing the cultural change made within the organisation, led by the Pavilion’s director, Stewart Drew, over the last two years. It has revealed that our vision remains strong, but our strength and resilience as an organisation depends on our connections and what we mean to those with whom we are connected. We do not stand alone, but are part of a bigger picture. – in simple terms, it revealed that we are an integral part of people’s lives and stories but not always in the ways we expected. We discovered that we are valued not only because of what we do but how people use us – as a place to meet friends and family, to enjoy the food, the weather and the view. These are relationships that have been “under the radar” for us for many years and we are excited that they have been uncovered as being at the heart of who we are and how we can respond to that.
The study reminded us of the remarkable and diverse social history that comes with being a Grade One listed building that is 80 years old. Here is an opportunity to acknowledge the pride and sense of belonging that our audiences have with Pavilion and actively work with them to preserve our heritage and co-curate our vision for the future.
We discovered how much the physical nature of the Pavilion affects how people use the spaces, both inside and out. A Design Charette, which was a key element of the study, revealed how the architecture and location of the Pavilion influences our relationship with Bexhill town, the seafront and beyond. It allowed us to playfully re-imagine some of the spaces, what they might look like and how they might change and opened the way for new and challenging thinking , not just for us but for the town as a whole.
In the context of a challenging broader economic and social environment, the research conclusions are positive and timely. Not only does it helps us to consolidate our thinking, building sustainability and resilience at a time when it is crucial to evolve our business, but clearly illustrates the responsibility we have, as custodians of this important building, to continue to have meaning and relevance to the communities it serves.
In 2006, DLWP commissioned an Economic Impact Study. The outcome of this study – Creative Impact – showed a headline figure of £16m that the De La Warr Pavilion put into the economy of the south east region, largely generated by its visitors.
The figure includes local, national and international media coverage worth £3.5m and sees the Pavilion as a significant driving force for tourism and culture in Bexhill, Rother district and the wider south east region. The study also provides evidence that, since the Pavilion re-opened, the region has seen an increase in participation and access by the local community in cultural activity, as well as providing opportunities for employment, training and skills development.
Read more about why culture matters on the Arts Council England website here