Ideas Test

Celebrating the creative power of communities
Midsummer Nights Dream by The Handlebards at Art In The Park
Midsummer Nights Dream by The Handlebards at Art In The Park
Photo courtesy of The Handlebards
My self wonky portraits workshop with Wendy Daws at Sittingbourne Library
My self wonky portraits workshop with Wendy Daws at Sittingbourne Library
Photo: Kyra Cross
Radio Kent Audio Camp
Radio Kent Audio Camp
Photo: Mel Golding
Sea Folk Sing performance for Idea's Test's Celebrating Age project
Sea Folk Sing performance for Idea's Test's Celebrating Age project
Photo: Hope Fitzgerald
Take On Me guest cast, Dante or Die
Take On Me guest cast, Dante or Die
Photo: Simon Martin

Where: Medway and Swale, boroughs in North Kent
With: Swale Community & Voluntary Services (lead body), Medway Voluntary Action, NHS Swale and Medway, Sheppey Matters, Swale Community & Voluntary Services, University of Kent, Whitstable Biennale/Cement Fields. Observers from Medway Council and Swale Borough Council, specialist advisors from Cohesion Plus

"I’ve been waiting to get involved with something like this for years." Volunteer, Sea Folk Sing 2018

"I really felt I was finally being listened to and supported as an artist."  Funding surgery participant 2019

"Interactive, individual, moving, thank you - wonderful." Audience member,  Take On Me 2018

Ideas Test works to create a vibrant arts ecology in Swale and Medway that involves the full diversity of local communities and brings new opportunities to celebrate the area.

Ideas Test’s aim is to boost the number people taking part in arts and creative activities. We do this by supporting them to get involved in whatever way they choose.

In 2017-18 we served 13,750 audience members and 2,062 participants – that is, people who performed or took part in an event, for example as community cast members. There was £20,000 in kind value to the local economy of volunteer and participant time. 85% of people came from within the Swale and Medway areas and 43% of participants had not engaged in arts in the last 12 months.

Since 2012, we have changed from an micro-investment model into something more holistic, getting communities to co-create with innovative and diverse artists and organisations. This means their voices are heard and they have ownership of the project.

Instead of being ‘we know what you want’, Ideas Test offers places and spaces to ‘create with us.’ We believe in working with communities to expand horizons - ours as much as theirs - and celebrate quality creativity whatever it looks like. We couldn’t do what we do without the fantastic support of our communities, volunteers, participants, funders and partners.

From a doodle on paper to a large-scale performance piece, to work co-designed with socially engaged artists, Ideas Test celebrates communities and the creative power they have, supporting young people and others to lead and play a part in production.

North Kent has a rich heritage in arts and culture, but over half of our project’s catchment area is rural, with poor transport links, high unemployment and economic and social deprivation also issues in the area. We are working across the geography with partners to tackle the barriers to engagement.

Investment of our time and resources aims to support and respond to people’s needs. This may be employing creatives from non-academic backgrounds or helping over 55s create new music relating to their lived experience. From working with younger people to develop their skills, independence, experience and confidence across artforms, to helping support and develop the local cultural & arts ecology. Our approach has lasting health and wellbeing outcomes for participants as well as arts practitioners. We work in and through community hubs, working men’s clubs, healthy living centres, parks and libraries.

We bring work usually seen in cities to areas that may not otherwise experience this. To us ‘high quality’ means it’s smart, has passion and means something to the people of Medway and Swale, and beyond. We want to help raise ambition and local pride in a wonderful and diverse part of the UK.

Read Ideas Test's CultureHive case study about their project with Dante or Die to bring theatre to non-traditional art spaces.