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New centre for MidKent College’s Medway School of Arts

12 July 2023

MidKent College has agreed the lease for its new Medway School of Arts at The Sail and Colour Loft in The Historic Dockyard Chatham with students starting courses this September.

MidKent College announced in January 2023 its plans to open a new art school, expanding its art courses for the people of Medway and Kent to offer qualifications to university level.

On signing the lease for the new premises, MidKent College principal, Simon Cook, said: “The Historic Dockyard is known in Medway as a hub for the creative industries, so we are delighted to base Medway’s School of Arts there.” The Sail and Colour Loft was previously used by Kent Business School.

Mr Cook said Medway School of Arts would offer degree level courses, accredited through the University of Kent.  “The opening of Medway School of Arts represents the latest in a series of developments emerging from Medway’s vibrant and innovative creative sector. We have a strong legacy of creative arts education across the towns that developed the careers of famous names such as Zandra Rhodes, Karen Millen and Tracy Emin.

“Ensuring that we can sustain university-level creative education in Medway is fantastic, and we’re delighted to be working with forward-thinking, passionate and committed organisations to bring this plan to fruition. MidKent College is proud of its continuing contribution to the skills needed in this sector.”

Richard Morsley, Chief Executive, Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust, said: ““We could not be happier that MidKent College will be opening Medway School of Arts at The Historic Dockyard Chatham. We have a proud history of innovation and education at the Dockyard and we are honoured to be playing an important role in expanding Medway’s creative sector. We have a growing hub of cultural businesses within the Historic Dockyard and provide a unique and inspiring environment for students to study. We look forward to working with the team at MidKent and helping them welcome their new students to the Dockyard in September.“

Cllr Harinder Mahil, Medway Council’s Portfolio Holder for Heritage, Culture and Leisure, said: “We are delighted that the lease has been signed for the Medway School of Arts. Medway is renowned for its wide range of talented creatives, many of which received an excellent arts education in the area, so we are thrilled that future generations will be able to continue this legacy at the new Medway School of Arts.

“The Medway School of Arts also supports Medway’s cultural strategy, delivered by Creative Medway, which aims for Medway to be internationally recognised for its creativity and culture by 2030. We know how important the role of educational organisations are in encouraging and supporting new talent and existing creatives and it is incredibly exciting that Medway will soon be home to a new school of art which will encourage even more of Medway’s creative talent to flourish.”

Clare Roach, Creative Arts HE Centre Lead, Medway School of Arts, has previously worked for West Kent College running their Creative Arts HE provision and the Ashford School of Art & Design, both pivotal in bringing arts education at all levels to the local vicinities.

She said: “We are excited to announce that Medway School of Arts will be based at the Historic Dockyard, not only is this an inspirational place to study for our students, but we will be close to the creative businesses and academic community already in the Dockyard as well as being close to the wider creative communities in Chatham.  We know there is a demand for this level of arts education in Medway and the surrounding areas. The cost of university courses away from home means people are keen to study locally if they can, and the Medway School of Arts is going to give them that option.   We are also working closely with the local creative ecosystem and Medway Council to ensure the plan for the School of Arts meets the needs of the whole community and encourages people not only to study in Medway, but then stay in the area and run a range of businesses.”

Medway School of Arts is working in partnership with the University of Kent’s Institute of Cultural and Creative Industries (iCCi) and Medway Council.

Director of iCCi Professor Catherine Richardson, said: ‘We are very excited to be working with MidKent to develop an ambitious vision for creative skills development in Medway. This is part of the university’s wider investment in cultural and creative industries that will support the growth of the local creative economy, which is central to our plans for education and research in Medway. We’re at the start of a really innovative new era here!’

In 2025, iCCi will be opening Docking Station – a brand new hub for the cultural and creative industries in Medway with a focus on immersive digital technology, based on The Historic Dockyard Chatham.

Fiona Watt, Chair of Creative Medway said: ‘A Medway School of Arts is vital to who we are.  Medway is a place and a creative eco system in which institutions like this have played a vital part socially and economically. Chatham Historic  Dockyard Trust have demonstrated innovation and entrepreneurship as they have shaped the Dockyard into a home for such a wide variety of creative industries. Situating Medway School of Arts in the heart of this established  and growing creative community will benefit and inspire everyone involved in this new venture. We look forward to working with the team at Mid Kent to build a resilient network of support for the sector, continuing the Medway legacy of excellence provided by internationally recognised practitioners and educators who have dedicated themselves to building the skills and talents of our young people.’

MidKent College already offers Fine Art, Graphic Design, Games Art, Photography and Creative Media courses in both Gillingham and Maidstone from Level but introducing the Medway School of Arts means students can expand their education to degree level.

Jatin Patel, Creative Director of fashion brand Kalikas Armour, which is based in INTRA, Hulkes Lane, Rochester, says having the new Medway School of Arts is ‘absolutely crucial’ so young people can experiment, explore and express themselves before going into the specialisms of the creative industries. He is a UCA alumni, having studied for his BA and Masters in Fashion there. He said: “It is more important than ever because the needs of the world have changed, the careers or roles are going to be so different in the next five to six years with the innovation of digital and technology that is integrated into everything. We have to be reactive to what the world needs with a massive emphasis on real purpose and sustainability. I’m really excited and pleased that this collaboration has come together as a catalyst to offer real opportunity to create culture and creativity in Medway. The new Medway School of Arts will help build and strengthen the infrastructure for the creative industries here leading to a highly skilled and informed workforce, that lifts the whole economy”

The Medway School of Arts opens to students from September.

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