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Cranleigh Arts

Cranleigh Arts Centre

May 9, 2024

Cranleigh Arts is a vibrant, cultural hub located in Cranleigh, Surrey, serving as a focal point for the community and offering a diverse range of artistic and cultural experiences to residents and visitors alike.

We chatted with Penny Bramsden from Cranleigh Arts to find out more about what they do. 

Tell us a bit about Cranleigh Arts…

Cranleigh Arts is a vibrant, cultural hub located in Cranleigh, Surrey, serving as a focal point for the community and offering a diverse range of artistic and cultural experiences to residents and visitors alike.

The venue hosts a variety of events including live performances, film screenings, art exhibitions, workshops, and classes with a diverse programme across theatre, music, dance, visual arts and literature and catering to a wide range of interests and ages.

We play an integral role in supporting local artists and performers, providing them with a platform to showcase their talents and connect with audiences as well as collaborating with regional and national arts organisations to bring high-quality productions and events to the area.

We also offer educational opportunities through workshops and classes, allowing community members to explore their creativity and develop new skills in the arts.

Can you tell us a little about its history?

Formerly the local village school (1847 – 1966), our building is steeped in history and something of a landmark on Cranleigh’s high street.

The organisation was founded in 1978 when a number of local community groups – including The Photographic Society, The Film Society, The Arts Society, Cranleigh Players, Adult Education and a local pottery group – came together to lease the disused Victorian school building from Waverley Borough Council. Their founding principle “to enrich, entertain and inspire” remains our mission today.

Under the Chairmanship of Jack Wagg, plans were drawn up to develop and extend the premises. This was expedited by Catherine Pike in the 1990s, culminating in major work in 1997/8 with the aid of Lottery money and other grants. Our multi-purpose auditorium was added to the premises and the rest of the building stylishly refurbished. Over the last twenty years, we have continued to enhance the facilities for our visitors and maintain our heritage building for the community.

We are grateful to many of our well-known patrons who have supported us over the years, with Harry Secombe becoming the first patron in 1988, Paul Jones in 2007, Julie Walters in 1918 and our most recent patron Rich Miller, who many years ago was our resident potter and is now a judge on ‘The Great Pottery Throwdown’.

What are some of the things people can expect to see and do at Cranleigh Arts?

There’s always something exciting happening, including:

Live Performances – an eclectic mix of theatre productions, music concerts, dance performances, comedy shows and more. From local talent to touring acts, there’s something for everyone’s tastes.

Film Screenings – catch the latest independent films, cult classics and blockbuster hits on our big cinematic screen. We also host event screenings such as National Theatre Live, Royal Opera House and Exhibition on Screen.

Art Exhibitions – explore thought-provoking art exhibitions in our Gallery, featuring works from local artists. From paintings and sculptures to photography and mixed media, there’s always something inspiring on display.

Workshops and Classes – engage your creativity and learn new skills, from painting and pottery to sound baths and yoga, with opportunities for both beginners and experienced, catering for all ages.

Community events – get involved in various community events such as our recent Cranleigh Literary Festival. 

Children’s activities – keep the little ones entertained with a range of children’s activities including storytelling sessions, art and craft workshops, puppet shows and interactive performances designed specifically for young audiences.

Café, bar and social space – relax and unwind in our café. Meet up with friends for a coffee and a slice of cake or grab a drink from our bar before or after a show.

Overall we offer a dynamic and inclusive space to come together, explore your creativity and celebrate the arts in all its forms.

It’s become a popular destination for event cinema - can you tell us about that?

Certainly! Event cinema has become increasingly popular at Cranleigh Arts, offering audiences a unique and immersive cinematic experience beyond traditional film screenings. Event cinema typically involves broadcasting live or pre-recorded performances such as opera, ballet, theatre, concerts and special events onto our big screen.

Screenings here often include live theatre broadcasts from renowned theatres such as the National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company and West End productions. Popular plays have included ‘Prima Facie’, ‘Fleabag’, ‘The Motive and the Cue’, ‘Nye’ and ‘Dear England’…we could go on!!

We also broadcast opera and ballet from prestigious opera houses and dance companies, including the Royal Opera House and Royal Ballet. Whether it’s a classic opera by Verdi or a breathtaking ballet by Tchaikovsky, audiences can enjoy the beauty and grandeur of these art forms on the big screen.

From classical concerts to contemporary music performances, we offer event cinema screenings featuring a wide range of musical genres and artists. Andre Rieu has been a big hit over the years with another concert screening planned for September.

We also screen special events and documentaries about art and artists through Exhibition on Screen broadcasts. Recent highlights include ‘John Singer Sargent’ and ‘Tokyo Stories’, with ‘My National Gallery’ coming up next month.

What are the main challenges with running this kind of venue?

Running a venue like Cranleigh Arts comes with its own set of challenges, despite its importance and popularity within the community. We very much rely on the goodwill and hard work for our team of over 100 fabulous volunteers.

We also, like many arts organisation, face financial challenges from time to time, in terms of securing funding, generating revenue and managing expenses. Reliance on ticket sales, grants, donations and sponsorships requires careful budgeting and fundraising efforts to ensure the venue’s financial stability.

Curating a diverse and engaging programme that appeals to a wide range of audiences can be challenging and balancing popular, commercially viable events with more niche or experimental offerings requires careful planning and understanding of audience preferences.

We are fortunate to have an attractive building on the busy high street in Cranleigh and this needs maintaining and upgrading in order to meet the needs of performers, artists and audiences. Technical equipment must be up to date, providing comfortable seating and amenities is essential and we strive to address any maintenance or accessibility issues as they occur. Regulatory compliance is also key, ensuring that we adhere to health and safety standards, licensing laws and copyright regulations.

We work hard to build and sustain community engagement, fostering relationships with local artists, organisations, schools and businesses as well as encouraging community participation through volunteer opportunities and collaborative projects.

Finally external factors such as economic downturns, changes in government funding and global events (like pandemics) can and have impacted the operations of Cranleigh Arts. Flexibility and adaptability are key to navigating these and the team certainly rallied during the Covid pandemic. With careful planning, strategic management and support from the community we have continued to thrive.

Give us a flavour of what is coming up this year

We have some fantastic live tribute acts coming up including Blondied, The Carole King & James Taylor Story, The Alter Eagles and ABBA Forever. We also have rock/blues band Brave Rival playing here soon.

The Queen’s Six are back too – the concert last year was spectacular so don’t miss it. Also we welcome rising stars of the British Opera Company back by popular demand to bring beloved stories from the world of opera and musical theatre to life through memorable scenes from Cinderella, the Marriage of Figaro, the Magic Flute, Showboat and other popular favourites.

For theatre lovers, The Freshwater Five, a story of five fishermen who were convicted of importing £53 millions of cocaine in 2011 will grab your attention – great for fans of true crime too.

We have Rob Beckett performing his sell-out comedy show as well as LDN Wrestling taking the stage in a family friendly American style wrestling show. For something a little more chilled, try a Sound Bath with gongs, singing bowls and gentle percussion.

This is just a taster, for the most accurate and up to date information visit our website, check our social media channels (Facebook, Instagram and X) or contact our Box Office directly – 01483 278000. We have a full calendar of events planned throughout the year, offering something for everyone to enjoy.

Any local partnerships?

We work with many local schools – too many to mention here, but including Cranleigh CofE Primary, St Josephs Specialist School, Cranleigh School, Hurtwood House, Park Mead Primary, St Catherine’s School and Yehudi Menuhin School.

We also collaborate with charities including Meath Epilepsy, Artventure, The Arts Society Cranleigh, Cranleigh and District Lions Club, Cranleigh Choral Society, Cranleigh Village District Guides, The Jigsaw Trust, and U3a Cranleigh and District area.

And in terms of local theatre groups, we are involved with Surrey Youth Theatre, Showdown Theatre and In2Drama.

And finally and most importantly our delicious cakes are supplied by Viviana from Vivi’s Kitchen and are to die for, but don’t take our word for it, experience them first hand and come and discover for yourself!!

Finally, can you share with us some of your favourite businesses in Cranleigh.

We love Celebration Cakes, a family-run bakery who’ve been in the village for many years now and have helped us with a few corporate events.

We’re also fans of One Forty, a boutique department store with a cafe, selling lovely clothes, gifts, jewellery, and home furnishings.

With The Three Horseshoes pub over the road, we are well and truly sorted for a light lunch and a pint!!

Find out more about Cranleigh Arts by visiting their website here.