Sophie O'Sullivan, about 3 years ago
Centrestage takes an inclusive approach to arts enrichment. The charity actively raises aspirations by creating a community where anyone, regardless of age, background or experience, can access the life-changing social benefits of arts participation.
It was established in 2006 in Kilmarnock, Scotland by two music teachers Paul Mathieson and Fiona McKenzie. They currently support over 2500 members across Ayrshire weekly. Centrestage has recently been shortlisted as Best Theatre in Scotland at this year's Scottish Hospitality Awards 2019.
Centrestage run a number of initiatives, including award-winning Catalyst. The activity supports individuals who need help in finding a new direction, and also individuals that have been involved in the criminal justice system. Centrestage have a unique partnership with HMP Kilmarnock, working within the prison and then post liberation for as long as required to break the cycle of reoffending, debt, homelessness, additions and poor mental health.
The Catalyst Kilmarnock base in John Finnie Street runs a plethora of different activities from singing to performance and painting, which can be deeply enriching, providing an environment for meaningful outcomes to form. Centrestage work in partnership with Serco to manage the Family and Friends Hub at HMP Kilmarnock, creating a welcoming and supportive environment for those visiting family and friends in prison.
Arts are the catalyst for conversation.
-Frank Gormanley, Head of Marketing and Communications at Centrestage
Many people who have gone through the criminal justice system come from disadvantaged backgrounds and have gone through extremely difficult periods in their lives. The arts opportunities that Catalyst provide stimulate the imagination as participants can begin to imagine a brighter future and life away from crime.
On release, Centrestage are at hand to pick up individuals and support them throughout their rehabilitative journey. Even if it's just sitting down with a cup of tea or coffee in the Centrestage café, here ex-offenders are welcomed and are able to hear stories from the community.
When participants feel able to engage with employment, Centrestage helps them find work placements in anything from construction to office admin and management to engineering. Art is at the heart of what the charity delivers, however it's not the intention that everyone progresses into adopting a career in the area. They work with many partner organisations, namely Workingrite who help provide employability and works experience opportunities. Several of the participants have been employed by Engie (a leading energy and services company).
Billy Nash, one of the Catalyst participants was identified as a suitable candidate to support Engie, due to his experience and desire to change his lifestyle and gain some purpose and routine with employment. Billy commenced employment with Engie as a plumber's mate in the summer of 2018 and has sustained employment for twelve months. He continues to do really well, progressing onto a Plumber's Apprenticeship this year and working toward passing his driving test.
John Andrew works in the arts sector. John was released from prison in 2016. He was supported by the Catalyst programme and, since then, he has developed a professional career as an artist who specialises in lifelike pastel with the help of his mentor Harry Sutton. John volunteers with Catalyst, juggling this with his Art and Design HNC at Ayr College. You can view his incredible artwork on Twitter @thePicturist.
-John's work: Peregrine Falcon (pictured above)
We need to help people who have gone through difficult times, breaking down barriers and helping shape positive journeys for them.
--Frank Gormanley, Head of Marketing and Communications at Centrestage