The Ironworks, a community arts hub in the centre of the High Street is growing from strength to strength.
Local creative entrepreneurs, Kiwi Community Events (Kiwi CIC) are delivering an ambitious programme of activities and immersive events for creativity, education, support for good mental health and well-being.
The Ironworks came about following a successful bid to the Local Growth Fund from the council, which secured funding to acquire number 90 High Street, which is an iconic building south of the railway bridge, covering the rates and rents for two years.
The Ironworks is attracting people of all ages, backgrounds, and interests. This initiative is the brainchild of two local creatives, sisters, Natalie and Ami Solomons, who formed Kiwi Community Events to make a real lasting positive difference to local people’s lives.
One year on, The Ironworks through its partnerships with other local organisations and charities, provides performance and exhibition space as well as commercial space for social enterprise and local creative start-up businesses and of course employment, volunteer and work experience.
Natalie Solomons, a founder Director of Kiwi explains, “We are a home for everyone. Anyone who needs to get warm, meet people, do business, be creative or learn, or just hang out, everyone is welcome at The Ironworks.”
Since the new community hub was launched last September they have worked with a vast amount of community groups including but not limited to - Welcome to The UK, Project 49, South East Afro Caribbean Community, Public Health team at SCC, Southend College and Essex University including East 15; a huge amount of charities including MIND, Aspirations, One Love, Lady McAdden, Southend PRIDE; and welcomed thousands of the members of the community to the venue.
Natalie continues: “We are proud to be able to offer the platform of performance and exhibition space to not only the established creative community but to aspiring artists too. Every day the phone rings or people drop in to ask about bringing their activities, private and public events or business to The Ironworks. Its now hard to imagine the High Street without it.
“Ami and I, along with our growing team have put a huge amount of effort and hours of work into this beautiful space, because we believe it’s really needed. Southend communities need somewhere to meet and share their work and interests, and some really need to feel that connection in the community for their own mental health and well-being. We are here for everyone; this is not OUR centre - it is a centre for the community.
“Whilst we are doing OK, we are also constantly looking to improve what we offer and to find ways to raise funds to open up more of the spaces in this building. The most vital thing we need is a working lift and an additional stairwell. This job will continually challenge but the rewards of seeing how much local people need us, keeps us going. Please get in touch if you’d like to bring your activities to The Ironworks or if you’d like to support our work and fundraise with us to support Southend-on-Sea communities."
Cllr Ian Gilbert, leader of the council and cabinet member for economic recovery and regeneration, said: “The Ironworks is a great addition to the High Street and I’m really pleased that our successful LGF bid could support this project.
“This new arts and cultural centre has been a big boost for the High Street and will also provide residents with valuable skills to help with personal wellbeing and growth.
“Projects to invest in our High Street are going well, with an increasing number of organisations being drawn to our new City. I look forward to welcoming even more businesses filling our empty units, to create a more bustling, thriving and prosperous High Street.”
If you would like to be a part of this exciting project, email Natalie Solomons at Kiwi: firstname.lastname@example.org
Images of The Ironworks can be found on Flickr.