My first year as CEO and director at Farnham Maltings has flown by, and what an exhilarating journey it has been so far. My family and I live in Wrecclesham, so it is a huge privilege to be overseeing an organisation that’s at the heart of my local community. 

As a creative organisation that works with the artists and communities of South East England to encourage the greatest number of people to make, see and enjoy the best art possible, I get to see and hear first-hand the impact our work has on people’s lives.

Whether that’s the audiences that come to see theatre, live music, comedy and film here, attend our craft festivals, browse around the Monthly Market, visit the museum, or participate in a whole range of workshops and community activities.

We’re also delighted to be the home for many community organisations including u3a and the University for Creative Arts – all of whom use our building regularly.

I’ve chatted to as many people as possible about their experiences, and again and again I hear of how welcoming and friendly they’ve found us. There’s huge support for Farnham Maltings and it’s joyful to see so many friends and families not only enjoying the artistic experiences, but also the culinary ones from our Riverside Café. 

We reckon we’ve got the best chef in town (not that I’m biased) and we’re delighted that pre-show dining is back on offer. 

So, one year on, what does the future hold? What are the plans? Well, like many charities and cultural organisations, the road to recovery post-Covid has been gradual, and we’ve recognised the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on many people’s lives.

So, we’re determined our mission to bring artists and makers together with communities to improve people’s lives continues making our work as accessible as possible to everyone. We’re moving forward with new music nights like Soundstorm, showcasing up-and-coming bands for a younger crowd, as well as Open Mic Nights that give new and established acts a chance to share poetry, spoken word and comedy. We’re going to expand our programme of work for family audiences as well as continuing our annual Family Festival which ran for the first-time last September. 

Families enjoying the 2023 Farnham Maltings' family festival
Families enjoying the 2023 Farnham Maltings' family festival (Farnham Maltings)

Also, alongside our screenings of NT Live, we’re going to continue presenting and producing new theatre. Some of you may have been to see our recent productions of The Christmas Lobster or The Band Back Together. We’re programming top names from the comedy circuit and have acts lined up like Griff Rhys Jones, Lucy Porter, Milton Jones and Omid Djalili. We’re committed to presenting live music for all ages and tastes.

We’ve booked Empty Trains, Mad Dog McCrea, The Blunter Brothers, Turin Brakes and The Opera Boys. Do check out our website for details. 

Oh, and we’re currently putting our heads together to plan a festival celebrating Bob Dylan, but we’re not allowed to talk about that yet. We know there’s a huge thirst for rock, blues and folk in Farnham, so there will be plenty on offer.

We run a number of activities for the community including our free Nimble Fingers crochet and knitting drop-in group and our popular Games Night fortnightly on Mondays. Where possible, we extend our reach to share top quality performances workshops and activities more broadly. Supported by Farnham Town Council and Waverley Borough Council, we tour work that helps to tackle social isolation, improve mental health and provide opportunities for young people.

We’re working again with New Adventures this summer to tour ‘Doorstep Duets’ and continue to lead workshops in local community centres, reaching those that have the least opportunity to engage with cultural activities. We’re there for everyone. 

Daisy May Kemp and Bryony Wood perform a Doorstep Duet at Hale Community Centre in Farnham.
Daisy May Kemp and Bryony Wood perform a Doorstep Duet at Hale Community Centre in Farnham (Farnham Maltings)

There’s more – I could go on about the theatre that we tour to village halls across the South East; how we support 180 venues with the house South East Theatre network, or our International work with caravan, soon to be presented as part of the Brighton Festival. There’s also the historic restoration of Willmer House as part of our agreement with Waverley to run the Museum of Farnham. 

We’re a busy organisation, with huge ambitions to continue delivering and expanding the highest quality arts experiences for you. A precious jewel in the crown of Farnham. 

This couldn’t be achieved without the huge support we receive from our local community, including a team of over 50 volunteers. One even dressed up her dog as a lobster to sell tickets for our Christmas show last year. How’s that for dedication. 

At Farnham Maltings we believe that arts and culture can have a huge, meaningful impact on people’s lives – whether it’s through improving mental health, decreasing loneliness, or providing access to fantastic arts experiences for those that wouldn’t usually have the opportunity. 

Finally, I’d like to say thank you to everyone who donated to Big Give Arts for Impact fundraising campaign. Over the space of a week, we were able to raise £11,225, surpassing our £10K target which will enable us to bring back our Family Festival this September and make it even better and have an even higher impact. Thanks to your support we can now plan a brilliant, fun-packed day with a whole range of free and low-cost activities for children and families in our community. We were overwhelmed by your level of support so watch this space for more news on the festival!

As you can see, we really are an organisation for everyone and I look forward to welcoming you back or for the first time this spring.