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CentreStage: Shining a spotlight on creativity, community, enterprise – and more

The vision at CentreStage in Kilmarnock is for a society where everyone reaches their potential and achieves their hopes and aspirations, regardless of their circumstances and background.

“Our values of Hope, Inclusion and Aspiration underpin all that we do,” the organisation proudly states. “We create places where everyone is welcome, where everyone has their own story and everyone has the potential to grow.”

Spend even just a short time in and around the building and you can see how it achieves all of that and more – encouraging creativity, embracing entrepreneurship and fostering a remarkable sense of inclusivity which has community at its core.

“Community is everything to us – providing opportunities for people to come together; to leave their labels behind,” explains CentreStage co-founder Dr Fiona McKenzie.

“We’re all just people. We’ve all got a story to tell – and we’ve all got a story ahead of us. It’s not about where we’ve been before. It’s about where we can go. And I think Kilmarnock is the most incredible place.”

Fiona McKenzie, co-founder of CentreStage in Kilmarnock. September 2023. Picture: Scotland’s Towns Partnership

Founded in 2006, CentreStage – Ayrshire’s Arts Academy, operates with an ethos that anyone can gain life-changing social benefits through active participation in the arts.

After completing what was, at the time, Scotland’s largest community-led asset transfer, its home is on the site of the historic former Kilmarnock Academy, having previously operated from a number of other sites around the town.

It is now not only home to incredible live performances in its auditorium, but performing arts classes, creative and recreational groups.

Its cafe-bar is also a busy hub – not only among people attending the venue for events but as a place to meet up.

All areas of CentreStage’s work are inextricably linked, creating a fantastic atmosphere.

Fiona says: “It’s an incredible place . . . Every time somebody buys a coffee here, comes to class or goes to a show or event, everything goes to support the work of the charity, allowing us to operate a broad range of activities and support.

“The beauty of this space is that no-one needs to know why you’re here. You’re just at CentreStage. We’re here to provide this space and provide welcome access to the arts. Everyone’s welcome and that’s the most important thing about it.”

CentreStage is certainly a place that others across Scotland look towards at how they can foster an inclusive sense of place.

Inspiring others

The way in which community is embedded in all of the work at CentreStage has been celebrated as part of Scotland Loves Local, the Scotland’s Towns Partnership-led drive for people to build better futures for the places in which they live by getting behind local people, enterprises and organisations.

Television presenter Sean Batty, a campaign ambassador, visited and learned all about the impact of the team’s work on people, the economy and more.

Among those the STV weatherman met were members of the Aspire Choir who treated him to a rendition of Singing in the Rain as they enjoyed some singing and dancing.

Sean said after his visit: “He said: “It’s been great being at CentreStage to meet some amazing people and see a little of the brilliant work that’s being done. 

“It all highlights the tremendous difference that choosing local – and getting behind projects in our communities – can make to people and businesses.”

You can read more here.

CentreStage has also been an advocate of the East Ayrshire Gift Card. Working alongside East Ayrshire Council, it has used the cards to support people and families, including opening opportunities for people from all backgrounds to be able to take part in events and activities.

Find out more about the gift card here.

CentreStage was the venue for the 2022 Scotland’s Towns Conference. You can watch the event highlights here.

Find out more: www.centrestagemt.org.uk / call 01563 551505