Crowdfunding bid at Ark-T Centre
The creative arts project in Oxford seeks backing so it can support more people in more projects, writes Beth Allison-Glenny
It started with an artist needing an affordable studio space, and when the church agreed to that they couldn't have imagined what God would do with it.
When the Revd James Grote arrived 20 years ago John Bunyan Baptist Church had a large building that sat empty. Under his leadership it has been transformed into a community hub called the Ark-T Centre, with a music recording studio, play park, dance studio, resident artists, a cafe and even an archeology project.
Most importantly, it's full of people.
We are based in an area (Cowley) where nearly 30 percent of children live below the poverty line and the recent Operation Bullfinch uncovered the vulnerability of teenage girls to be sexually exploited. Truancy from school and high levels of unemployment are also big problems here.
In the Ark T Centre (using the image of the ark as a safe space from those experiencing chaos in the world and the T as a reference to the hope of the cross) we give people a place they can thrive. We take young people who are at risk of being expelled from school and help them create and record music.
Eighty percent of the young women in our music project have experienced domestic abuse, but now they are performing at local festivals. We've recently been a part of a project called Safe, which works with parents and children where children have been abusive to their parents.
We have a Children in Need-funded worker, who runs the play space after school, giving kids a safe place to go and be creative. We have a cafe which takes people referred through the Jobcentre who have been long term unemployed a chance to gain work experience, skills and confidence.
And there is much more we still hope to do, we have waiting lists for these projects and we'd like to run more, such as a music therapy programme for those with dementia which was piloted to great success, music and art work with local schools and to make the play space available to older children.
Someone recently told us "this place saved my life". We believe that the Ark T Centre is part of God's vision for our community, a place where people can find a new life in all its fullness.
But like many charities in this financial climate, we've faced some tough financial struggles in the last few years. However, we've recently been promised £10,000 of "match-funding" which would enable us to take the Ark T into the future, but to unlock those funds we need to raise £10,000 ourselves.
To do this, we're running a crowdfunder campaign. It closes next Friday (31 July) lunchtime and you can access it at: http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/the-ark-t-centres-future
Please help us as we try to partner with God to make his kingdom come, here in Cowley.
The Revd Beth Allison-Glenny is a minister at John Bunyan Baptist Church in Oxford