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Charity appoints new Keighley-based arts and heritage officer

Arts and heritage officer Lauren Kelly (Image: Bob Smith Photography)

Lauren Kelly has been hired by Kala Sangam to work with community groups on a project celebrating Keighley's heritage through the arts.

Lauren will work with Keighley Creative, based at its hub in the former Argos building on Cooke Lane.

Her brief is to identify and engage with a number of communities over the next two years, as the Keighley heads into Bradford’s City of Culture celebrations in 2025. The Kala Sangam-Keighley Creative project will culminate with an arts event involving a professional artist.

She said: “The whole point of the project is for each of the post holders to get to know their communities, where they’re based. It’s community-led: the heritage stories of the areas and the residents who live here. The end goal for the two years is to find an artist and commission a massive artistic response to those heritage stories.”

She has already established links with the Sue Belcher Centre in Bracken Bank, having worked with the One In A Million youth group on a mural with Aimee Grundell of Keighley Creative. Lauren has previously worked as a volunteer on several Keighley Creative events.

Over the next few weeks, she will be working with Bradford Council’s ward officers to forge links with communities across the Keighley area.

She said: “We want to find preferably four, maybe three key residential sites across the Keighley district where there is specific community interest – maybe areas where they’re a bit underserved at the moment, not getting enough recognition,” she said. “I want to find key community groups of residents from those sites that I can work with. Along the way we can do workshops, events – all heritage-based – talking about their cultural traditions.”
Lauren has a degree in fine arts from Newcastle University and knows Keighley town centre well, having worked in a bank in the town in her first job at the age of 18. She has recently worked as a freelance in the arts and creative sector.

She added she is determined that Keighley plays its part in the City of Culture celebrations. “I want to highlight Bradford 2025. This project is going to happen in that year of culture, so I’ll be saying: ‘don’t forget Keighley’. So much stuff is going to be happening over here too, so we’ll hopefully be bringing people across into the district.”

Gemma Hobbs of Keighley Creative said: “I’m really excited by the opportunities this project opens up.

“Having a new member of the team with us for the next two years – with her whole role being to go and listen to people about what they want, share stories, and work with local groups to turn these personal histories into great art – will be a big boost for the town. As an organisation, the learning this project offers by linking us up with other centres across the district, to share best practice and tour work, is fantastic.”

Kala Sangam, which will shortly rename itself Bradford Arts Centre, was established in 1993. Its base in the former General Post Office in Forster Square, Bradford, is currently undergoing major redevelopment work.

Amer Sarai, head of community engagement at Kala Sangam and project manager, said: “I am so excited to be launching this arts and heritage project. We have appointed a brilliant group of talented, diverse officers, who will work closely with their local communities to create bespoke programmes of creative work that capture and celebrate their heritages.

“The work developed at each hub will truly be led by the communities they are working with and will really reflect the breadth of experiences, cultures and stories of the people of Bradford.”

Keighley Creative was formed as a charity in 2020, originally operating from the former Sunwin House department store building on Hanover Street. It currently occupies a temporary base in the ex-Argos store on the edge of the Airedale Shopping Centre.

The arts and heritage project has received funding from both the Arts Council-administered Department for Culture Media and Sport’s cultural development fund and the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

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