DAN came into existence, as an informal group, in 2013-2014 as a result of ‘Dartford Creative’. This was a Dartford Borough Council project, supported by Arts Council England and managed by Icon Theatre. One of the objectives of Dartford Creative was to develop the capacity of artists in the area.
Because that programme connected several local artists, a number of them continued to meet informally on a monthly basis. Towards the middle of 2014, as a result of a number of unsuccessful, un-coordinated or even conflicting project bids from members of this group, it was agreed that some formal organisation and decision-making structure was required. DAN also needed some kind of articles of association in order to open a bank account and deposit its initial funding – literally £5 donated by each person at one of the informal meetings.
DAN’s first constitution was agreed at its first AGM on August 28th 2014. This constitution has been edited and improved at each subsequent AGM, but the core objectives and principles are unchanged. Section 2 currently states:
2) Aims and Activities.
Dartford Arts Network (DAN) is an inclusive arts and culture network for those in, around and connected to the Borough of Dartford
Our aims and activities are:
- To engage as many of the people of Dartford in creative activities as possible, as frequently as possible
- In pursuit of this to organise, and seek funding support for;
- public events with a strong arts theme
- exhibitions of members’ work
- public art installations
- To enhance the reputation of Dartford as an arts destination and creative community
- Similarly, to improve quality of life and wellbeing in Dartford through engagement in, and benefit from the impact of, the arts
- To maximise this by reaching out to all local artists and growing the capability and diversity of DAN
- To influence planning and policy decisions made locally which affect, in particular, the visual environment or the role of the arts in the local economy
- Where appropriate to pursue the above by forming alliances with other arts organisations in the region around Dartford.
Overall, in support of the above, a major aim of DAN is to work towards a significant physical venue for the arts in Dartford. This will involve the development of a sound business case, and developing the capability of DAN and its members to manage, or co-manage, such a facility over the long term.”
(“the arts”, throughout this document, refers to the full range of visual and performance arts including digital production, music and dance)
DAN has three elected Officers, Chair, Treasurer, Secretary, Creative Director and a number of other identified functional roles, some of which are shared. Officers are elected annually by secret ballot. Projects are compiled into an annual work programme, with each project having a designated leader and a core organising team of 3-4 people. Approval of project proposals is by a straight majority vote at a business meeting.
DAN holds all-members meetings every month, alternating between a Business Meeting and a Creative-and-Social meeting. The latter includes an open opportunity for members to share work in progress or ideas, and it is to these meetings that we tend to invite other local artists, organisations or prospective new members.
Membership has oscillated between the mid and high 20s. DAN members represent a diverse range of media including: graphic art, street art, video and film, painting (representative and abstract), collage/decoupage, ceramics, fabrics and embroidery, photography, sculpture, and willow fabrication.
As an unincorporated ‘Club or Society’, DAN holds a Club Treasurer’s bank account and is not required to produce accounts. However, a simplified financial statement is presented to each AGM, and voted on. The statement identifies all income and allocates expenditure to completed projects, assets acquired and supporting activities such as printing/marketing. Statements from DAN’s single bank account are available to all members on request.
Since 2014 DAN has completed projects which include:
- Two biennial (sic) themed Spring Arts Fayres in 2015 and 2018 comprising exhibitions, professional and amateur music/dance performances, arts demonstrations, hands-on art workshops, land art, opportunities for local artists to sell work or ad hoc services, food and drink, and art competitions. These were held in Central Park, Dartford, and included taking responsibility for logistics, security, risk management, site clearance and insurance/licenses.
- The ‘Dartford Assembly’‘ outdoor exhibition in Lowfield Street, Dartford. This used the hoardings around a stalled Tesco development to display art from DAN members, but also from members of the public, schools and colleges who took away 1.2m square prepped boards and returned these with completed works celebrating positive aspects of Dartford. DAN members curated the exhibition, designed the overall look of the display and re-coloured the hoardings, ran a number of public workshops on market days to gather material and concepts, and printed large format quotations and ‘facts about Dartford’ interspersed between the artworks.
- Plastic Fantastic. A series of public workshops, and collaborating with a local school, culminating in a 3D map, pipework tree festooned with craft works, and other display items – all on the theme of plastic waste and the impact on the world’s oceans. This was all conducted in a marketplace space within the Priory shopping centre.
- Drastic Plastic Action. A follow-up series of workshops which culminate in a display and three large sculptures [using natural materials but ‘compromised’ by plastic waste items] suspended from the roof supports of the shopping centre.
- A composite artwork, ‘Trevithick’s Steam Engine’, created at Dartford’s Steam Fair by members of the public completing component tiles which made up the finished work.
- A series of four “Pop Up” Land Art events at local village fairs – encouraging people to collaborate in creating free-form images from natural materials such as chalk stone, coconuts, wood and pine cones. These activities engaged, primarily, with children but drew some adults into creating patterns, or talking to DAN members about art and the local environment whilst their children took part. Drastic Plastic Action, the Steam Fair and the Pop-Ups were used to collect quantified feedback on local residents’ artistic priorities and interests.
- A video to showcase our work and increase awareness of DAN and our aspirations for the local community.
- Three exhibitions of DAN members’ work at the Peter Blake Gallery and the Mick Jagger Centre.
Creating, funding and delivering these projects has involved pitching for funding from, and or collaborating practically with, Dartford Borough Council, Kent County Council, Project Dirt/Ellandi, the Priory Shopping Centre, Meyer Homes, Dartford Science and Technology College, North Kent College, Maypole Primary School, the What If Gallery, Wilmington Parish Council, Stone Parish Council, Dartford Bridge Community Primary School, Dartford Library, UK Fostering, Dartford Working Mens Club, Swanscombe and Greenhithe Town Council, The Mick Jagger Centre, and numerous amateur/professional performers and commercial vendors.
This has included administering, and reconciling, the disbursement of some £25k in funds.