for Arts
& Culture
Visual Arts/Museums | Colchester


Firstsite is an award-winning gallery in Colchester showing a mix of historic, modern and contemporary art from around the world. They run a year-round programme of exhibitions, films, workshops, events and outreach projects, working to create exceptional artistic and cultural activities in a fun and inclusive environment.


Firstsite © Jayne Lloyd


Firstsite © Jayne Lloyd

Target Beneficiaries

Firstsite’s work aims to empower communities within East Anglia to be creative together and lead healthier and happier lives.

Participants are targeted through traditional marketing methods (print and online) as well as local partners. The site is free for everyone to visit with venue space provided for community events and meetings. Outreach activities are delivered in partnership with a range of community partners.


Alongside Firstsite’s diverse and changing range of exhibitions, research into the modern history of art in the East of England, and courses, talks, films and tours, the organisation offers:

Education, Learning and Participation: ‘Holiday Fun’ programme provides free meals during school holidays for children and families eligible for free school meals. These families take part in creative activities based around the five ways to wellbeing and the five core employability skills, helping them to eat, connect, be active, take notice, keep learning, give and be inspired. In addition, Firstsite runs regular art workshops for children, and music and dance activities for young people.

Community Engagement: a programme of social and arts events and activities both inside and outside the gallery. This ranges from co-curation and design processes for exhibitions to an open doors policy, supporting community groups to host and facilitate their events at Firstsite.

Firstsite has been selected as one of three galleries across England to partner with the Arts Council Collection, co-designing six major exhibitions with community groups in East Anglia.


In 2017-18:

  • Firstsite worked with 240 artists and 10 external curators to deliver the artistic and learning programme.
  • Firstsite experienced highest ever footfall, 156,000 visitors (many new to Firstsite and many returning for more than one exhibition).
  • 96% of programmable time was devoted to work made by artists from protected characteristic groups.
  • Audiences were 1% more diverse than local demographic. Board achieved representative levels for BME and disabled members.
  • Firstsite delivered 491 sessions for children and young people and worked with 50 schools who made a total of 159 visits.
  • Firstsite established a Holiday Hunger programme, providing meals, creative sporting activity and craft and art workshops for children and families facing economically challenging circumstances. Firstsite has developed a partnership and funding from the NHS to deliver this programme recognised by the NHS as building established and trusted relationships with these families who are most in need, but are not part of an existing NHS intervention programme.

Since the Holiday Fun project began in 2017 it has delivered over 500 sessions, providing a total of 4,326 meals.

At the start of the project, families would attend just for lunch, or just the sports session but now they are likely to stay for two or three of the activities on offer, as well as visiting exhibitions and engaging with Firstsite staff.

Further evaluation on the Holiday Fun programme has shown that:









Arts Council England, Colchester Borough Council, University of Essex, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Children In Need, Youth Music, Garfield Weston Foundation, TATE, 14/18 Now, East Contemporary Visual Arts Network (ECVAN), Coode-Adams Trust.