Krowji is owned and managed by Krowji Ltd which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Cornwall Arts Centre Trust Ltd, usually known as ACT - one of Cornwall's key creative industries organisations, running a number of projects in Cornwall and across the wider South West region.
ACT was established in 1984 to provide a programme of performing arts events in mid-Cornwall and to campaign for the creation of a proper arts venue for Cornwall – hence our name. One of the initial spurs for this was the threat to redevelop Truro’s old City Hall as a supermarket – the Hall was far from ideal as an arts venue, but it was at least in public ownership and had great potential. During the 1980s ACT (as it rapidly became known) promoted a whole range of events there, from the Royal Shakespeare Company’s regional tours to contemporary jazz, as well as using other venues such as leisure centres, village halls and schools.
In 1990 the company agreed with the key funders – Cornwall County Council, Carrick District Council and South West Arts – that we should concentrate on providing a programme of events and that the campaign for a building should be separate from this work. This led to the establishment of the Hall for Cornwall campaign, led by former ACT board members, which took over the lease of the City Hall in 1991 and ultimately to the opening of the new Hall for Cornwall in November 1997.
Through the 1990s ACT developed a programme of small-scale performance work, concentrating mostly on contemporary theatre and dance; there was an especial emphasis on summer season outdoor venues, promoting companies such as Miracle Theatre, Music Theatre Kernow and Kneehigh at National Trust properties like Trelissick Garden or Trerice. A typical year saw about 100 performances at about 15 different venues to a total audience of about 15,000.
Alongside this programme we gradually developed our role of network support for the performing arts in Cornwall, administering the Cornwall Promoters’ Consortium of small scale venues and promoters as well as providing financial services to the Cornwall Theatre Festival and we were instrumental in the establishment of the Cornwall Arts Network in 1994 which built links between the performing arts and other sub-sectors, especially the visual arts.
As a result of this process of building networks and partnerships, ACT made its first successful bid for European funding in early 1999, drawing together a partnership of 16 organisations to run a European Social Fund project called Training for Arts Companies which delivered a mentoring programme based around business planning skills for small businesses. This was followed by the establishment of the Cornwall Arts Marketing project later in 1999 with funding from the European Regional Development Fund. With the arrival of the European Objective One programme in 2000, both of these initiatives were developed further with major bids which led to the setting up of Creative Skills in 2002 as the key skills development agency for the creative industries in Cornwall and the expansion of Cornwall Arts Marketing into a separate ACT subsidiary company in 2002. Creative Skills has delivered support to over 2,500 practitioners in Cornwall with funding from a variety of sources including ESF, the Arts Council, the South West Regional Development Agency and the Learning and Skills Council. From 2003 to 2006 it was responsible for establishing the regional ArtsMatrix service which it then handed on to the new ArtsMatrix agency based in Bristol.
Along with this expansion of sector support came changes in the promoting work. In 2001 we established a new Cornwall-wide rural touring scheme, Carn to Cove, with the help of Lottery funds and support from the County Council and all six district councils. This aimed to offer rural communities the chance to promote events in their local venues – there’s a wide range of these schemes across the UK and Carn to Cove is very similar to many others. We work in collaboration with many of the other professional promoters in Cornwall through the Venue Cornwall scheme which is managed by The Works which is Cornwall’s development agency for the theatre and dance sectors. Carn to Cove has been a regularly-funded Arts Council client since April 2004 and has gradually expanded its work to include delivery of the World Heritage Site cultural programme and other projects.
At the end of 2002, ACT’s Board decided to bring to an end nearly 20 years of promoting our own events programme. The direct reason for this was the removal by Carrick District Council of all its funding for this work (South West Arts had cut its revenue funding for our promoting work back in 1993), but this was also a logical result of the changes in the patterns of the performing arts in the area, with the Hall for Cornwall providing a range of middle-scale work and a number of smaller venues such as The Princess Pavilion and The Poly in Falmouth and Truro College now running their own programmes of professional work, so there was less need for ACT to carry out this role as well. This has left a gap in terms of summer season open-air work and this is currently the subject of review.
From 2000 to 2004 we were responsible for a series of major community productions of the plays in the medieval Cornish miracle cycle, The Ordinalia. These were based in St Just in Penwith and presented in the town’s plen an gwary, the medieval ‘playing place’ where the plays would originally have been seen. We commissioned contemporary English language versions of the plays which were performed by local people supported by a professional team. For more details of these productions please see the Plen Project site.
Since about 2002 ACT has been developing its biggest project to date, working with CPR Regeneration and other partners to develop the former Redruth Grammar School into offices and managed workspaces for up to 250 people. ACT bought the premises from the County Council in 2005 and received planning permission for a major capital redevelopment of the site in 2011; we have now secured the funds for Phase 1 of our flagship scheme which will promote the best of the Creative Industries in Cornwall and work started on site in March 2014.