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Open School East

Open School East supports artists at an early stage of their career to develop their practice and become self-sufficient, and enables young people and adults alike to learn new and transferable skills, develop their confidence, and shape their creative voice by becoming active learners and co-producers of the school’s programmes.

Undervalued energetic economy workshop with Raju Rage, Open School East, Margate, February 2020. Photo courtesy of Open School East

Open School East (OSE) was set up in response to spiralling fees and student debt, and is committed to making art education accessible to a broad cross section of society. This is done by making its programmes entirely free of charge and opening them outwards, responding to local needs, and providing an informal and welcoming environment for the development and sharing of skills and knowledge across all communities and generations.

Situate learning in the young people’s everyday personal and collective experiences

Working with people from a young age is one of the approaches used by OSE to start impacting, albeit on a small scale, the education system and its inherent inequalities. This work took off in 2017 when OSE created, at the request of local children, the weekly Despacito Art School for 5 to 12 year old children without opportunity to develop their self-expression. In 2019, the accredited and full-time Young Associates Programme (YAP) was launched for local youth aged 16 to 18 who had fallen through the net. Using art and project-based learning, the YAP strives to situate learning in the young people’s everyday personal and collective experiences. Situated learning too finds resonance in the Associates Programme for adult cultural practitioners, which is further characterised by its self-directed approach. Associates develop their agency through programming, organising and decision-making, essentially shaping their year and influencing the organisation around them. Self-scrutiny and self-evaluation are key qualities of the organisation which, for good or bad, is continually shifting.

OSE was founded in 2013 in East London. In 2017 it was relocated to the Cliftonville area of Margate, Kent. From 2019 to mid-2020 OSE operated from two locations in Margate: the first floor of the Adult Education Centre and the ground floor of CRATE Studio and Project Space. In 2020, Open School East moved to 39 Hawley Square, Margate, where it hopes to settle for the next few years.

Organisation and People

OSE is a registered charity and National Portfolio Organisation, supported by Arts Council England. Core and project funding come from a range of sources including trusts and foundations, and individual donors. As a charity, the organisation has a Board of Trustees and is accountable to the Charities Commission.

Open School East was founded by Anna Colin, Sarah McCrory, Sam Thorne and Laurence Taylor. Anna Colin and Laurence Taylor formed the core founding team and Sarah McCrory and Sam Thorne joined the Board when the charity was set up. Laurence Taylor and Anna Colin were co-directors of OSE from 2013 to 2018. Anna Colin was then director in 2019 and 2020. Polly Brannan joined OSE as artistic director in 2021.

This description is based on excerpts from and through input from Founder and Director Anna Colin.


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