Part 5: Into the 21st Century
Over the ensuing years there have been major front of house improvements. Land at the rear was acquired in 1995. 2001 saw the Phoenix Room extension. Asbestos was removed in 2004 and more improvements were made. In December 2005 the Centre won the “People and Places” award for Best Individual Contribution to the Arts by an Organisation in North Dorset. In February 2007 the adjacent building was bought and housed a charity shop raising some £52k.
The lift, box office, Rutter and Proctor rooms were constructed. By 2011 there was an Oscar-computerised ticket and membership system installed, meaning box office staff no longer had to hand write every ticket. In 2013 the shop was converted into an art gallery, which meant the old gallery could be converted into a large open foyer with a bar.
In 2018 the roof to the Proctor Room was raised, and in July the following year work began on the Dance Studio, completed in October 2019.
The Arts Centre is a hub of activity, with Music and Drama groups, the Bell Street School of Dance, a Poetry Group, art classes, a burgeoning Film Society screening recent releases as well as classic movies, sing-alongs, the Live Streaming of Ballets and the National Theatre Live (due to start in July 2020), along with all sorts of other activities: classical ballet classes, jazzercise, dancercise, the Shaftesbury Ukelele Band, the Shaftesbury Steel Band, an a capella choir, pilates, Zen and Dru Yoga, toddler workshops, digital champion sessions to help people master their computers as well as beauty offerings and sessions with Shaftesbury Chiropractic.
Meanwhile, in 2012, following the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the Shaftesbury Snowdrop Festival began with the planting of 60,000 bulbs. By 2014 the town began a heritage collection of rare and unusual snowdrops which draws in visitors from across the globe and which had a starring role in BBC One’s “Countryfile” just weeks before the whole country went into lockdown because of the corona virus.
The centre also houses events for the phenomenally successfully Shaftesbury Fringe Festival and will do for the inaugural Shaftesbury Literary Festival, due to be held this November. Shaftesbury Arts Centre looks forward to opening its doors again, welcoming everyone with its weekly Chat & Chill café and bar serving local produce, refreshments from Shaftesbury Wines and delicious local Purbeck ice-creams. Meanwhile the Art Gallery is always fully booked up well in advance, showcasing the talents of so many artists, drawing inspiration from an area that has always held a fascinating allure…