UK’s first virtual arts academy takes off

JPCT 081112 Launch of new Arts Academy. Guests from TATA Consultancy Servises. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 081112 Launch of new Arts Academy. Guests from TATA Consultancy Servises. Photo by Derek Martin

The first virtual arts academy in the UK was launched near Horsham this month.

Pioneered by Andrew Bernadi of the Bernadi Music Group, the launch asked attendees to support the non-profit organisation with its plans to provide golden opportunities for West Sussex children and young adults up to age 25.

Strongly backed by the West Sussex County Council and global business giant Tata, the academy has already begun to garner interest beyond the county boundaries.

The county council’s director of learning, David Sword, explained: “This is what we call a 21st century academy.

“It’s not about buildings, it’s about identifying groups that aren’t accessing arts programmes and areas of the county where there’s lack of provision and then stimulating that provision.”

The evening opened at Sedgwick Park House on November 7 in the vestibule with a performance by the Southwater Junior Academy Choir, followed by the West Sussex Music Service Saxophone Sextet.

Mr Sword continued: “Children, like those tonight, will get enormous enjoyment out of it with the skills that they’ll develop and some will hopefully go on to work in the arts.”

Following the school curriculum, the academy will bring together aspiring musicians, artists, actors and dancers, as well as behind the scenes talent to develop students’ social, cultural and academic skills.

At a time of diminishing public resources and a competitive job market, the academy hopes to build pathways to higher education and employment for young people.

Mr Bernadi spoke enthusiastically: “A thing that’s always excited me is raising the academic standard of children through the arts.”

Peter Griffith, the county council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Schools, said: “We want to gather all the communities that have artistic abilities and see how we can nurture individual talent.”