FIRSTSITE has been awarded £550,000 to co-curate exhibitions celebrating Colchester’s diversity.

The arts venue will work with marginalised members of community groups, who will get first hand involvement in creating the displays.

The intention will be to “speak to the whole of society and provoke conversations about contemporary life, the challenges faced and the solutions which can be created together.”

The venue has been awarded the money from the National Lottery, via the Arts Council Collection National Partners Programme.

Firstsite director Sally Shaw said: “Firstsite’s vision is to be an inspiring gallery that celebrates the people, places and priorities of Colchester, Essex and East Anglia.

“Through our artistic programme, we work to empower diverse people and communities to be creative together to lead healthier and happier lives.

“Our partnership with the Arts Council Collection offers an amazing opportunity to share the making of the artistic programme with all sorts of different people.

“With the process no longer hidden behind closed doors, we can give members of community groups the opportunity to develop powerful connections to incredible artworks through the making of an exhibition, which will then be seen by thousands of people. “

Firstsite was one of three organisations nationwide to receive funding through the Arts Council Collection National Partners Programme for 2019-22.

The others are Sunderland Culture, Sunderland and The Newlyn Art Gallery and The Exchange, Cornwall.

Tim Young, Colchester Council’s portfolio holder for business and culture, said: “It is marvellous news, I do think it does speak volumes for Colchester being recognised as a cultural hub and a place that attracts creative investment.

“Firstsite, under the stewardship of Sally Shaw, is coming on leaps and bounds, it is another feather in their cap.

“It can only be welcomed and we look forward to continuing our really successful partnership with them.”

Hedley Swain, south east area director for Arts Council England, added: “Sally and her team have put a huge amount of work into welcoming Colchester’s diverse communities into Firstsite and this success is testament to the value and impact of that work.”

The first exhibition will open in October.

Subsequent exhibitions and projects will run over the next three years.

Firstsite said community groups will set the agenda for each project and it has selected them from across the region.