Arts Council England awards £750,000 towards ‘City Club’

Gareth Jones and Nils Norman: City Club - sketch for a Playscape,

Gareth Jones and Nils Norman: City Club: design for a playscape

Arts Council England has announced that MK Gallery is one of three successful applicants to the latest round of its Ambition for Excellence programme, and is to receive £750,000 for the ambitious ‘City Club’ project.

City Club is the exciting new programme of arts and culture led by MK Gallery and devised with artists Gareth Jones and Nils Norman.  The programme will bring arts organisations, artists and communities from across Milton Keynes together, to help celebrate Milton Keynes’ 50th anniversary and the launch of the expanded MK Gallery in 2017.

City Club aims to refresh the area around MK Gallery, MK Theatre and the approach to Campbell Park in the city centre, creating welcoming spaces that everyone can enjoy.  Inspiration will be taken from the iconic original designs for Milton Keynes and focus on three types of public space: the piazza, playground and garden.

City Club will include new public art commissions, a programme of live events led by The Stables, digital projects led by  Bletchley Park and partners, and numerous talks, workshops and engagement programmes. These city-wide activities will provide important talent development opportunities for local artists, unite many of the city’s arts organisations in their delivery, and involve extensive and diverse communities.

City Club is designed to strengthen the network of arts organisations across Milton Keynes in order to increase the profile and impact of cultural activities in the city and to prepare a Milton Keynes bid for European Capital of Culture 2023.  Ambition for Excellence funds the first phase of City Club. Audiences and partners engaged through this phase will enjoy future use of world class art facilities via MK Gallery’s £11 million renovation and expansion.

Anthony Spira, Director, MK Gallery, said: “We are thrilled that Arts Council England is continuing to support the arts in Milton Keynes. It is a huge honour to be part of the Ambition for Excellence Portfolio, alongside many prestigious national organisations. This award will enable the gallery to partner with organisations across the city to deliver exciting projects for larger and more diverse audiences, in time for the city’s 50th anniversary. This project will also complement MK Gallery’s ambitous expansion plans, so that culture can become, once again, central to the city’s identity.”

Hedley Swain, Area Director, South East, Arts Council England, said: “MK Gallery’s ‘City Club’ is an exciting new project and we are delighted to be able to support it through our Ambition for Excellence fund. It will see artists and communities from across Milton Keynes work together to recognise an important milestone in the city’s history through a programme of new artworks, events and residencies. But more than that, it will also reconfirm the important role that arts and culture has had in developing Milton Keynes as a unique place and a great place for people to live, work and visit.”

Milton Keynes Council are also important investors in the City Club programme. Councillor Pete Marland, Leader of MK Council commented: “We are delighted that Arts Council England is supporting the City Club programme.  Working in partnership with talented local artists, grassroots organisations, schools, disability groups and others, MK Gallery is leading on exciting cultural developments that will have a great impact on the cultural heart and soul of our city during our MK50 celebrations.”


The City Club Programme

Contributing to the MK50 celebrations in 2017 being led by Milton Keynes Council, City Club will manifest as multiple projects and city-wide activities across four main strands:

  • Public art and infrastructure – landscaping in the vicinity of MK Gallery, to enhance the east end of Midsummer Boulevard, including a ‘playscape’, a piazza and a garden
  • Engagement – a learning and community programme exploring the three themes of gardens, piazzas and playscapes, to result in films, publications and display, and ‘City Lab’ talks, events and artists’ professional development
  • Animation and Celebration – to include Live Art commission led by The Stables, digital commissions led by Bletchley Park, a mobile public art commission led by Milton Keynes Arts Centre, and an Underpass commission, led by On the Verge with The Parks Trust
  • Documentation and Contextualisation – a film and book by Stuart Whipps and and a symposium led by Inheritance Projects

A ‘Citylab’ will be formed – a mini-faculty of local artists, architects, musicians and writers –  to brainstorm and animate the project as it develops.  Freee Artist Collective and renowned American artist Vito Acconci will work with the Milton Keynes Arts Centre to create a large-scale mobile sculpture called ‘Citizen Ship’, which will travel throughout the city visiting residential estates, schools and playgrounds.   Project Art Works will continue working with MK Gallery on programmes involving people with severe and complex needs.  Artist Stuart Whipps will produce a film and book documenting the project, while curator Claire Louise Staunton, in association with the Open University, will organise a seminar and conference around art’s role in building communities in New Towns across the world. Playing Out delivered by artists Townley & Bradby, and Meet Back Here will help forge strong relationships with the Gallery’s neighbouring estates of Fishermead, Springfield, Downs Barn and Conniburrow. These activities will form part of a larger engagement programme connecting MK’s diverse communities through consultation, exploration and participation.

City Club is funded by Arts Council England and MK Gallery, with support from Milton Keynes Council.

Ambition for Excellence
Ambition for excellence Arts Council England’s £35.2 million funding programme for stimulating and supporting ambition, talent and excellence across the arts sector in England.  It aims to expand arts infrastructure (especially outside London) and contribute to the development of strong cultural places.   MK Gallery is among three organisations to receive funding in the fourth round of the Ambition for Excellence programme, which will see the Arts Council invest nearly £2.1million to support ambition and talent across England. For more information about Ambition for Excellence see HERE

For Arts Council England’s national news announcement today on the Ambition for Excellence recipients see HERE.

Double your Donation with ‘Grow Your Tenner’


Double your Donation with Grow Your Tenner

We’d like to tell you about an excellent way to support MK Gallery expansion!

From Tuesday 13 October onwards, all donations up to £10 made to MK Gallery via Localgiving can be matched pound-for-pound at no additional cost to the donor. The doubling of donations is applicable for both one-off and monthly direct debit donations made online via

The money raised will contribute towards the final stages of our fundraising for MK Gallery expansion, which will deliver a fantastic new art centre in the heart of the city in 2017. Comprising, beautiful galleries, a dedicated learning space, multi-purpose auditorium and welcoming café/ bar, the expanded Gallery will be a superb facility for residents and visitors alike.

Clare Wood, Head of Development at MK Gallery said “Grow Your Tenner is a fantastic way to make your donation go further. Making a £10 donation via Grow Your Tenner using the simple online system releases an additional £10 to MK Gallery on top of the donation. There is no more cost effective way to show your support for MK Gallery and its vital work bringing the arts to life in Milton Keynes.

For the last 16 years, through an extensive range of exhibitions, events, participatory workshops and community projects, MK Gallery has provided hundreds of thousands of people in and around the city with creative opportunities, including learning opportunities for families, children and young people, people with profound and multiple disabilities and those living at disadvantage.

Thank you in advance for your support and generosity, and please let others know about this campaign!

Successful launch of final show in current building

MK Calling 2015  Launch

Group photo of some of the 70 MK Calling 2015 artists and performers at the start of the preview on 2 July 2015.

Last week we had a hugely successful launch of MK Calling 2015, the final exhibition in our building in its current form before we start our ambitious renovation and expansion.

With an artist group photo at the start, and welcome speeches followed by a hog roast, music and two performances, a great time was had by more than 500 people, and the weather was perfect! We’ve posted some of the preview pictures HERE to give you a flavour of the occasion.

During the welcome speeches Julia Upton of the MK Community Foundation announced their fantastic £311,000 grant award for access in the new building.  Pete Marland, Leader of MK Council, described MK Gallery as a hidden cultural gem and looked forward to the expanded version in 2017 and its contribution to the future cultural life of the city.  Listen to the speeches  here:


Join us on 14 July
Our display of the latest expansion floor plans in the ground floor Events Space proved popular; don’t forget you can see the plans again and hear architect Tom Emerson from 6a talking about them at a free event on Tuesday 14 July at 1pm.  Do join us  as we’d really love your views on how everything is shaping up. Find more information and booking details HERE.

We welcome your support
Fundraising is going well, but as Director Anthony Spira reminded us during the speeches we still need to raise more for the expansion and welcome your support.  Here are some different ways you can help:

  • Make a donation on site and via our website
  • Make a text donation by texting MKGA17 £    followed by the amount of your donation to 70070. You can text donate £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10.
  • Become a patron of MK Gallery
  • Talk to us about major gifts and naming rights

If you wish to discuss ways to support, please contact:
Clare Wood
Head of Development
01908 558 313 or


MK Community Foundation announce grant supporting access

Julia Upton, MK Community Foundation

Julia Upton, Chief Executive, MK Community Foundation, announcing the award of £311,000 for access facilities for the expanded MK Gallery from the Margaret Powell Foundation Fund on 2 July 2015.

We are thrilled to report that the MK Community Foundation has announced the award of a grant of £311,000 from the Margaret Powell Foundation Fund for state of the art access facilities in MK Gallery. The grant will ensure that by 2017 the expanded MK Gallery building will be accessible and enjoyable for everyone, including visitors with severe disabilities, their carers and families.

News of the award was confirmed by Julia Upton, Chief Executive of the MK Community Foundation before hundreds of guests during the welcome speeches at our summer party and MK Calling exhibition preview last night. Fittingly, the speeches took place in Margaret Powell Square, the public space in front of MK Theatre and MK Gallery.

Julia says:  “With the legacy of Margaret Powell, our new city’s first philanthropist and her commitment to Milton Keynes being accessible to everyone, regardless of age or disability, we were able to support this key cultural development for the community. It’s vital that the needs of disabled visitors to MK are embraced as we continue to build the city’s cultural infrastructure.”  

Anthony Spira, Director of MK Gallery says: “We are thrilled to be working with MK Community Foundation to ensure that the MK Gallery expansion fully serves the needs of our community. There is a strong link between culture and wellbeing and this grant enables us to bring the positive benefits of cultural engagement to everyone, whether by engaging with exhibitions and events, participating in targeted learning programmes or using Gallery resources to be inspired by the arts.”  

By 2017 the expanded gallery will include access routes of a generous width, accessible signs, portable seating and a Changing Places toilet – a facility for those whose needs mean they are unable to use a standard accessible toilet. These provisions will hugely enhance the experience of visiting MK Gallery and the Changing Places toilet will open up the venue to an entirely new audience that is currently unable to make extended visits to the Gallery.

The MK Community Foundation accepts funding applications from not-for-profit organisations working for the benefit of the community.

To hear opening speeches from the 2 July preview and summer party visit MKFM Radio website HERE

Milton Keynes Chamber Supports Gallery’s Future

Last year Milton Keynes Chamber of Commerce supported MK Gallery as its Chamber Charity of the Year 2014/2015.

A total of £421 was raised for MK Gallery by the Chamber staff and member companies through a series of activities which included a Chamber Charity Golf Day and a raffle at a Christmas charity lunch, both held with its sister organisation Northamptonshire Chamber of Commerce. These funds will be put towards the MK Gallery expansion.

Anthony Spira, MK Gallery Director, said: “We are extremely grateful to Milton Keynes Chamber for their support over the last year. The partnership has enabled us to really get to know the local business community through the regular networking events and Alliance membership benefits. The opportunities to present the work of MK Gallery at Chamber events have been invaluable. We now know that local businesses understand and appreciate the unique benefits that MK Gallery provides in the community. This new understanding has inspired a range of partnership ideas and we are discussing these with some of the businesses we have met as a result of our Charity of the Year status. A huge thank you to all at Milton Keynes Chamber.”

MK Gallery’s fundraising to deliver the £10m expansion continues. For more details of the different ways in which to support the MK Gallery expansion please contact Clare Wood, Head of Development at MK Gallery on 01908 558313 or email

Cheque being presented to MK Gallery by MK Chamber of  Commerce

Paul Griffiths, Chief Executive of Milton Keynes Chamber of Commerce, presenting a cheque to Clare Wood, Head of Development at MK Gallery, at a Business Alliance Group dinner.