Now We Are 10: Firstsite celebrates a decade of success


What began as an idea for a new visual arts centre in the early Noughties and became an ambitious, striking Colchester landmark in September 2011, is now celebrating its tenth birthday. During the intervening years, Firstsite has presented world-class exhibitions by the likes of Gillian Wearing, Andy Warhol, Grayson Perry and most recently, Michael Landy, CBE.
Today, Firstsite is a national leader in commissioning new art, providing innovative learning opportunities, and supporting the professional development of local and regional artists. The gallery has also provided online creative activities during lockdown, instigated Holiday Fun, a free activity programme to give families who need support an opportunity to have fun, get creative, socialise and enjoy a hot meal during the school holidays, while its inspirational Director, Sally Shaw was awarded an MBE just last year. Firstsite has also been shortlisted for the prestigious Art Fund Museum of the Year 2021, with the result due later this month.

With so much to celebrate, Firstsite is hosting a very special birthday party on Sunday 26 September from 11am – 5pm. It’s free and EVERYONE is invited!

Visitors can enjoy delicious complementary food from a variety of different community group stalls offering cuisine from around the world – including the legendary S&S Caribbean café, famed for its jerk pork and chicken, goat curry, classic rice and pea, plus jollof and patties.

Firstsite’s café will be serving a special Birthday menu from its vibrant cafe, including afternoon tea (bookings for the afternoon tea must be made in advance on Firstsite’s website or by calling 01206 713700). Refreshments and cakes will also be available for purchase throughout the day.

Outside the iconic building, a Ferris wheel on the beautiful Berryfield lawn will take you for a free leisurely spin in the air, giving you a chance to admire Firstsite, the surrounding gardens and Colchester’s other landmarks.

Live music performances will take place throughout the day, including a performance from guitar virtuoso and composer Eduardo Niebla and a live DJ set from Bopper Ranking.

Visitors will be also able to enjoy all the free exhibitions and artworks in the building including the brand new Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2021 exhibition, showcasing work from 75 artists at the beginning of their careers. Plus following on from last year’s hugely popular exhibition, visitors can also enjoy a new show from @background_bob, @background_bob, and his amazing friends – guess who’s back! which features over 200 vibrant artworks made in collaboration with leading international street and graffiti artists, as well as school children and key workers from across the UK.

“This is a free weekend event to celebrate Firstsite, its building, the exhibitions we have staged over the years and our amazing, brilliant community,” says the gallery’s Director Sally Shaw MBE. “It’s a chance for everyone to reconnect, relax and just have a really fun day out. There’s so much to celebrate, not only the successes of Firstsite but also the resilience, determination and positivity in our community – especially over the last 18 months and this is the perfect opportunity to bring everyone together safely to just enjoy socialising in our inspiring building and outside spaces.

It’s also a chance for us to say thank you to the community for their support over the years, we are so grateful to all our visitors, funders and supporters, especially during the pandemic when so many generous people gave donations to help us continue our work, even when our building was closed. As a charity we rely on donations, and whilst we recover from the effects of the pandemic and long periods of closure we need this support more than ever.

We can’t wait to welcome everyone on 26 September – there is going to be so much amazing food, music and art to enjoy – all for free, plus a beautiful Ferris wheel where you can get a bird’s eye view of all of Colchester – so whether you are a regular, or have never visited Firstsite before, come along and join us for one amazing birthday party!”

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