The Synergy Project
Between 2002 and 2007, The Synergy Project ran a series of multi-media ‘conscious parties’ at the SEOne Club in London Bridge, South London, presenting a wide range of art forms including a variety of forms of western dance music, live folk and world music, poetry, film, performance dance, art and video installations and a speakers / discussion space, combined with information stalls from NGOs working in the environmental, social justice and development sectors.
Within a year, the events were attracting widespread critical acclaim and in excess of 2,000 people aged 18-45, with a more mature and cultured demographic than normal, generating a turn-over of £20-30k per event and a profit of £3-7.5k. When one considers the venue costs of £6500 and a bar take of £10-15k, the nights had become a very significant income generator, yet half the income was lost to agencies from outside the community, notably the venue which was owned by commercial interests.
The Synergy Centre
In 2005, surpluses from the Synergy Project were invested in the foundation of the first Synergy Centre in a disused warehouse in the deprived community of West Camberwell in South London, an area on the front line of gang activity and troubled by high levels of youth anti-social behaviour and crime. The warehouse was converted in to a 700 capacity venue, obtaining temporary licenses to run smaller Synergy events, a regular open mic night and events run by local community groups, families and promoters.
In addition to running the Synergy Youth project – a series of creative workshops for over 80 local young people, the Centre provided a variety of affordable facilities including a dance studio, a multi-purpose workshops space, a large rehearsal space and a lounge, in addition to office space for two BME social enterprises. Income from room hire, fundraising events and office rent grew to a ceiling of £15,000 a month with a monthly rent of £5000 and staff costs of a further £5000 and other overheads of £1000.
A short film about the work of the Camberwell Synergy Centre can be viewed here.
Sister charity to The Synergy Centre is Indigenous People – a charitable company that specialises in organising tours of the UK and Europe by traditional world music and dance groups. Their flagship group is the Kakatsitsi Master Drummers from Ghana who have toured the UK 13 times since 1996, performing at many of the country’s leading festivals including a big stage performance at Glastonbury in 2013 and WOMAD in 2015. As well as being one of the leading traditional African drumming groups in performance terms, the drummers also have a very strong educational dimension whereby they perform and teach in schools across the country, working with a number of local authority partners from Cornwall to Shetland.