What Works Scotland has published its research findings on the Centrestage food provision project.
Centrestage is a community arts and theatre organisation based in Kilmarnock that believes anyone can gain life-changing social benefits through active participation in the arts. Through its outreach work in different areas staff realised that people were experiencing hunger and so the Centrestage food provision programme grew as a result of the organisation’s commitment to fostering individual and community wellbeing.
The shame and stigma of resorting to foodbanks are significant barriers to access for those needing support. Social attitudes and pressures can make people put on a public performance, where hardship remains hidden and need goes unmet. Solving food poverty and the causes of increased foodbank use may take time; meanwhile, there is a clear need for immediate innovations in the provision of services.
Centrestage takes a refurbished double-decker bus which has a kitchen and areas for playing and socialising to local communities.
What Works Scotland commissioned independent researcher Briege Nugent to spend 20 days with Centrestage as part of the research process. She observed the service in action and met participants in four areas: Fullarton and Pennyburn in Kilwinning in North Ayrshire and Drongan and Rankinston in East Ayrshire. She interviewed 22 staff and volunteers, including seven people who also used the service.
Briege Nugent said: “Centrestage offers a distinct approach to providing food. The organisation has developed what they refer to as a ‘stealth approach’ where the emphasis is on ‘having fun’ and reaching out to people. By making food provision part of an enjoyable, sociable, positive experience, as well as supporting individuals, it brings people together to address isolation and loneliness by building or re-building communities.”
The people who benefit are given the opportunity to make a donation and this ‘pay it forward’ approach helps to retain dignity, foster solidarity and contribute to sustainability. In the Centrestage approach, the provision of services is seen as a transaction between equal parties in an ongoing and reciprocal relationship.
Dr Oliver Escobar said: “The research report explores how the Centrestage approach helps to empower individuals and communities to be part of the service, involving them in the design and delivery. Public service reform is about more than the public sector; the Centrestage case study illustrates how the third sector contributes to advancing the agenda of the Christie Commission on the Future Delivery of Public Services.”
Centrestage also has a role as a catalyst, fostering the creation of new ‘community anchor organisations’ so that a community provision can become self-sustaining.
The report highlights the key lessons from the Centrestage example that are valuable for developing future public services.
Read and download Fun, Food, Folk: The Centrestage approach to dignified food provision