The King’s Hall Trust for the Arts was granted charity status in 1996, following nearly a year of planning and policy development. It was set up by a group of undergraduates, graduates and staff from Brasenose College, Oxford.
The motivation for the Trust came initially from difficulties experienced in funding drama at the university. The university has a long tradition as a training ground for some of the country’s top theatrical talent, but the actual process of staging a play has been for many years dominated by balancing the books. The founding trustees, however, felt that if they were to look at solutions to this problem they should also look beyond theatre, and indeed beyond the university.
They decided that there should be no limit to which art forms could be supported and that local schools and communities could be funded alongside university projects. It was also felt that, given the practical experience of the trustees, it was sometimes worthwhile to offer practical as well as financial support, and also to be a source of information and advice.
As well as providing a springboard for careers in the arts, participation in the arts at university, although extra-curricular, can prove an essential part of a student’s education, developing practical skills such as communications and logistics, while also expanding those more personal qualities which the arts bring out, such as imagination, empathy and self-confidence. The same goes for schools and local communities, although here the arts can also fulfil an even more basic function in terms of exploring topical issues or developing basic social skills.
The Trust has also had another, unplanned, educational outcome. Several of the original trustees now work professionally in the arts, using the administration skills that the Trust helped to foster. The Trust has proved to be an excellent starting point for such careers.