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Welcome to Gulbenkian.

Gulbenkian is the University of Kent’s Arts Centre offering innovative, engaging and high quality arts activity for the public, staff and students. It provides a key role in delivering the University commitment to public engagement and has a particular focus on the creative empowerment of children and young people.

Gulbenkian’s Story: Radical Roots & Dangerous Ideas

Gulbenkian is 50 in summer 2019, forged in a time when conventions were being questioned and traditions being challenged. In 1969, The Vietnam War raged, Woodstock raved, man landed on the moon, the Paris student rebellion was fresh in the mind. Young people felt they could change the world, the University of Kent was a hotbed of radical action, using creative thinking to find answers to society’s problems.

50 years on, Gulbenkian remains an organisation with a radical vision. We believe that young people’s voices must be heard and we are committed to providing time, space and opportunities for them to experiment, discover and create. Time that is squeezed from busy daily life, artistic space that is in short supply here in Kent, precious opportunities to speak up and change the world.

Gulbenkian is a powder keg, where young people, artists,
academics and communities meet and exchange ideas. As
these new ideas explode, we see confidence grow, careers
form, talent get uncovered, work get created and the future unfurl.

Our Vision

Gulbenkian will work with a range of creative partners to become a leading 21st Century international arts centre offering an engaging, innovative and high quality arts programme. We will act as a catalyst developing and curating ideas, spaces and emerging talent. The empowerment of children and young people will be at the core of our activity.

Gulbenkian aims to be:

  • Become a zero waste organisation.There is no planet B - Radical roots - Art31
    – Reduce, reuse, recycle
    – Implement sustainable food strategy
  • Improve carbon efficiency year on year.
  • Increase digital communication and produce sustainable marketing materials.
  • Encourage partners and visiting companies to supply sustainable goods and materials.
  • Work towards achieving the University of Kent’s 17 sustainable goals as set out by the UN.
  • To be a leader on sustainable delivery in the arts sector.
  • Signed up to Plastic-Free Canterbury

Since switching from plastic to glass / can in September 2018, 48,000 fewer plastic bottles have been sold to date (April 2021) in the Café.

Gulbenkian houses a 340 seat theatre, 300 seat cinema and a café which incorporates an informal cabaret style space for live music, comedy and slam poetry. We programme over 1,000 events including music, comedy, theatre, dance and film per year, enjoyed by more than 100,000 people. The arts centre attracts a range of conferences and events to Kent such as BBC Question Time.

Our work with young people includes the Gulbenkian Youth Theatre with over 100 members aged 5-18 years and Gulbenkian Youth Dance Company, run in partnership with Jasmin Vardimon Company. We are also home to ART31, a cultural leadership project, led by young people, TECH31 , SCREEN31 and TECH(Y)31 plus Kent’s international family festival – bOing!

A range of companies and artists are based with us including Artswork (South East Bridge), Confidance, Animate Arts Company and the Three Half Pints.

In April 2015 we became an Arts Council of England National Portfolio Organisation in recognition of our developing role as a pioneer in the creative empowerment and engagement of children and young people.

The University of Kent as the “UK’s European University”, provides invaluable access to Europe through our campuses in Paris, Brussels, Rome and Athens. Our international outlook and the expertise of international colleagues helps to inform our work and develop best practices through initiatives like ART31 and the bOing! International Family Festival.

"Altogether, the venue lives and breathes its mission."
Arts Council England Artistic and Quality Assessment 2016
"The support and mentorship from the Gulbenkian team allow us to realise our ideas that would otherwise be unachievable."
Nora, member of Gulbenkian Uncovered


ART31 takes its name from Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child, which states that ‘Children have the right to relax and play, and to join in a wide range of cultural, artistic and other recreational activities’.

ART31 is a vision created with, by, and for young people in Kent, championing the belief that all children and young people have an entitlement to access high quality arts and culture, to empower them to achieve their creative potential, and to genuinely engage young people as equal partners in any decision making that affects them.

The ART31 Youth Board is made up of young people from across Kent aged 13-25 who steer its governance, and influence policy and practice across the county and beyond, challenging the creative sector to examine existing ways of working and integrate young people into the core of their practice.

Our projects with young people

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