Rural Arts is known as a bastion of the whole North Yorkshire community, but the charity has a particularly big impact in Thirsk, where it has been based in the Courthouse building since the turn of the century.

It can date its roots to the early 1990s and took over the building, which ceased to operate as a court in 1995, to create an arts centre.

Improvements have come over the years, making the Courthouse more accessible and extending it, meaning that since 2009 it has been used to host visual arts exhibitions, live performances and screenings as well as other studio-based activities.

Meeting rooms also draw other bodies into the centre, creating a melting pot of groups that might otherwise be unlikely to meet.

The Courthouse provides facilities that many artists would be unlikely to find in most small towns, including access to a kiln, potter’s wheel and two printing presses.

Director Max May said that was equipment that would be unavailable to groups meeting in usual community venues.

Rural Arts operates in two ways, hosting events and activities at the Courthouse as well as performances and outreach work across the county.

Before the pandemic struck, a calendar of 450 events a year took place at the Courthouse.

Thirsk Arts Centre

Alongside that is activities across the county, including touring performance productions, staged at subsidised cost to allow village communities to enjoy shows in their own small public buildings.

It is hoped they can be resumed as the restrictions around the coronavirus pandemic are relaxed.

There is also a programme of outreach work, aimed at supporting older people and those who are not in work or training.

“All our work supports mental health and wellbeing, but our outreach programmes are more specifically tailored for people with more complex needs,” said Max.

Rural Arts is one of seven organisations supported by the Arts Council in North Yorkshire. It also generates funds from a variety of other sources, including a cafe at the Courthouse, room hire, ticket sales for some events and occasional grants from outside bodies.

That means other activities can be provided without charge.

Without the impact of coronavirus, Rural Arts would expect to reach around 30,000 people in a normal year, with around 20,000 visiting the Courthouse, 5,000 attending touring events and the rest being involved in their targeted intervention work.

Botanical Monoprints