History

What’s in a name?

Prema (pronounced Prayma) is a Sanskrit word meaning “selflessness, sharing and forward”. The concept of Prema was started back in 1977 by the Centre’s originator Andrew Wood and “Prema Project” opened its doors for the first time in January 1981 after many years of fundraising and building work.

A Potted History

Prema was conceived by sculptor Andrew Wood and its original mission is still intact – to mix the cutting edge with the established, a commitment to affordability and accessibility and to overlay a pioneering arts education programme alongside productions and presentations of excellence. In short, showcasing tomorrow’s mainstream today.

Andrew’s vision for Prema was for a safe, intimate and friendly space where innovation, learning, participation and creative experience was accessible to all – regardless of their background or belief. Serendipity meant that Andrew was able to purchase the disused (and somewhat derelict) Bethesda Chapel in Uley to start the process.

Bethesda Chapel was a working Baptist Chapel until the early 1970s. The building was converted from a single-storey shell to its present two-storey incarnation by using an award-winning design by Richard Fielden Architects. Bethesda Chapel is a modestly sized building and yet it’s clever conversion into an Arts Centre has transformed the space into something of a tardis – visitors often comment “Prema’s much bigger on the inside, isn’t it?”.

Andrew’s passion, flair, shrewdness and sheer determination brought Prema to life and maintained it for a good number of years. He left Prema in 1988 and it has, since then, continued to grow in renown and ambition to be hailed as “the leading rural arts centre in the UK”.