Creative Connections Artists’ workspace feasibility study

Creative Connections
Artists’ workspace feasibility study
ABL Cultural Consulting
November 2006
ABL Cultural Consulting
The brief and methodology
Summary of key findings
Strategic context
Demand and opportunity
Sector overview
Current provision in the sub-region
Artist requirements
Potential sites
Potential partnerships for delivery
Summary of project benefits
Funding sources
Examples elsewhere
South Midlands Growth Area
Business model
Scale and critical mass
Services and facilities
Income generation
Indicative operating budget
Risk assessment
Next steps
Consultation list
Comparator venues
Research list
Revenue budget
ABL Cultural Consulting
ABL Cultural Consulting
Artists’ workspace feasibility study
Chapter 1: Introduction
The brief and methodology
This report was commissioned by the Borough of Wellingborough
Council and the Northamptonshire creative industries development
agency Creative Connections, in order to examine the feasibility of
establishing workspace for artists in Wellingborough. A brief was
issued by Creative Connections and the Council’s arts development
department. The project was funded by Creative Connections. The
commissioners proposed the following statement of purpose for the
To conduct a feasibility study to explore the potential for artists’
workspaces in Wellingborough. Particular consideration should be
given to the growth agenda and future visioning for the town. The
potential for live/work spaces should be explored, considering how
best to capitalise on the excellent transport links of the town.
The project steering group comprised:
Paula Armstrong, Arts Development Officer, Borough Council of
Steve Wenham, Creative Industries Manager, Creative
ABL Cultural Consulting was appointed by the steering group in
September 2006 to undertake the feasibility study.
The ABL project team was as follows:
Jane Hellings, Senior Consultant and project manager
Lillian Ashford, Project researcher
The following methodology was agreed between the steering group
and project team:
Analysis of local and regional strategic context including the
growth agenda
Comparator analysis including live/work
Stakeholder consultation including group meetings
Indicative business modelling
Assessment of funding opportunities
Final report.
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Artists’ workspace feasibility study
Chapter 1: Introduction
Context overview
Wellingborough was granted its market charter in the thirteenth
century and thrived as a market town through the middle ages and
as an industrial centre in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries
when the economy grew around shoemaking, iron works and
engineering. The economy is gradually diversifying with wholesale,
storage and transportation significantly increasing their share of jobs
along with the service sector. It remains, however, a low-wage, lowskill economy with key targets around improvement in levels of
participation in continuing post 16 education and training.
The population of Wellingborough expanded rapidly during the 1960s
and 70s as successive agreements were signed between the local
Council and London authorities for Wellingborough to become an
'Expanding Town' to re-house overspill population from the capital.
The Borough grew from 26,000 to 60,000 during this period and it
now has a population of 72,5001, 47,000 of which are in the town.
The 1960s and 70s saw major town centre developments, some of
which have not added to the town’s attractiveness and legibility. The
retail offer is middle of the road and suffers from strong competition
from Milton Keynes and Kettering. While the town centre knows it
cannot compete with these much larger centres, it aspires to a retail
offer like Market Harborough’s with high quality independent shops.
The population’s age and demographic profile largely conforms to UK
averages. Black and minority ethnic groups represent 7% of the
population in the borough rising to 11% within Wellingborough town
and considerably above the UK average. The main minority ethnic
groups are Indian and African-Caribbean. In common with many
market towns there are social problems, with youth annoyance and
teenage pregnancy attracting most attention.
Wellingborough has a direct inter-city train service to London which
can be reached in well under an hour. It is well connected by rail and
road to the rest of the UK. Residential and commercial property is
still competitively priced. It is these factors which form the thrust of
the town’s twenty first century growth plans. Wellingborough is a
key location for the government’s South Midlands/Milton Keynes
growth initiative which will see the creation of some 200,000 homes
in the next 25 years. Phase 1 of the growth Masterplan comprises
over 3,000 dwellings at Wellingborough East with three new schools,
businesses and shops, to be delivered by 2009.
2 2002 figures
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Chapter 1: Introduction
Wellingborough is home to a campus of Tresham FE College which
has other campuses in Kettering and Corby. The Tresham campus
focuses on construction industry qualifications with some business,
computing and IT courses. The nearest university is in Northampton.
Creative economy
Ten years ago the Council built the Castle, a 500 seat theatre with a
studio, exhibition area and meeting rooms, and invests around
£500,000 per year in the programme and operation. It is an
excellent local cultural resource which provides some basic services
to visual artists such as opportunities for networking organised by the
arts development team, and exhibitions. It is through these
networking meetings that the artists’ need for local affordable studios
has been expressed.
Wellingborough does not spring off the page as an obvious focal point
for artists and a creative community. But its growth and prosperity
have in the past relied on creative entrepreneurship in the
development of businesses, products and ideas. Its major growth
plans will require development of a sense of place and destination if it
is to succeed as an attractive relocation prospect. The presence of
artists working in the town will add texture and identity.
Growth always has to be predicated on maintaining the right balance
between jobs, skills, infrastructure and quality of life. The current
growth phase is focussing on the infrastructure and jobs. Skills gaps
in the local workforce will need to be addressed and quality of life
aspects around the town centre’s leisure and retail offer should not
be neglected. The role active artists can play in creating a sense of
place is considerable and should not be underestimated.
Recent Arts Council research2 has shown that artists working in all art
forms face many obstacles to their creativity and careers. Six actionbased initiatives are already under way to benefit artists' work and
artists' lives, and to make sure they can:
Interact through innovative placements in research and industry
Invigorate their careers, through opportunities for creative
Inhabit affordable, sustainable workspaces in which they can
create and experiment
With Artists' Insights, Arts Council England is working in partnership to help artists address
their most common issues
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Chapter 1: Introduction
Inform the wider world of the professional, social and economic
value of their skills.
Arts Council England (ACE) believes that given the right condition
artists can concentrate on making challenging and innovative work
that illuminates our culture, making our communities better places to
The Arts Council commissioned the Henley Centre to produce “The
arts landscape in 2010” The report identified key trends for the
cultural sector in the new millennium, of particular relevance is the
British consumers still long to connect with each other and
‘community’ is still an aspiration, but one which is being
redefined. The building blocks on which any kind of community
are based are shifting and becoming more personalized.
The communal yearning trend manifests itself in two ways in the arts
arena, and the Henley Centre suggests that both are set to grow:
when communities form for the sake of the arts (intrinsic).
These may or may not be geographical. They facilitate
production of, and participation in, the arts and are enriching
and creative
when art creates a community (extrinsic). This is not belittling
the importance of the art per se, but the existence of the
communal feeling is incredibly important - it roots people in
society and builds identity, and is thus socially inclusive.
Summary of key findings
The study found a great deal of interest in the concept of artists’
workspace from local artists and identified a wider regional strategic
need. Northamptonshire has low levels of creative industries
compared both to the East Midlands and national averages3, a factor
which could affect its competitiveness and liveability in the longer
The Wellingborough East Masterplan area projects huge growth in the
town which will require place-making content if it is to become a
distinctive relocation destination, content that this project could
The benefits of artists’ workspace to the town are in:
Northants has 12.5% of the region’s creative industries and 15% of the population. Source
Creative Industries Mapping Study 2005
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Chapter 1: Introduction
Economic development
Creative people driving aspiration
Creation of a sense of place and identity
Social engagement and contribution to community cohesion.
Comparator studies have shown that most successful artists’
workspaces are artist-led, with very few examples of local authorities
being the driving force behind studio provision. Most existing studios
set up or extended in the last 10 years have had Arts Lottery funding.
Other sources include European, Higher Education Innovation Fund,
Regional Development Agencies (RDA) and Single Regeneration
Budget (SRB) funding, together with local authorities, private sector
and trusts.
East Midlands Development Agency (EMDA) has removed creative
industries as a priority from its new Regional Economic Strategy
(RES) and is therefore unlikely to be a source. The local authority,
the development partnership, the Arts Council (GfA) and the private
sector are the most likely sources of capital funding.
A 20 unit studio complex should be affordable and sustainable
without revenue funding but it would not necessarily formally offer a
wide range of services to either the artists or the wider community.
However, once the resource was established, community and artist
benefits would certainly follow through project funding and
Research showed that live/work would be an unusual option and in
Wellingborough and would be best led by developers as a component
within the Masterplan. It would be a high risk route to achieving the
original goal of supporting artists through provision of affordable
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Chapter 2: Strategic context
Strategic context
North Northants Development Company (NNDC)
North Northants Development Company (NNDC) has been created by
the merger of Catalyst Corby (Urban Regeneration Company) and the
North Northants Together partnership. Part of the Milton Keynes and
South Midlands Growth Area identified within the Government's
Sustainable Communities Plan and operational since May 2006, the
purpose of North Northants Development Company is:
To drive, co-ordinate and manage the delivery of sustainable
growth through the procurement of infrastructure and
employment led growth across North Northamptonshire
To lead and drive the regeneration of communities and places
within North Northamptonshire
NNDC's vision is:
to help create an attractive, confident, successful, growing and
prosperous North Northamptonshire, with a flourishing and dynamic
economy, well paid jobs, quality public services and balanced and
sustainable communities
North Northants Development Company is supported by the
Department for Communities and Local Government, EMDA and
English Partnerships, as well as by the local authorities and
Northamptonshire County Council. The NNDC area includes the
districts of Corby, East Northamptonshire, Kettering and
Over the next 12 months NNDC will be looking to accelerate key
projects in Corby, Kettering and Wellingborough town centres and a
major mixed use development at Wellingborough East.
Attracting private sector investment will be critical to implementing
long-term change and NNDC will lead a proactive lobby to stimulate
such funding and secure further public expenditure.
Like Catalyst Corby before it, NNDC will look to deliver maximum
impact on the ground by successful partnership working. Its aim is to
establish North Northamptonshire, in the minds of the business,
residential and development communities, as a location of choice.
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Wellingborough Partnership community plan
The Wellingborough Partnership community plan was written in
response to dialogue with local people, public sector organisations,
businesses and the voluntary and community sectors and aims to
make measurable improvements to enhance Wellingborough’s social,
environmental and economic conditions.
The plan aims to help make the community safer, healthier, more
prosperous and a better place to live. Common themes spread
throughout the partnership. These are:
Community cohesion
Sustainable growth
Improving the town centre.
Among its action points is to create a strong town centre through
increasing business start up and shop occupancy rates and to
improve business and employment opportunities within the area. Our
research has revealed the propensity of creative hubs to stimulate
the appearance of a more diverse retail offering, while the presence
of practising artists can assist community cohesion.
Borough Council of Wellingborough arts plan
The borough’s Arts Plan seeks to put art into the heart and soul of the
Borough. Its overall aims are to encourage, build and support an
exciting, innovative and unique arts environment and community and
to develop a network of support easily accessed by all.
The plan recognises a thriving arts industry as a means to improving
the quality of life for people living in the borough, having a positive
effect on health and life long learning. Skilled creative communities
entertain, teach, inspire and help to build a strong sense of place.
The plan recognises the importance of cultural activity in promoting
social cohesion. The arts give diverse groups a chance to
communicate with and reach out to the rest of the community,
increasing understanding and drawing people together.
Many community groups and forums were consulted for the plan. This
research uncovered a need for the development of life long learning
opportunities as well as a lack of affordable resources, and action
5.2: to develop facilities for the arts including studio/workshop and
lifelong learning teaching spaces, reflects this lack and is strong
support for the creation of an artists’ workspace in Wellingborough.
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The workspace would provide a great resource for local schools, and
SWOT analysis revealed that on the positive side schools in borough
were aware of the importance of arts.
On the negative side, the Castle is currently the only dedicated
exhibition/arts space, although the gallery is far from ideal in size and
location. SWOT analysis revealed few networking opportunities for
artists, as well as few workshop spaces and limited support for startup businesses in the creative industries.
Opportunities identified by the plan included the chance for the arts
to contribute to:
Sustainable development
crime prevention
community safety
learning communities
social inclusion, regeneration
economic development
community participation
healthy lifestyles.
It recognises a need to develop incentives to attract and retain arts
practitioners in the borough and develop dedicated arts venues to
increase the number in the borough.
Key objectives resulting from SWOT analysis include:
Increase access and participation in arts
Increase resources for the arts
To develop new and existing facilities and spaces
Encourage artists to live and work in the borough.
Creative industries in Northamptonshire 2005: A study for
Creative Connections
This study was completed for Creative Connections to assess the
state of the Creative Industries in Northamptonshire.
The study found the Creative Industries to be a fast growing industry,
with the total number of enterprises increasing by 5.6% between
1997 and 2005, with 65% of interviewees from the visual arts and
crafts sector expecting their turnover to grow in the next year.
Within the region Northamptonshire was found to be underperforming
compared to other East Midlands counties. To be on par with other
areas it would need to add £18 million of total turnover and 250 jobs.
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Research into Creative Industries businesses found that 20% were
less than three years old, while half have been in business less than
ten years. Nearly a fifth of the businesses were more than 25 years
old. These figures reveal both a healthy start up rate for CI business
and a good survival rate.
Looking specifically at the visual arts and crafts, it was discovered
that although freelance practitioners mostly work alone, around 40%
of respondents worked as part of a group, revealing existing creative
networks in the area and the importance of creative networks to the
health of the industry.
The most often cited barriers to growth for those in the sector were:
Cash-flow difficulties
Problems with marketing and reaching customers
Lack of sales or work opportunities
Availability and cost of premises.
The study underlined the importance of nurturing creative
communities, and made an explicit case for supporting the growth of
creative communities through providing appropriate workspace:
There is an issue related to the supply of creative workspace. Much
research has demonstrated the importance for the growth of the
sector in a locality of the development of a creative milieu. The
business and social networks which evolve where a number of
creative businesses are in proximity contribute greatly both to
individual business success and to generating an attractiveness which
draws more practitioners into a virtuous spiral of growth…The
potential for stimulating clustering…through the development of
managed workspace and business incubation specific to the creative
sector should be pursued.
Northamptonshire Partnership
The Northamptonshire Partnership is the main partner of EMDA and
delivers economic development in Northamptonshire by benefiting
the workforce of existing business, attracting new jobs and industries
and raising the skills of residents.
Sub-regional economic strategy 2006
The 2006 strategy has an ambitious vision for Northamptonshire.
By 2015 Northamptonshire is one of the most successful and
competitive sub-regions in Europe and will be fully recognised as such
by visitors, employers, investors and residents
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Northamptonshire aims to achieve this vision by:
raising levels of business competitiveness, employment creation
and new business
increasing skill levels in the workforce
achieving effectively functioning communities by overcoming
barriers to participation for disadvantaged residents
developing a strong brand for the region
The strategy identifies the following objectives:
1. Achieve continual business growth, economic diversification and
high levels of competitiveness
2. Create and sustain a dynamic and flexible market
3. Support community cohesion. Actions arising from this point
include the need to optimise the quality of life in the region
4. Achieve additional economic advantage through effective
5. Develop and promote a strong Northamptonshire brand.
Although the strategy makes no explicit reference to the creative
industries, a culturally vibrant community would clearly contribute to
all theses objectives and in particular to 3 and 5.
Regional economic strategy for the East Midlands (EMDA)
This is an economic strategy, its core purpose is to secure increasing
economic growth, productivity and overall prosperity – but not at any
cost. Ensuring Sustainability and Achieving Equality are also critical
elements of a successful region.
EMDA’s 2006 strategy’s vision is to create a ‘flourishing region’ by
2020 sustained by:
Sustainable growth
Economic wellbeing and quality of life
This strategy follows the publication of two previous economic
strategies for the region, the most recent setting the target for the
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East Midlands to be in the ‘Top 20’ ranking regions in Europe. In this
time the region has climbed from 35th to 28th.
The strategy is the product of a major consultation exercise
researching the views of several thousand stakeholders and
businesses across the region. Key actions in response to this research
Developing adult workforce skills
Targeted provision to improve business creation
Increasing business survival
Development of land and property
New markets and enterprise opportunities
Enhance employability of the most disadvantaged
Develop entrepreneurship skills.
Three main ambitions were identified:
Raising productivity
Ensuring sustainability
Achieving quality.
The 2003 RES cited creative industries as a priority for support in the
region, but the current RES has not maintained this commitment.
Nevertheless support for artists’ workspace would contribute to
delivery of most of these ambitions and actions.
Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS)
The DCMS Service Delivery Agreement lays out its Public Service
Agreement (PSA) targets which demonstrate accountability for the
funding it receives from the Treasury. The targets illustrate the
strategic direction in which the DCMS is moving, and reflect the role
that culture has to play in the area of regeneration:
No. 2. [To] broaden access for this and future
generations to a rich and varied cultural and sporting
life and to our distinctive built environment;
No. 6. [To] promote the role of the Department's
sectors in urban and rural regeneration, in pursuing
sustainability and in combating social exclusion.
The following strategic objectives of the Department for Media,
Culture and Sport indicate the national agenda for learning in the
context of cultural access:
No. 3. [To] develop the educational potential of all the
nation's cultural and sporting resources; raise
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standards of cultural education and training; ensure
an adequate skills supply for the creative industries
and tourism; and encourage the take up of
educational opportunities;
No. 4. [To] ensure that everyone has the opportunity
to achieve excellence in the areas of culture, media
and sport and to develop talent, innovation and good
The DCMS has set up investigative working groups within its Creative
Economy Programme. The Infrastructure working group suggests the
significance of place as the main driver of creativity in the UK4:
It is through the connectivity of specific infrastructural conditions
in specific places that the creative industries gains its
stimulation, inspiration, ideas and confidence; and it is through a
direct engagement with combinations of infrastructure in place
that the sector accesses opportunities for convergence,
innovative partnership, and ultimately, competitive advantage.
It concludes that future policy should focus investment on improving
the concentration and connectivity of infrastructure, which in turn will
cement the role of cities as the drivers of sector growth, while
enabling stronger supply chain relationships in smaller towns and
rural areas.
The authorities and partnerships delivering and monitoring the
growth agenda should view this report as an opportunity to provide
some low cost, high impact content to the new developments which
will deliver on the aims of creating sense of place, offering a
community resource, encouraging the knowledge economy and
developing high skills based creative employment.
Culture in regeneration
Cultural projects have contributed to regeneration outcomes in UK
towns and cities for many years. An example which is still often cited
is that of Glasgow’s City of Culture celebrations in 1990. Other
models of good practice include The Custard Factory quarter in
Birmingham (developed since 1990) and landmark projects such as
Tate St. Ives (est. 1993). Some of these examples are cited in a
review of the contribution of culture to regeneration commissioned by
DCMS in 2004 5. It concluded that cultural contribution to
economic regeneration is evidenced in:
Inward investment (public private sector leverage)
Higher resident and visitor spend
DCMS CEP working group draft reports
The contribution of culture to regeneration in the UK: a report to DCMS,
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Job creation (direct, indirect, induced/wealth creation)
Employer location/retention
Retention of graduates in the area (inc. artists /creatives)
A more diverse work force (skills, profile)
A driver in the development of new business, retail, and leisure
More public – private – voluntary sector partnerships
More corporate involvement in the cultural sector (leading to
support in cash and in kind)
Increased property prices (residential and business)
And that the contribution of culture to social regeneration is
A change in residents’ perception of the place where they live
Greater individual confidence and aspiration
A clear expression of individual and shared ideas and needs
An increase in volunteering
Increased organisational capacity at local level
Increased social capital
A change in image and reputation
Stronger public-private-voluntary sector partnerships
Reduced school truancy and offending behaviour
Higher educational attainment
New approaches to evaluation, consultation and representation.
Cultural projects have many direct regenerative impacts in terms of
improved environment, job creation, tourism and inward investment
at local, regional and national level.
The impact in terms of image is less measurable but very relevant
and easily captured by positive media coverage. Even those who do
not regularly use local art galleries can feel pride in a cultural project
located in or associated with their town.
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Demand and opportunity
Sector overview
Artists’ workspace is a concept which means different things to
different people and can be confused with a wide range of style and
type of creative workspace. Some definitions are given below.
Business incubator: these provide intensive, hands-on support and
service to assist in the creation and the early stages of
business. They are often funded through economic
development agencies to ensure a thriving entrepreneurial
sector in regeneration priority areas.
Innovation centre: this is usually a synonym for incubator, but
sometimes denotes a facility for nurturing high-technology
often creative industries companies from start-up to well
beyond the incubation stage.
Managed workspace: these are small units on short leases, with
shared central services. The primary objective is to cover
costs and there are few, if any, entry conditions. There is
usually no graduation policy; tenant businesses are
encouraged to stay. Occupation is by a wide range of
businesses, attracted by flexible rents and space. Many are
sole owners or lifestyle firms.
Artist-led studios: in these a group of artists has worked together to
create, convert or inhabit a space (often an otherwise disused
or unfashionable location) sometimes providing shared facilities
like a gallery or kitchen. There is unlikely to be a graduation
policy and management is done by one of the artists,
sometimes paid on a part time basis.
It is the latter with which this report is concerned. The following brief
case studies show how studios typically form in other parts of the
Open Hand Open Space at the Keep in Reading.
A group of artists approached Reading Borough Council about 25
years ago as the Keep (a former barracks store and detention centre)
was standing empty. They formed a trust and were allowed to adapt
and use the building but were not granted a formal lease. The
authority charges a peppercorn rent and is happy for the building to
be used and secured and has found regeneration benefits from the
presence of artists in an otherwise run down area. There is a small
gallery and open studio days and occasional schools events are
programmed. The artists pay rent to the trust sufficient to cover
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overheads and the Arts Council has more recently given a small grant
to cover a part time post to facilitate the programme. The building is
about 6,500 sq ft (not all useable) and accommodates about 20
artists. There is a waiting list of about 30 and space becomes
available once or twice a year. Criteria for artist/tenant selection are
that the work should be of high quality, fine arts based (i.e. not wider
creative industries) and that the tenants should be committed to
using the studio as a regular place of work (i.e. not hobbyists). The
artists have regular tenant meetings and regularly collaborate.
Canal Basin Trust, Coventry.
The trust was formed in 1988 to purchase and renovate a 15,000 sq
ft dilapidated but attractive range of Victorian warehouses. It
received funding from the Urban Programme, and English Waterways
(the former owners) granted a 100 year lease of the building in
return for the refurbishment and some quite restrictive covenants.
The covenants mean that only very short term leases can be granted
to tenants and no retail is allowed on site. The 25 tenants are a
mixture of fine artists and craftspeople paying rents as low as £3 per
sq ft, to graphic design and media firms paying £20 psf. All are on
very short leases which are regularly renewed. The rents are
sufficient to cover maintenance and the chair of the trust undertakes
the management for which he is not paid. Six of the long-standing
tenants are Trustees. Turnover is reasonable with space becoming
available for new young artists and creative businesses once or twice
a year.
Bridewell Studios, Liverpool
A derelict police station was taken over in 1976 by a group of artists.
In 1981 a non-profit distributing company named Artspace
Merseyside Ltd was formed to run the studios. After the demise of
Merseyside County Council the artists raised a loan to purchase the
building. There are currently 37 artists: painters, sculptors,
printmakers, fashion designers, furniture makers, ceramicists,
stained glass and textile artists, photographers and multi-media
artists. The studios are still owned and run by the artists and operate
without public subsidy of any kind. While rents cover basic running
costs, they struggle with dilapidations.
ABL has found that most examples of artist studios are set up and led
by artists. It unusual to find a set up where a local authority has
taken the lead to establish an artists’ studio. Examples where this
has happened tend to be for developments where the facility is for
the whole creative industries sector like the LCB Depot in Leicester.
Local authorities often respond positively to artists’ initiatives and
support them through provision of buildings or other funding
packages, but the impetus tends to come from the artists
themselves. With the impetus coming from the local authority there
is an implication that a more formal range of facilities and service
might be provided (e.g. continuing professional development - CPD)
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or expected (e.g. workshops for the community, exhibitions open to
the general public).
Current provision in the sub-region
Artworks Milton Keynes
Artworks MK is an arts education charity providing equipped
workshops, artist’s studios and exhibition space in Milton Keynes. It
aims to support and promote participation, enjoyment and learning
through high quality arts and crafts activities, projects and events.
Artworks runs a thriving artist-led workshops programme throughout
the year generating around £77,000 per year with a further £29,000
raised per year through rent and venue hire for meetings and events.
The remaining £106,000 comes from Milton Keynes Council. The café
runs at a slight loss.
Artworks incorporates three sites. These are the Galley Hill and Great
Linford Arts Workshops, located in the alms houses of the 18th
Century Linford Manor, and the purpose built Coffee Hall Workshop
which was built by the Local Authority in the 1970s as one of the
designated arts facilities in the development of Milton Keynes.
The Great Lindford Arts Workshop provides 9 self contained studio
spaces of around 350 sq ft each. The windows are small so natural
light is sufficient but not ideal. There are additional meeting spaces
available for hire.
The Galley Hill Arts Workshop contains 10 studios in an old garage
that has been sectioned off into units much like college art
workspaces ranging from around 4500 sq ft to 96 sq ft . They feature
good lighting, and some lockable spaces. There is a roller-door
facilitating access for large scale work.
The Coffee Hall Workshop contains two studios of around 10 sq ft and
a large open space. It is equipped with electric kilns and a wood
workshop. It has good public transport access as well as a carpark.
There is a small café.
Workshop spaces are rented from between £46 to £150 per month
fully inclusive. Artists are classed as ‘studio artists’ and don’t pay
business rates6. There are also commercial spaces available for
higher rents.
Occupants include woodworkers, sculptors, jewellers, ceramicists,
architects, illustrators, graphic designers and printmakers and visual
i.e. they are deemed to be helping the charity to deliver its charitable objectives and share in
its charitable rate relief
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artists. Applicants submit an artist’s statement with images of their
work, and are interviewed by a panel.
Live/work has never been an option, as the spaces are not classed as
fit for habitation. Seven years ago they had use of a house that had
been given to them by the local authority. It was used as
accommodation for the artist in residence and for longer term
workshop participants. It has since been reclaimed.
There are ten full and part-time staff:
• operations manager
• finance officer
• finance director
• arts development trainee
• 3 duty officers (for each site)
• buildings and grounds supervisor
• 2 administrators
There are strong links with local schools, who attend workshops at
Artworks. There is an INSET programme running for teachers. They
also have strong links with local councils, foundations, arts
organisations, partnerships and funding bodies.
Artworks are currently in the process of a major capital investment in
the Great Lindford site which is allowing them to develop 12 new
artists’ spaces as well as an exhibition space, café and library. It has
allowed them to refurbish existing spaces to incorporate digital
access. They are rebuilding an existing workspace for activities.
Renovations have also been made to existing artists’ workspaces so
they can be used by artists running workshops (such as installing
lockable spaces for artists to store their materials)
Portfolio Centre, University of Northampton
The Portfolio Centre opened in May 2006 as part of the University of
Northampton (UCN) funded by UCN, EMDA and the European Social
Fund (ESF).
It consists of 16 purpose built studios (2 wet, 14 dry) of around 130250 sq ft each around a communal area and reception.
Applicants must present details of their practice, be within the first
three years of incorporation and be a creative industry. The centre
maintains a high standard and more applicants are rejected than are
10 units are currently occupied by nine tenants who include visual
artists as well as a photographer, fashion designer, film production
company, jeweller and a graphic designer.
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The venue offers 24 hour access, parking, an A3 colour printer and
scanner, a G5 Apple Mac, hot desks for incubating businesses, a
binder, laminator, kitchen, networking events and a meeting room,
as well as access to tailored business support.
The first four months of occupancy are free to tenants, with charges
starting at £75 per month after this and gradually increasing to
encourage a turn-over of tenants. There is no live/work option
The centre received Arts Council revenue funding for its first year.
They receive funding from the Northampton Partnership through
EMDA, and the ESF contributes to the cost of mentoring. There are
good links to the UCN school of art and design who share their
equipment and knowhow with residents. The East Midlands
Incubation Network also provide some services.
Artists’ Sanctuary Northampton
The Artists’ Sanctuary is a registered charity with a board of trustees.
It provides studio resources and exhibition opportunities for artists in
and around Northampton and aims to promote the arts in the town
by providing space and support to artists.
The Sanctuary opened in October 2003, and was founded by Mark
Walman who got a group of interested artists together, and then
raised a loan and support from the Prince’s Trust to establish the
The studios are in the top two floors of a converted Victorian shoe
factory. There are currently eight studios at the centre inhabited by
12 resident artists, mostly painters but digital media practitioners,
photographers and sculptors also have a presence. An associate
member scheme gives non-resident artists access to facilities,
support and exhibition space for a small yearly fee. All artists
applying for studios must submit a portfolio, and efforts are made to
ensure the studios are inhabited by practising artists.
A central gallery space holds mainly non-commercial shows. Resident
artists have access to the space for one free show every year, but the
space is also available for hire.
The building is privately owned and let through a local real estate
agency. In choosing the building the essential elements were a
central location, good transport links and good natural light. It is not
zoned for residential occupation, although when they eventually
move to a bigger building a live/work option may be considered.
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An Arts Council grant has allowed the Sanctuary to employ a
Promotions Manager for one day per week. Mark Halman manages
the site, and while this is currently voluntary it will become a paid
role from January 2007.
The Sanctuary has given the area a more bohemian flavour, and has
encouraged local businesses to put on their own events such as music
events and exhibitions. Strong links have developed between the
Sanctuary and local businesses, galleries, arts venues and
organisations. They have strong links with the local Eastern European
and Asian communities. A framing and arts supply store recently
opened on the ground floor.
Artist requirements
ABL contacted eighty local artists and arts industry representatives
(27 were from Wellingborough), inviting their participation in the
consultation process to inform the study. Eight attended a meeting
and three provided written or telephone feedback (six were from
Wellingborough). Consultation revealed a strong demand for flexible
space that is big enough to work in. Many of the artists currently
work from home in unsuitable conditions and are actively looking for
affordable, suitable workspace.
Artists would prefer not to share work spaces i.e. they would want
their own secure area with independent access. There was a mixed
reaction to sharing facilities such as kilns. While some see it as a
networking and collaboration opportunity, others would prefer to
have their own private facilities.
There is enthusiasm around having common areas such as a kitchen
which would provide collaboration and networking opportunities while
helping to build a sense of community. As one artist says: I had a
studio in Leicestershire and I never saw anyone. I found this a very
unsupportive environment.
There is a strong desire for an exhibition space in which artists can
exhibit and sell their work, providing marketing opportunities and
income while creating a site for peer feedback and collaboration.
A shop, café or internet cafe would bring traffic into the gallery as
well as providing somewhere for artists and creative people to meet,
a central point of activity.
The artists consulted are prepared to pay around £100 per month,
although younger artists would prefer smaller, cheaper spaces and
some said they could pay more if the facilities were exceptional.
This accords with ABL’s findings in similar consultations around the
country: a figure between £100-£200 per month is generally cited by
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professional artists as reasonable. Though this is never expressed in
terms of £ per sq ft, ABL generally finds this to equate to £8-£12 per
sq ft per annum A flexible space with both wet and dry areas is ideal.
While most artists need messy spaces, some disciplines such as
photography require a cleaner space. It would clearly be necessary
to offer a range of size of spaces, with some needing around 100 sq
ft and others needing up to 700 sq ft.
While 24 hour access was not felt to be essential artists did tend to
want access until midnight, and generally felt that an electronic
security system would mean staff presence was not required.
They do recognise a need for someone to manage the building and
common areas (such as the gallery), and that it would be beneficial
to have someone carrying out additional funding and networking
The artists felt that the ideal space would be tenanted by a diverse
range of creative practitioners, possibly including dance and theatre
groups, but not more commercial disciplines such as software design
and architecture. A mixture of ages, levels and disciplines is seen to
be important, as is the need for guidelines to create this mixture and
ensure the spaces go to active creative practitioners. Incubation and
grow-on spaces are seen as a good idea.
Broadband was considered desirable, but general consensus was that
it would be sufficient to have a shared facility perhaps in the
communal area with a small charge for usage. Other useful shared
equipment would include a printer capable of printing images over A3
Good natural light is very important, although some disciplines need
it more than others. Sinks are also stressed as being essential to all
studio spaces.
Parking is very important, as is good public transport. Manoeuvrable
staircases or lifts and accessible studios for artists such as sculptors
producing heavy or cumbersome work are also a priority.
Younger artists were interested in a live-work option and in access to
business advice, although older and more established artists don’t
feel that either are a priority.
There was a mixed reaction to workshops. While it was mentioned
that there was a real need for such a space as a resource for local
school and the community not all artists were enthusiastic about
taking classes. Those that were however encouraged the use of the
space for workshops with school groups, drawing and arts classes, as
well as artists from the space visiting local schools. All recognised the
positive financial contribution workshops would offer, as well as
establishing the space as a creative centre for the town.
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Live/work spaces are properties used for both residential and
businesses purposes. Live/work reduces overheads for small
business, reduces pollution generated by commuting and creates
business clustering. For these reasons it is becoming very popular,
and the information service, the Live Work Network, has been
developed providing information and consultancy services to local
authorities, business support agencies, RDAs and developers
establishing tailor-made business hubs for home based and microbusinesses.
Live/work Network defines the essential ingredients of live/work
space as:
• Designed for true work use
• Work use monitored
• Enterprise supported
• Business clustering enabled
• Quality broadband
• Achieves transport reduction
• Offers more than residential home working
• Helps cuts costs by combining work and live.
Desirable ingredients are:
Shared resources and facilities - a heart/hub
Proximity to move-on work space for expansion
Sufficient scale of development to achieve business impact
Appropriate location, close to key work centres
Links to business/education sectors
Brownfield site
Sustainable impact on domestic life.
There is very little evidence of many live/work spaces outside major
cities, with the vast majority currently located in London. The ACE
national survey of artists’ workspace currently underway have
identified no examples of creative live/work space in the East
Midlands region. The following case studies show examples of current
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Creative Lofts (places for People), Huddersfield, West Yorkshire
The Places for People Group (North British Housing) converted the
derelict Mechanics Institute in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire into 21
live/work units. The project was completed in spring 2002 and
targets mainly ICT-based small business and the self employed. Units
are rented on an assured shorthold basis for between £115 and £159
per week including a service support charge for business support
facilities. The £2.1 million development cost and the £71,500 site
cost was funded mainly by private finance, but was also supported by
grants of £240,000 from the EU creative towns fund, £225,000 from
Huddersfield Pride SRB and £340,000 from Yorkshire Forward and
English Partnerships. It has strong links with the adjacent
Huddersfield Media Centre who assesses the business plans of
applicants as well as providing business support and telecoms to
residents. The centre also has a café and meeting facilities.
Bow Connections, Bow, East London
Bow Connections is a purpose-built development combining 10
live/work spaces on the first and second floors with an extra three
stories of purely residential dwellings above. It was built by Durkan
New Homes and was completed in September 2003. The site
previously housed a warehouse, and was still zoned for employmentonly which was a key factor influencing the development of live/work
spaces as opposed to a purely residential development. Units are
around 1,600 sq ft, and are sold on a 99 year leasehold for around
£200 per sq ft. There is no formal application procedure for
businesses buying units and residents include an art gallery,
solicitors, a fashion designer and supply teachers. Some of the live
work spaces are currently used as purely residential dwellings.
There is a communal roof terrace.
Marble Factory, Camberwell London
This former marble factory finished its transformation into a live/work
scheme in October 2003. The target market includes the media,
finance, visual arts, craft and architecture and a range of different
sized spaces are designed to offer spaces suitable for both start up
and more established enterprise. The development estimated the
production of between 50 to 100 jobs. The 16 work units and 12
residential flats are sold for £205/sq ft and are offered for owner
occupation on a 999 year lease subject to a £200 p.a. ground rent.
Live/work space is split approximately 50:50 in varying unit sizes
with living space generally on the upper level.
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Paintworks, Bristol
The Paintworks is a creative business colony with loft-style living
spaces which opened last year in what was a group of 1850s stone
redbrick sheds on half a mile of brownfield land. Tenants include a
dance company, an animators’ model maker, jeweler, publisher,
photographers, artists, film makers and architects. An integrated
exhibition venue hosts regular exhibitions and events. The area is
quickly becoming a creative quarter in an area in need of
One bedroom flats in the area sell for around £195,000 while larger
spaces at Paintworks are priced from around £120,000 and there is
also a rental option (although this has proved less popular). All units
are offered as fit out spaces including only the basics such as gas and
electricity. The first 49-unit phase of the project is already nearly sold
out with a waiting list for phase two. The site was transformed by the
London developer Verve who had trouble letting the spaces to
standard industrial tenants, with some of the buildings having been
empty for 15 years or more.
Conclusion on live/work
The artists consulted did not express much interest in the live/work
idea, being already settled. The recent graduate was the only one
who thought the concept might be of interest but she had never
considered it before. However, for a market which includes recent
graduates from art schools in London and the South East, live/work
might be a more attractive option.
The Bristol example might prove to be one which works well in
Wellingborough, finding a new use for previously hard to let industrial
space with a business and employment planning designation.
If the Council has a genuine interest in pursuing the live/work option
it should seek expressions of interest from private developers,
possibly suggesting it as a component within the Wellingborough East
Masterplan. A live/work development there might create some
distinctiveness and sense of place to bridge the gap between the new
residential and business districts. However, a developer is unlikely to
want to restrict sales of these units to artists, and a mixed creative
economy is the best that could be hoped for, and a wide range of
sectors including service is more likely to be the result.
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Potential sites
Examination of potential sites was not part of the brief for this project
but it is inevitable as one starts to look at needs and opportunities
that availability of suitable sites of buildings becomes a factor and
certain sites are identified.
Two sites have been mentioned during the course of this short study.
An essential next step will be to undertake feasibility studies and
analysis of options for these and all other potential sites. Nor should
locations out of the town, for example in Earls Barton or Finedon, be
ruled out. There are examples of artists workspace in rural areas,
such as Wysing Arts in Cambridgeshire which have unique strengths.
15 Great Park St
This is an attractive former shop and warehouse/factory with about
11,000 sq ft over three floors with roof lights on the top floor and
windows on both frontages in a town centre location. It is probably
late nineteenth century. There is some land to the rear with
outbuildings and a small amount of parking. It is in private
ownership and is for sale. On the site opposite, industrial buildings
have been cleared for a major new residential development. The
Council commissioned a valuation and survey recently. The building
is not listed but an approach to English Heritage to have it added to
the List might be helpful to a campaign to keep this attractive
building for social or arts use and reduce the risk of the site being
cleared for housing.
The town centre location offers opportunities for specialist retail and
gallery provision to be an effective part of the mix as well as spaces
for education and community engagement.
It could probably accommodate 20-30 artists and some gallery and
education space.
Gloveralls Factory
This is a more utilitarian 30-40 year old building on the edge of the
Dennington Industrial Estate with somewhere between 20 and 40,000
sq ft of accommodation. Its location is interesting, about half a mile
out of the town centre, it has parking and is close to a school. The
Council has ambitions to revitalise the industrial estate and to create
more footfall there. The Factory is understood to be in private
ownership but standing empty.
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With the growth of the town to the south and east this area could
gain importance and footfall. Location of artist workspace would
have a very positive effect on the rest of the estate and could
contribute to its reinvention as a business centre in the new
expanded town. Live/work might be an option here.
Potential partnerships for delivery
Appropriate delivery mechanisms and partnerships depend very much
on what is being delivered. Certain key groups will definitely need to
be involved, others may be appropriate in some circumstances.
Local artists
It is essential that a core group of potential tenants organise
themselves to champion and lobby for this project. They can help to
define any development brief (in terms of size and specification),
demonstrate need, and provide a focus for political support.
The borough council
As the main client for the Masterplan and the planning authority the
council will be key to any site identification and assembly and to
putting together a funding package.
Northampton University
The Portfolio Centre’s services, resources and remit could be seen to
duplicate with what is being planned in Wellingborough, especially if
funding imperatives or stakeholder requirements mean that similar
services such as CDP, are provided to tenants. It is essential that
there is collaboration to ensure compatibility and mutual benefit
rather than competition. It is too early to say how this could work,
but possibilities might include provision of incubation support to startups in Wellingborough, sharing of gallery space (Portfolio does not
have one) and some sharing of staff costs and resources.
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Oxford Innovation
This private sector organisation runs an enterprise centre co-located
with Tresham College in Wellingborough (one of over a dozen similar
sites around the country). It offers business incubation support
including virtual incubation (i.e. renting desk space and
correspondence address rather than an office) and grow-on starter
units on an industrial estate. It is not specifically geared towards
artists or even creative industries but might be able to offer some
collaboration, for example in space management.
Private sector
There is unlikely to be sufficient value in a purely artist-based
scheme to interest private sector investment. But if artists’
workspace were to be developed as part of a mixed commercial
scheme or as a live/work scheme then developers might be
Summary of project benefits
The benefits of an artists’ workspace scheme to the wider
Wellingborough community can be defined as follows:
Economic development
An artists’ workspace will enable artists to thrive as businesses and
develop new products and markets, contributing to regional
prosperity as individuals, employers and producers. If well-located
studios with galleries can attract tourism and visitor spend.
Any area projecting high growth in population needs to maintain a
careful balance between jobs, skills, infrastructure and quality of life.
It is obvious that if there are too many houses and too few jobs the
houses will be unattractive. But it is also true that if a town is
perceived as too boring with too few leisure opportunities people will
be reluctant to relocate there.
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Creative people driving aspiration
Artists’ studios will ensure that a critical mass of creative people will
be attracted to or retained in Wellingborough. Artists tend to
educated to degree level and often have teaching qualifications or are
in other ways proactive in their local communities. The presence of
successful and visible creative people with ideas, making beautiful
things, has a positive effect on aspirations of local people and can
encourage participation in continuing education.
Sense of place and identity
The effect of artists colonising a run-down area has been welldocumented in London. In the 1960s and 70s they moved into
Covent Garden, turning it into a thriving boutique and mainstream
retail centre. In the 1980s they moved to the South Thames strip,
and in the 90s to Hoxton and Shoreditch regenerating and creating a
sense of identity in each which was so tangible that property prices
rose and they were forced to move on.
In this period of high growth in Wellingborough, the establishment of
identity and sense of place in the new developments will be crucial to
their ultimate success and high liveability scores. Having an artists’
studio on the block will do far more to create a destination and sense
of excitement and interest than an off the shelf retail and commercial
Social engagement
Arts projects are an excellent way to engage with local people at a
variety of levels. At one end of the spectrum classes and courses for
adults and children are very popular. Practical creative sessions are
also a very useful way to engage and make a positive contribution to
the lives of disaffected youth, people with mental health problems or
those with disabilities.
Art-based community projects have a good track record of
contributing to social cohesion by breaking down barriers and
developing mutual understanding and respect between diverse
communities. They can have long term practical benefits in terms of
public art to develop civic pride. The resource which a group of
artists can represent to a community should not be under-estimated,
and if the studios were to include space for classes and courses and
staff to animate them this would offer added benefits.
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Funding sources
Examples elsewhere
The following examples show how artists’ studios and creative
workspaces have been developed and funded over the last 5-10
Spike Island
Spike Island in Bristol has 70 units plus gallery space in around
84,000 sq ft of old warehouse near Bristol docks. It was funded by a
combination of the Arts Lottery, Foundation for Sport and the Arts
(FSA), private benefactors, the City Council (building purchase) and a
developer contribution to a total of £2 million in 1998. It is largely
self-financing now but receives Arts Council funding for special
LCB Depot
LCB Depot in Leicester has 55 units plus gallery and meeting space in
around 38858 sq ft of former bus depot. It was funded by ERDF,
EMDA, Leicestershire Economic Partnership and Leicester City Council
for a total of £4.75 million in 2004. Leicester City Council will operate
and revenue fund for the first three years after which it is projected
to be self sustaining. It has exceeded revenue targets so far.
Falmouth Media Centre/Innovation Centre
The Falmouth Media Centre is the first phase of the plans for an
innovation centre for textile and media artists. Currently there are
about 20 incubating businesses but it plans to expand to 60 units and
be fully sustainable within 3-5 years. As part of Falmouth University
College it is funded by the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF 2)
and it is expected that phase 2 will be funded by SWRDA and the
University of Exeter. A similar but larger scale project is underway in
Plymouth with the same funding sources
East Street Arts
East Street Arts (ESA) in Leeds was set up in to provide space,
services, facilities, opportunities and support for visual artists and
grew from eight spaces in 1993 to 45 in 2002. Because of problems
with accessibility, dilapidation, and security of tenure ESA sought and
won a grant from the Arts Lottery to purchase Patrick Studios with
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partnership from SRB and ERDF Objective 2. The new complex
opened in 2005 and now has 35 resident artists paying £50-£200 per
month. Revenue funding is sought for special projects.
All the examples given have secured debt and rent-free buildings
through public funding sources and operate at least in the longer
term, on a self-sustaining model. The main capital funding source
has of course been the Arts Lottery, which is no longer available. The
buildings tend not to be very high cost. The following table assesses
the potential for an artists’ workspace in Wellingborough to access
the funding sources used in comparable projects:
Arts lottery
Arts Council GfA
ERDF Objective 2
Local authority
Local and national trusts and
No longer available
Possible/good prospect
Possible/good prospect
No longer available
No longer available
Possible but unlikely to be a priority
Possible/good prospect
Possible/good prospect
Possible/good prospect
The Arts Lottery was the most important funder in three of the four
examples but is not now available. However the Grafts for the Arts
scheme is able to offer up to £100,000 towards capital costs and
would also consider supporting start up revenue costs in the early
years of operation.
South Midlands growth area
As described in Chapter 2, the NNDC is the development partnership
delivering the new 3,000 unit residential and commercial mixed use
development on green field sites at Wellingborough East as part of
the Government’s Sustainable Communities Plan. The developer
partnership and planning negotiations are still at a complex stage.
This report has shown how an artists’ studio complex could contribute
a number of cultural, social and economic benefits to the
development. Our assessment of how such a complex could best be
delivered in the current funding climate is that it should be
championed by the local authority within the NNDC and built into the
development framework, either as part of Wellingborough East, or as
part of the associated town centre regeneration.
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The Arts Council and local or national trusts (such as the FSA) could
contribute perhaps up to 20% to the overall funding package but the
principal funding should be delivered through the NNDC, possibly
from a specific scheme such as Fit for Market, or through the value of
the development.
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Business model
Scale and critical mass
Most of the examples known to us and cited in this report of existing
successful artists’ studios have between 20 and 40 artists. A number
also have other more commercial but still creative industries within
the same complex paying a higher rent and therefore to some extent
subsidising artists7.
There are examples of much smaller studios of under ten artists
which still operate effectively:
Knighton Lane Artists group in Leicester – about 8 artists
Artists’ Sanctuary Northampton – 8 artists
Southwell Artspace – about 7 artists
Newport Pagnell Academy – 6 artists (proposed, not yet in
The scale of appropriate development in Wellingborough will be
informed to a large extent by the site opportunities and development
context, but we have found that demand exceeds supply by a
considerable margin locally. Northamptonshire lags behind most
areas in the UK in terms of levels of creative entrepreneurship and if
it is to catch up, proactive projects like this will be necessary to
attract and retain creative people. We have seen how artists are
being gradually priced out of London and most of the south east.
Development for artists’ workspace at Coventry University is seeking
to attract London fine arts graduates on this basis. Wellingborough’s
transport connections are at least as good as those at Coventry and
property is probably cheaper. So when assessing the market and risk
of such a development not only existing local markets should be
considered. Just because Wellingborough is a smaller town with no
track record of artists’ support does not mean it should automatically
assume it requires only a very small scale development.
Services and facilities
Our comparator examples tend to have ongoing revenue subsidy only
if they are offering intensive business support and highly subsidised
rents, such as the Portfolio Centre and Falmouth Media Centre (both
attached to HEIs). Other similar examples e.g. Banks Mills Derby,
Accelerator in London and Bournemouth Innovation Centre, are also
Dean Clough in Halifax is an example where this is taken to the ultimate extreme: the 20 or
so resident artists pay no rent at all and the rest of the substantial complex houses the
commercial and financial services sector all paying market rates.
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attached to HEIs and their funding from HEIF and RDAs was
predicated on provision of intensive business support.
However most examples, especially where there is a gallery, do apply
for and fairly regularly receive Arts Council project support for
programmes and staff.
The artists consulted in Wellingborough did not perceive a need for
business support or CPD, although they did like the idea of a gallery
manager and/or site manager. In many of the examples this role is
taken by one of the artists, often the project’s instigator, sometimes
on an unpaid basis. It is not ideal but it works because the artists
have made it work, having no other real choice. Because this project
in Wellingborough is not at this stage artist-led, the issue of
supporting a staff member through rental income will be more
important than it is in the more typical artist-led model.
On the whole the rents paid by artists cover the running costs of the
building, and maintenance unless the building is very dilapidated8 . If
a full time staff member is required then this usually means subsidy.
In all cases the buildings are debt free and not carrying capital
servicing costs or rents other than peppercorns.
Income generation
Artists based in artist-led studios tend to have portfolio careers and
earn additional income from teaching or commercial activities on a
part time basis. In most examples this is entirely informal but in
some it has become part of the culture of the building with classes
and courses being run collectively by the artists or by an agency such
as the local authority, and taking place within the studios. An
example would be Fairkytes Arts Centre in Havering, North London.
If well organised and marketed, classes and courses can generate
significant income.
Galleries tend not to generate income for the studios unless they
succeed in selling a lot of work for which commission is charged. We
could find no example where commissions met the cost of running
the gallery.
As mentioned before, many comparator examples let space to more
commercial creative enterprises in order to continue to offer lower
than market value rents to artists.
In three of our examples (East St Leeds, Open Hand Open Space Reading and
Bridewell Liverpool) crippling ongoing maintenance and access needs have
precipitated major change in the relationship with the local authority and other
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It was brought to our attention during the consultation process that
the borough lacks meeting rooms for general commercial,
administrative and training purposes. If a suite of meeting rooms
were provided for use by artists and other local businesses and the
local authority, these might contribute to the overall costs by daily
rentals. Administrative costs would have to be factored in.
Indicative operating budget
In order to make an estimate of the sustainability of an artists’
workspace in Wellingborough some assumptions have to be made
about size and scale which might not exactly fit any site or building
subsequently identified. For the purpose of this exercise to
demonstrate viability the following assumptions are made:
20 artists’ workspaces at an average of 250 sq ft each in range of
100-500 sq ft
Gallery of 600 sq ft
Kitchen/communal room 150 sq ft
Total gross internal floor area 7,500 sq ft (approx 700 sq m);
5,000 sq ft lettable
Average rental £12 psf p/a inclusive of all utilities and rates
Charitable structure under which business rates liability is greatly
On this basis, assuming no other income sources such as meeting
rooms, artists would have to be charged £12 psf p/a inclusive of rates
and service charges. For the smaller units this equates to the £100
per month the artists in our consultation group were prepared to pay.
Clearly, by introducing rental escalators and higher rates for more
established artists, lower cost packages could be offered to new
There would be provision in this model for a part time manager and a
janitor to clean communal areas. This is not a sufficiently generous
staffing allowance to provide CPD for artists or strategic networking,
but is sufficient to ensure the artists do not have to manage the
building and its accounts and admissions. 90% occupancy is
assumed. A full budget breakdown is shown at appendix 3 and
summarised below.
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Staff costs
Property costs
Studio rents/service charge
Gallery hires
Exhibition hires/sales
Reprographics recharges
Alternative models allowing for more staffing and offering a
programme of courses and workshops, a focal point for public and
community art, perhaps regular hires to local businesses of meeting
rooms etc, would also be sustainable with approximately double the
Staff costs
Property costs
Studio rents/service charge
Gallery hires
Meeting room hires
Workshops and courses
Exhibition hires/sales
Reprographics recharges
A smaller centre could be sustainable if:
It were self-managed by the artists or had lower levels of
professional management
It charged higher rents to some or all tenants
It undertook a proactive course programme.
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Artists’ workspace feasibility study
Chapter 5: Business model
Risk assessment
Without an identified site and funding package or delivery partners in
place a risk assessment is a little premature, but we would identify
the key capital project risks as follows:
Failure to identify a group of artists to champion the project
Lack of suitable site/building which is the right size, affordable
and in a suitable location to benefit from developer and strategic
partnership support
Lack of funding commitment.
We would identify the key operational risks as follows:
Failure to set up the right management and operational vehicle to
manage the building
Failure to attract sufficient tenants of the right calibre/discipline
Failure to market ancillary activities such as courses, gallery
shows and room hires in order to meet income targets.
As the project develops it will be possible to mitigate these risks by
working closely with partners such as artists and funders.
Next steps
Immediate next steps are to
Present this report to senior officers and Members to ensure their
Lobby to ensure widespread understanding among key
stakeholders including developers, of the regeneration benefits of
inclusion of artists’ workspace within town centre and growth area
Share this report with those involved in the consultation to begin
to identify project leaders.
Key issues to consider at the next stage of feasibility are:
Identification of a site or building around which support can
ABL Cultural Consulting
Artists’ workspace feasibility study
Chapter 5: Business model
Identification of core tenants/champions
Establishment of appropriate vehicle (assuming it will not be
managed directly by the Council which would be a very unusual
model). Options would include: a charity with independent
trustees, a community interest company, or artists co-operative
Establishment of entry criteria e.g. disciplines, balance of
established and younger artists, main workplace, commitment to
participation in community or education activity, local people or
incomers, inclusion of wider creative industries.
38 ABL Cultural Consulting