Our Campaign for an Inclusive Creative Arts Venue in Newcastle
We wanted to emerge from Covid-19 and make a positive difference by doing creative artful things that would bring people together as part of a community. After so much time apart, we felt people were in real need for human connection.
But we recognised there was a problem, not only for us, but a vast amount of other artists, community groups and grassroots organisations like us: The lack of accessible, affordable and available space in town.
This has been a long-term problem in our city but was made even worse by the demolition of ‘meanwhile spaces’ in Newcastle since the end of the pandemic. No wonder the artist community was in despair and even more talent looked to leave Tyneside in search of creative opportunities elsewhere. How are we meant to help the public the participate in the arts when there's no space to do it?
We set out on a mission to find a solution and make positive change.
First, we needed to see if there was an actual vacant building out there that could be repurposed. We knew it had to be in an easy to get to location, and spacious.
After months of viewing properties that we found online, we walked around the streets and eventually found an old empty building a stone’s throw from Newcastle Central Station.
Making it happen
We chased the opportunity. Off our own back and with the help of a volunteer architect we formed concept designs and secured planning permission to repurpose the ex-wholesale-store into an 'accessible creative arts hub' to provide workshop rooms, a theatre, a cafe bar, co-working offices, a bike park and roof garden.
We were awarded small pots of research and development funding from NTCA (North of Tyne Combined Authority), administered through Newcastle City Council and Creative UK to engage building surveyors, market researchers and a solicitor, and began negotiations on a 25-year lease
Then we embarked on our successful crowdfunding campaign to kickstart the capital project. This gained great swathes of support and generosity from the public and a capital grant from NTCA.
Campaign Video Venue Tour
Bev Fox (Boho Arts Founder & Co-Artistic Director) takes Hazel Burton (Trustee) on an exciting and informative tour inside the building. She explains how it can be repurposed into an inclusive creative arts venue for everyone to enjoy.
The video shows the benefits the venue will bring to the public, why it is so important to Newcastle's grassroots artistic community, the kind of wonderful activities that will happen within, images and concept designs for the space.
The success of the crowdfunding campaign was paramount to proving there was public support and demand for our idea to help unlock the big capital funding we need to repair and repurpose the space, as well as of course providing over £40,000 of ring-fenced cash to help make a start on the ground floor. The building has been vacant for almost 10 years so needs a lot of repairs and modernisation, and the current overall budget is in the region of £600,000, but this can be done in stages.
We are delighted that Newcastle City Council have topped up their initial 'Culture and Creative Zone grant' through NTCA to enable us to hire our design team to take plans to the next stage required to unlock the major capital funding we need.
We have learned that we are resourceful, tenacious and incredibly pushy. We've also had to learn a great deal of patience during this challenging process, but also found enormous support and encouragement all round. Optimistically (and it's waking up every day with optimism and ready to graft that has got us this far) we hope to start the lease and begin works later this year.