New studio venture for Gateshead
The region has a seemingly insatiable appetite for affordable workspaces for artists and designers. Alastair Gilmour reports on the latest developments.
Like the Mushroom Works, One Church, 100 Uses is a community interest company which, in simple terms, is an organisation set up halfway between a limited company and a charity. It supports the mission of the United Reformed Church by working with local congregations to maximise the use of their buildings.
The aim is to achieve high-quality, imaginative and practical solutions for the regeneration of churches for wider community use.
At the moment, dwindling congregations with inappropriate or large buildings often feel overwhelmed and they have to devote most of their energies to maintaining the building rather than simply enjoying a church.
One Church, 100 Uses supports congregations in these situations to find alternative entrepreneurial solutions, generally by working in partnership with other organisations to bring buildings back into full use, to help them by becoming dynamic and inclusive community spaces once again but rooted in a local context, socially, environmentally and economically.
The handsome honeyed sandstone and unusually-shaped United Reformed Church (formerly Presbyterian) was built in 1931 and appears to owe little to the God-fearing austerity of earlier religious buildings.
The main entrance is impressive but understated with details such as oriel windows perched on layered corbels. On its north elevation, its soaring windows and high chimneys give it the appearance of a country manor.
Internally, the body of the church, featuring a stylish, suspended ceiling, will eventually accommodate several studios with around six other artists taking up individual rooms. In common with the Brick Works and the Mushroom Works (which, interestingly, was originally built as a Weslyan chapel), included in the affordable rent will be broadband access, meeting areas and kitchen facilities. All have 24-hour access.
“It’s quite difficult to understand that some creative people don’t have to be in it for the money,” says Nick. “It’s for creative people to do their thing, not for business people, though often they are business people but just don’t like to be called that.
“We have a good mix – service designers and ‘dirty’ designers like me who get covered in sawdust.
“Real creative people have a desire, a need and a passion – you can see it in their eyes – and that’s the sort of person we need to build the community spirit we have.
“The North East continues to be a real creative place and now graduates are staying on because there’s a market for their work. A lot of people who had been previously working in their bedrooms and front rooms can now have them back.
“Gateshead Council is also keen to offer creative workspaces; there are some fantastic icons in Gateshead from the Baltic to the Millennium Bridge, but nothing really at grass-roots level. The people who will feed these icons will now have somewhere to go and work. A lot of creative people live in Gateshead and there’s a definite need for facilities for the artistic sector.
Starter For Ten (an initiative led by designer Wayne Hemingway to offer temporary workspaces such as empty shop units for groups to help develop their ideas and businesses) is doing big projects, taking big steps with big commitments.
“We filled the Brick Works studios before construction had started. I already had the model at the Mushroom Works that has been recognised nationally and internationally, one that works really well. It’s getting hot in Gateshead, things have needed to happen for quite a while.”
For information, visit www.brightonroadstudios.com
Page 3: Communal rooms bring the artists together