Creative Spaces, Outreach
& Mentoring Initiatives
With our charity's base off North Street ‘Factory 8’ up and running as a high-quality site for music, theatre and community classes, we became aware of the lack of facilities for artists of other disciplines such as visual and digital arts in the neighbourhood.
To meet this need we negotiated another ‘meanwhile’ lease (following our successful 4 year project 'Meanwhile BS3' in ex-retail spaces in St Catherine's Place off East Street in Bedminster) with the owners and developers to take over 30,000q ft of unused factory and office space in Bedminster creating a new creative quarter for BS3
As part of our Creative Outreach and Leadership Programme, we have taken on these diverse sites on a ‘meanwhile’ basis with a vision to create affordable, flexible and practical workplaces for the creative community - including fine arts, fashion, illustrators, makers, sculptors, visual & music production and performance etc. Free space is also made available for local charities and emerging young artists under 25.
‘The Works’ currently consists of 4 buildings:
Housing arts studios for independent young and/or developing visual, digital and fine artists,
an exhibition space and a music recording facility.
This 6,000 sq ft
ex-warehouse and workshop has been converted
into a large collection
of visual artists spaces,
hot-desk areas and meeting rooms etc.
It also has one of the largest exhibition spaces in South Bristol.
Housing textile/fashion designers
on the first floor
at ground level.
At the time of writing negotiations are underway to secure a fifth
site to integrate into ‘The Works’. to house the ‘cleaner’ disciplines of digital, film, design etc. The first-floor workshop areas will house
the likes of sculptors, puppet-makers, jewellery designers, etc.
Illustrations: Matt Wong - Post Graduate Student (Architecture
and the Built Environment, University of the West of England)
What is meant by 'Meanwhile'?
A Meanwhile’ lease is an agreement between organisations such as Gathering Voices and the owners/developers of vacant retail, office and commercial buildings. The strategy is take them over and re-imagine/refurbish them as affordable, flexible and collaborative creative spaces, typically for a period of between one and four years, after which they are developed.
In this 5,500 sq ft ex-Argos shop and warehouse we are working with Bristol Arts on Referral Alliance partners creativeShift (who use arts as an intervention to promote and sustain positive mental health and wellbeing) as well as creating an additional photographic studio space for Gathering Voice's East Street portraits project and creating additional artists spaces for one of the collectives created at PrintWorks.
When the Methodist church decided to sell the property in which we had created 'SoundWorks' in 2010, we took on our largest refurbishment and creative outreach project to date
‘Factory 8’, an unused 6,000 sq ft of the original No 8 Factory of WD & HO Wills
on Upton Road, Southville.
The three floors house a range of creative and community and performance activities
and Gathering Voices own ongoing mentoring and leadership work
with both young people and adults. The Bonus Room is available for the local community to use for workshops, training sessions, rehearsals and meetings .
Responding to the need for creative spaces further into the regeneration area
of Bedminster, South Bristol, Gathering Voices developed their first 'meanwhile' project 'Meanwhile BS3' - taking over two long-term vacant commercial properties within the run down pedestrian precinct of St Catherine's Place.
As part of our emerging Creative Outreach & Mentoring Initiative, we worked with arts graduates from the University of the West of England (UWE), mentoring a group
of emerging artists and undertook the transformation of the smaller space to create
‘Unit 10’ as a vibrant arts space. Unit 10 developed to an artist-led, social enterprise collective focusing on marginalisation 'one creative project at a time'.
The larger ex-retail space of 2,500 sq ft was refurbished and transformed into
‘Meanwhile BS3’ – a rehearsal & performance site for newly-hatched theatre collectives and
community performing arts groups.
Moving on from The Park in 2010, Gathering Voices took over an under-used chapel space
in BS3, South Bristol, transforming it into 'SoundWorks' - a thriving centre for well-being, community arts and creativity.
It was also the base for our own acappella and live music projects and home to our newly established Creative Youth Leadership Programme (CYLP).
Gathering Voices set up our first base in South Bristol, creating the three year ‘Youth Utopia’ project for inclusive community music and performing arts.
Based in an ex-secondary modern school we refurbished the entire performing arts area and collaborated to establish the 50,000 sq ft site as The Park Local Opportunity Centre for local youth-led groups and schools in Knowle West, an area of multiple deprivation.
We also designed and established the BTEC First & BTEC National qualifications in
World Music (Level 2 & 3), which subsequently transferred to the City of Bristol College.
To facilitate this work, we established a 250 seater performance venue and
a suite of creative workshop facilities including a dance and theatre studios, a 24 track recording studio and Digital Media Suite for local community use and beyond.