Historic buildings given new life as creative centres

Capital Project – The Civic

The Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) is the UK’s leading social investor and helps communities find enterprising new uses for the old buildings they love.

In March, AHF announced new Transformational Project Grants, including three to support projects by leading arts organisations in England. The awards, which form part of AHF’s Transforming Places through Heritage programme, are funded by a £15 million grant from the UK Government through the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport. This will help to conserve and adapt unique historic buildings for new uses by community-led charities and social enterprises.

These awards were approved as part of funding for 15 projects across the UK, with funding offers totalling £1,615,100. You can find a full list of the projects supported here. The three arts projects awarded capital funding are detailed below.

The Ice House in Great Yarmouth is located on the riverside, a 19th-century prominent survivor of the herring fishing industry that once dominated the town. Out There Arts, an independent arts development charity, currently use the site to store festival equipment. With the support of a £350,000 grant, however, work can now begin to transform the Grade II-listed thatched Ice House into a National Centre for Arts and Circus, with facilities for circus training and teaching.

Exterior of the Ice House in Great Yarmouth, courtesy of Out There Arts.

Alice Billings House in Stratford, East London was built in 1905-6 to provide accommodation for firemen of the West Ham Fire Brigade. The site consists of two three-storey buildings, an adjoining shed built to house horse-drawn fire engines, and a central external courtyard. Project lead Creative Land Trust was established by the Mayor of London, Arts Council England, and Bloomberg Philanthropies to provide affordable workspace for the creative sector across London. They have been awarded a grant of £116,880 to support their project to convert Alice Billings House into 26 studios, which will be let at affordable rents to around 80 artists and makers. In addition, a gallery and exhibition space, community café, and public courtyard will be created. The AHF grant will contribute towards structural repairs to the listed north block building.

Artist’s impression of the north block of Alice Billings House in Stratford, credit to Purcell.

The Trinity Centre in Gateshead is a Victorian building, originally constructed as an extension of the adjoined Grade I-listed 13th-century chapel. By 1969, however, the extension was no longer needed, and that portion of the building was deconsecrated. Today, it is home to Gateway Studio, a dance and related arts charity. Due to the poor condition of the building, however, the organisation can currently only offer a limited programme of activities. An AHF grant of £250,000 will fund a series of repairs to the Trinity Centre. Once restored, the building will provide new and improved facilities for dance, related arts, and community engagement activities, including a community café, performance space, and rentable office space.

Gateway Studio dance class at the Trinity Centre, Gateshead, courtesy of Gateway Studio

Matthew Mckeague, Chief Executive Officer of the AHF, said:

“Historic buildings so often provide the unique DNA of places, and it’s not surprising that so many arts organisations are inspired by their architectural interest and drawn to the open, flexible spaces they can provide – and also to spaces on high streets and within town centres that help put these organisations at the centre of their communities. It is fantastic to see the imaginative and creative reuse projects we have been able to fund through the latest round of Transformational grants, as well as the other awards made to projects across the UK.”

Two more capital grants were also awarded through the Transforming Places through Heritage programme:

Heritage Lincolnshire, The Harlequin, Lincoln – £350,000

intoBodmin CIC, The Old Library, Bodmin – £150,000

To explore full listings of grant offers, please click here