Appeal for new home for xChange music and art studio after Cliftonville property falls through

Arts Education Exchange wants to open a creative school

Plans to open a creative school and music studio in Cliftonville for disadvantaged young people have suffered a setback after the property earmarked for the scheme was deemed “financially and practically unviable.”

The xChange Studios were due to be based at a property in Cumberland Avenue but now the team behind the scheme is appealing for help to find a new property or a piece of land where two shipping containers could be housed and converted.

A successful crowdfunder for the studios was launched by Arts Education Exchange CIC in April and raised more than £37,000.

The xChange Studios proposal gained the backing of artist Tracey Emin and music stars including Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons.

The plan is to create a fully equipped recording studio, with three multi-purpose art studios, a video editing suite, a lounge/meeting space and two offices. There will also be a project/exhibition space.

The property will be designed with architects, Studio Octopi.

‘An opportunity’

Photography, art and design teacher Ollie Briggs, who founded Arts Education Exchange in 2017, says the setback is a hitch but presents “ an opportunity to find something more suitable.”

He said: “My prime concern is to ensure sustainable use of the investment the community and charities made and the building on Cumberland Lodge would not have provided the security we needed so I decided, in the interest of the community, that we needed to find something else.

“We have subsequently been searching for an alternative and initially found some land so planned a container conversion. Unfortunately that fell though too due to planning permissions so we are opening up our search to the community in the hope something arises.

“We are either looking for 200-300 sqm of land with a 3 year lease or a suitable building for the same period.”

Container proposal

The shipping container plan would provide two large creative spaces, one for music and recording and one for other activities. The positioning of the containers  would create a space where communal activity, such as eating and meetings could take place.

Residency

The xChange programme is currently based at the Viking Gallery in Cliftonville Avenue.

Ollie said: “ Luckily Pam Price, owner of Viking gallery, has allowed us to take a 6 month residency there to enable us to run our programmes and continue our search for a permanent site.

“We are currently working with young people from Royal Harbour Academy, Hartsdown Academy and Hartsdown ARC as well as our youth work music programme, which will see us work with over 60 young people in the year.

“I am fully committed to fulfilling our promise and setting up a permanent centre to run our projects from. If anyone has any leads to possible sites, I’d be really keen to connect.”

The studio will specialise in education through visual arts, music and lens-based media by working directly with industry professionals. The new design includes a fully equipped recording studio, three multi-purpose art studios, a video editing suite, a lounge/meeting space and two offices.

Plans to establish an in-house record company to provide a platform for young people to gain skills and opportunities to access the music industry, as well as a specific job training scheme, are underway with Margate-based  Moshi Moshi Records.

It is hoped the project will provide skills, training and employment and increase access to the arts. It is aimed at youngsters aged 13 to 25.

Contact Ollie at oliver@artsedex.org

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