Stretch Outsider Art Gallery in Margate is looking for a new space after being given notice on its unit at The Centre.
The gallery is run for Stretch, an arts charity that has been working predominantly in the criminal justice system for some 15 years. It showcases work made by non-formally trained artists, intuitive artists, people affected by mental illness, homelessness and the criminal justice system – or anyone who self-identifies as an ‘outsider’ of any sort.
It is headed up by two former prisoners, Carlotta Allum and Dean Stalham, who are now curators, writers and artists in their own right.
The pair say the need to move has “come as a shock” and they are now looking for a shop or studio space to continue hosting their events.
A statement from Carlotta and Dean says: “We have had a wonderful residency at The Centre, we forged links with local charities such as Ageless Thanet, Porchlight and Inspiration Creative. We have hosted workshops and exhibitions reflecting this work.
“Stretch has worked hard to secure funding to carry on this work and we have been really excited about the next year in Margate. Stretch is so in love with Margate we have moved our head office to the town. It really feels like the right place to do the work we facilitate, and we have had so much support from the locals – there is no one doing what we do.
“We thought we might be in the space for a year, we spruced it up, filled it with workshops, hosted events attended by hundreds of people, but unfortunately we have been asked to move from our property.
“We are very grateful for the opportunity from Evolve Estates and it has enabled us to really make a space for our work in Margate. But this has of course thrown up a lot of problems. It came as a shock. We have just secured Arts Council funding for the next five months and have a hot schedule of events. We need a venue.
“It is the nature of pop-ups that we have to move, but we will be in Margate. We have a few ideas and offers but we are looking for space… a cool and sympathetic landlord, shop, studio – we are open to offers. We have a programme of workshops to deliver and some high profile collaborations.”
The unit is due to be divided up for incoming businesses following a planned refurbishment of The Centre.
‘Off Centre’ celebration and fundraiser
Stretch gallery will close its doors on June 5 but first will host a fundraising event on Saturday, June 1 which will celebrate the achievements so far.
The line up includes OUTSIDER music, bands that played at the first opening, editor, poet and outsider ‘face’ Kirsty Allison playing with Gil de Ray as Vagrant Lovers, Patrick Lyons, who used to be voice piece of the Fat White Family, with his own band MeU and cabaret star Aletia Upstairs on her way to Edinburgh.
Art by supporters will also be on show, including work by Libertines frontman Pete Doherty, Nick Reynolds of Alabama 3, Giles Evers and Barbara Antinoro.
Carlotta added: “ We will be fundraising for one of our artists, Barbara Antinoro, who is raising money for her friend Natalie and her cancer Journey.
We really want to leave the space on a high note – it’s not the end, it’s a new beginning.”
Doors open at 7pm and entry is free. Find the event page here
What is Stretch?
Stretch delivers arts projects with prisoners, ex-prisoners, homeless, mental health groups and young people in care, making the arts accessible to some of the most vulnerable people marginalised by society. Projects can cover visual arts, museums, photography, creative writing and media skills. The charity works with people to make their voice heard in order to dispel myths and stereotypes and create positive change.
The charity was set up in 2003 by Carlotta, who spent eight and a half months in an American detention centre after being arrested at LAX airport for being a drug mule.
On her release and return to the UK carlotta completed her MA in Museums and Galleries in Education at the London Institute.
She studied Classical Studies at Kings College London, then completed a PGCE. She has also completed a research scholarship with the Griffins Society at the London School of Economics looking at the arts and rehabilitation of female offenders. She is currently working towards a PhD at Central Saint Martin’s Design Against Crime Research Centre.
He began painting and writing whilst behind bars and on his release in 2006 had won three awards from the Koestler Trust, which promotes art by offenders.
Since release he has written plays, including Geronimo screened on Channel 4, penned scripts for soap series Eastenders, exhibits his art including a series of Amy Winehouse paintings, founded the Art Saves Lives charity and Debarred Theatre and now works with Stretch.
Stretch is currently delivering Stretch Digital, a nationwide Big Lottery funded project equipping prisoners with skills in new media to create digital stories about their personal experiences of the criminal justice system and the life that led them there.