Ambitious project to convert disused Scarborough properties into thriving arts quarter

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An ambitious project in Scarborough will convert several disused properties into vibrant galleries and art studios, breathing new life into vacant spaces - and making arts and culture more accessible to the public.

In an inspiring effort to rejuvenate communities and bolster the town’s thriving arts scene, Scarborough Studios CIO, the organisation behind the Old Parcels Office Artspace, announces a transformative initiative centred around Scarborough’s Old Town.

After nearly a year of negotiations, Scarborough Studios has secured leases from North Yorkshire Council for multiple properties, including the former Shakespeare pub.

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The historic building will be repurposed as a gallery and exhibition space on the ground floor, with creative studios upstairs.

Ongoing renovation as part of the Scarborough Studios CIO arts project.Ongoing renovation as part of the Scarborough Studios CIO arts project.
Ongoing renovation as part of the Scarborough Studios CIO arts project.

The old newsagent’s shop next door, with its unique glazed, folding wall, will become a second exhibition space and media studio.

The initiative also encompasses the long-closed sandwich shop on Newborough and the flat above it.

Both flats will be made available as affordable art studios for around 12 artists or creative practitioners, fostering an environment of support and collaboration.

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In a playful nod to the town’s seaside postcard traditions, Scarborough Studios has also leased the three closed former coin-operated public toilets on St Helen’s Square.

These will be transformed into Scarborough Bogs; innovative installation spaces for artists’ work, offering a unique viewing experience.

By securing these leases, this initiative aims to turn town centre eyesores into vibrant cultural hubs, preserving the area’s unique character and history.

These repurposed spaces will provide affordable venues for artists to create, exhibit, and perform, addressing the often-prohibitive costs of workspaces for artists, musicians, and performers.

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The new galleries and studios are expected to attract visitors, stimulate the economy and create work opportunities.

Additionally, they will serve as community gathering points, fostering social cohesion and cultural exchange.

Scarborough Studios CIO's initiative is poised to make a lasting impact, celebrating local talent and revitalising the heart of Scarborough.

Andrew Aldis, project manager for Scarborough Studios, said: “Artists constantly seek spaces where they can freely express themselves – spaces that are affordable and situated near other like-minded creatives.

"That's exactly what we're providing.

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“Scarborough is home to a wealth of artistic talent, just waiting to be recognised and celebrated.

"Our goal is to create a cluster of spaces where creativity can flourish and be seen.

"We might even Christen it Scarborough's new Arts Quarter.”

With Scarborough Fair’s next festival, Scarborough Art, only days away and more than 30 exhibitions and workshops scheduled to run from the Shakespeare and adjoining spaces, the aim is to have the building open by the end of next week.

"While the work is still ongoing, we are committed to opening in time for the start of the festival on June 15,” added Mr Aldis.

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“We’ll be working every day, so if you’re interested in helping with painting or cleaning, please get in touch.

"Every extra hand brings us closer to being ready."

With seed funding in place, Scarborough Studios intends this project to have a lasting impact over many years.

"Although the buildings may eventually face demolition, their ultimate purpose will have been to bring the community together and to demonstrate that arts and culture belong in a modern town centre,” he said.

"Whatever is built in their place must continue their legacy of transformation, creativity and social cohesion.”