This community arts centre has plans for workspaces, exhibition space and housing in neglected local buildings.
The Exchange has been welcoming residents and tourists to take part in creative projects in Morecambe since 2015. But art is only the start of the conversation with Beki Melrose and Jo Bambrough, the project’s co-founders, who have led the Exchange in several bids to take over disused buildings in the town.
It started with an art shop and a cafe, opened in the West End, a lower-income area of the town. Opposite that shop, a massive stone church was reimagined as a “Steeple for the People”, a £3 million project to create modern studios and art spaces, a place to hold events and a gallery to showcase the town’s local artists.
While plans for that project are ongoing, the Exchange has opened up a formerly empty unit in the Arndale Shopping centre and turned it into a community studio, with shared workspaces, equipment and private studios. Workers have access to shared resources, such as easels, a screen printing press, printers and photography lamps. Behind it all is the desire to promote the “good things” the West End has to offer, to develop the existing skills in the neighbourhood and to connect people with each other.
Eventually, the Exchange wants to move towards taking on housing to make sure that the existing population of the West End can stay in the area.
“We set this up with a creative head thinking let’s do something that will give people more experiences, it will increase pride in the area, because it’s not an area that’s had the best of reputations,” Bambrough says. “That affects people in their core, when they know it is a deprived and run down area. We wanted to address that and shout about some of the positive things going on.”
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