New art space opens in city centre

23 September 2014

Lyndsey Boardman

UCLan graduates open creative hub for local artists

Four graduates from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) are bringing a creative spark to Preston by opening up a new studio in the heart of the city for local artists to use.

The Birley Art Studios and Project Space opened on Thursday 18 September. It will provide 15 affordable studio spaces in the city centre on Birley Street, next to the open market, for local creatives to develop their arts practice and exhibit their work to the public.

The project is the brainchild of UCLan MA Fine Art graduates: Mat Birchall; Jane Bennett; and Steph Fletcher; along with former film and media studies student, Benedict Rutherford, who together set up a social enterprise called the POST POST earlier this year to help achieve their shared aims of providing a supportive, engaging and creative hub in the city centre.

The Birley project was officially opened by Preston City Councillor Veronica Afrin, Cabinet member for culture and leisure, with the four artists displaying their own work in the studios for the project’s first exhibition. Councillor Afrin said:

“This is a wonderful project and I’m so pleased we could accommodate it in the city centre."

“It’s very important that we retain the skills and creativity of young people studying at the University and have these opportunities so they can stay in Preston, helping the city to thrive.”

Speaking at the launch event artist Steph Fletcher said: “Although there are already a few great options for artists to exhibit in Preston, such as Oxheys Mill Studios and the Harris Stairway, we felt that Preston could still benefit from more in the way of professional art space and opportunities.

“We want to keep creativity in Preston and encourage local artists to share their work with the community. Essentially this project is about starting a space with our own identity, sharing contemporary and visual art by emerging artists and recent graduates."

"We would love to hear from artists, makers, writers and creatives from the area who might want to get involved and help grow our creative network.”

Anyone interested in leasing a studio at the Birley Art Studios can contact the team by emailing via Twitter @the_birley and through Facebook by liking The Birley Artists Studios.

The POST POST team has financed the project with help from UCLan Together Awards which were funded by UnLtd and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFC) HE support 2012 – 2014, a project which supported innovative staff, student and graduate projects with the potential to collectively benefit thousands of people in the University and community.

UCLan Enterprising Students and Northern Lights teams, which support fledgling student and graduate businesses, have provided business support and mentoring to the to the team. The artists have also benefitted from working with public art initiative In Certain Places which is run by UCLan. The Birley Project building is owned by Preston City Council which has worked closely with the graduates on the project.