History



Artspace Cinderford originated in 1988 in a hut left vacant when the local FE College moved its main campus away from Cinderford. A group of artists and volunteers interested in pursuing arts activities, about half of whom had learning difficulties, started to use the buildings to run mixed ability classes and workshops.

By 1991 the users had formed themselves into a company limited by guarantee with a community co-operative structure and obtained a temporary lease on the building.
The organisation grew through voluntary effort, adding after school and holiday workshops for children, and arts and disability projects in local hospitals and day centres to its activities; after five years, we received a sufficient grant from the Forest of Dean District Council, to employ our first worker.

The community co-operative structure was proving to be not very efficient or effective and in 1996 the organisation registered as an independent charity. By this time Artspace had a turn over of approximately £32K, two part time staff and a regular pool of volunteers, and provided employment for over twenty artists on a sessional basis.

Meanwhile, as the work of the organisation developed the premises became increasingly inadequate, prompting us, in 1995, to start looking for a more permanent site. We obtained an Arts Lottery grant from ACE in 1996 to conduct a feasibility study and entered into partnership with several other local arts organisations in the ARC project to explore the possibility of coming together to create a new community arts centre for the Forest of Dean.

Whilst the project was basically feasible, attracting potential support from a wide range of funders, and the Cinderford Regeneration Partnership, the difficulty was finding suitable premises in Cinderford . By 2000 the situation was critical as we had added circus and performance to our repertoire with the ‘Engage’ project, which could not be accommodated in the hut.

Finally, in August 2001, Artspace, with funding from the Forest of Dean District Council and the Rural Development Programme, was able to buy the old Mercury office and print works at 3, Woodside Street, Cinderford. We spent the next two years raising over £400,000 to convert and refurbish the building and doing the work, opening for business in the New Mercury in September 2003, in a highly visible town centre location, which immediately brought more people through the doors, as well as offering a much improved resource base and full disabled access, without being too big to be feasibly sustainable.

In 2004 we achieved Arts Council England RFO status and in 2006 significant three year funding from the Big Lottery Young People’s fund to develop the New Mercury as a Youth Arts Centre for the Forest of Dean, which has allowed us to expand our core staff team to six part time workers. The combination of new premises, Arts Council RFO status, our role in regeneration initiatives and our work with young people has now positioned Cinderford Artspace as a primary arts development agency in Gloucestershire.