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Crowdfund Campaign: Build A Better Primary

19 April 21 words: LeftLion

Primary, the artist-led contemporary visual arts organisation based in Radford, are looking for help to transform their building into a warm, welcoming and sustainable place for Nottingham’s creative community and beyond...

When Primary opened its doors to its first intake of artists back in late 2011 there were a lot of makeshift studio spaces in the old Victorian classrooms and offices, a huge semi-derelict sixties school block outside, a large but overgrown playground and two impressive former assembly halls awaiting conversion into exhibition and events spaces. It’s fair to say, there was a lot that needed to be done to prepare the Grade II listed former primary school for public use.

Over the last decade the building has been gradually renovated and although still the same recognisably labyrinthine jumble of corridors, classrooms and semi-bespoke exhibition and performance spaces inside, has also become home to an increasingly large group of resident artists and businesses, complete with some amazing independent galleries, workshops, and small businesses, including NeighbourFood, Four/Four, TG, Trade, Beam, Nottingham Clay and Weave Studios, Lane, and the award-winning Small Food Bakery.

At the heart of the building’s purpose, though, are the 50-odd artists who hold studios here, ranging from collectives like Reactor and sculptors like Kashif Nadim Chaudry, Michael Forbes and Caroline Locke to painters like Yelena Popova, Mik Godley, Marek Tobolewski and Louisa Chambers. There are musicians and sound artists, including Rebecca Lee and Nathaniel Mann, and all kinds of less easily classified performers, writers, photographers and installation artists, among them Beth Kettel, Holly Rozier, Craig Fisher and Alison Lloyd.  

Photo credit: Reece Straw

There is also a free public programme of events and exhibitions, currently (or at least, once the pandemic allows them to re-open) featuring new work by Rebecca Lennon and Making Place, a gathering of material from three years of projects made in collaboration with local communities in Radford, Lenton and Hyson Green. Resident artist Nastassja Simensky notes that Primary may well have played its part in encouraging her relocation to Nottingham from Essex:

“I first visited in 2016 on a trip to Nottingham with a group of other artists. There wasn't a show on at the time, but right away we knew that Primary was a unique place and a different beast than other artist led studios and projects. After that first visit, I had a constant niggling that there were good things happening here, a lot of energy and enthusiasm to get on and make things happen. Four years later I've never regretted making the move...”

For veteran film-maker, retired NTU tutor and general eccentric Frank Abbott, meanwhile, the value of the place is that “it is a centre led by the artists who are here. Primary seems to allow new kinds of ideas to bubble up from the streets and gives them a home. Film Free and Easy, the ‘bring and show’ film event I run with a host of other enthusiasts, has been going for five years, showing work by new film makers all over the East Midlands.”

“A similar energy is emerging around food, growing and natural resources with Kim Bell’s Small Food Bakery, the dye garden with Georgina Barney or Audrey Leach’s Primary Gardens all looking at new approaches to horticulture, colour and nutrition. It all feeds back into the surrounding community...”

Right away we knew that Primary was a unique place and a different beast than other artist led studios and projects

Typically, Primary fundraises through such sources as its popular Secondary Book and Record shop and occasional large scale public events like the Christmas Raffle and Uncanny Xmas party, which has long since established itself as a kind of surrealist festive carnival, where each year seemed to top the last in terms of eccentricity and outright fun, until 2020’s pandemic prevented it happening.

With a large hole in Primary’s ongoing fundraising effort, it was decided to try and plug the gap with an ambitious Crowdfunder campaign with the specific purpose of improving mobility access and signage, replacing the former school’s child-size toilets with wheelchair accessible alternatives, refitting the kitchen to specs that would allow for more public food-related events and generally bringing some of the neglected corners of the place up to scratch.

Previous Uncanny Xmas parties paid for the renovation of the formerly semi-derelict Blue Building to form a new block of studios, and the output of many of these studios, new and old, are available as perks during the campaign. There will also be a ‘Build A Better Primary’ online performance event (more info below), which offers a perfect opportunity to see some of what the resident artists (and some of their guests) get up to just a little way down the road from Canning Circus.


Build a Better Primary Livestream Performance Event

Friday, April 23, 2021 - 8:00 PM - 10:30 PM

Primary residents will be joined by guest performers for an evening of livestreamed free entertainment, in support of the‘Build A Better Primary’ fundraiser campaign. We’re starting a refurbishment project to make Primary more accessible, more welcoming, and more sustainable. With your support we're going to make Primary a long-term home for art and creativity in Nottingham! With Beth Kettel, Frank Abbott, Stephen Crowe, Jordon The Ego, Chris Lewis-Jones, Nathaniel Mann, Ravi Abbott, Jim Brouwer (DJ set).

Ticket booking and more info can be found here

Please email [email protected] if you have any questions.

Visit Primary’s Crowdfunder page for campaign details and to donate, the fundraiser will end at 12pm on 28 April

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