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We Hear About the Importance of One Thoresby Street as They Begin Their Search for a New Home

15 March 22 words: Alex Stubbs

As their time at the iconic location looks set to come to an end, Arts Editor Alex Stubbs explores the important creative hub that is One Thoresby Street

One Thoresby Street has been steadily evolving for years. Since 2008, the studio, exhibition, and event space has played host to a diverse range of artists and creatives. Contemporary art, dance, and performance have coexisted happily within the building’s industrial spaces, often intertwining and collaborating with each other.

Run by three directors - Ellen Angus, Freddy Griffiths, Sophie Mackfall - and studio manager Adam Grainger, One Thoresby Street is a relatively small operation. Their roles emerged organically, the result of persistent and dedicated work: “We had all been involved in various aspects of what happened in the studio before.” After taking over the reins in 2021, the group “were keen to ensure that it continued to operate as a vital space for grassroots activity in the city”.

One Thoresby Street established itself by delivering absurdly brilliant art to the community and nurturing the next generation of artists. Home to over thirty studios, it championed a range of creatives, including sculptors, painters, and performance artists, as well as researchers, writers, and academics. “Space is one of the main things artists need to develop their practices, and it’s something we currently have an abundance of,” they explain, “so we’re always keen to find ways to give people room to experiment.” Music has also found a place here, with Wigflex City Festival spinning ravers into a frenzy of celebration and dance. Film events, talks, and workshops have proved that One Thoresby Street is not simply a space to rent; it’s an energetic hub of creativity supported by a thriving community.

Now, though, the future of the institution, at least at its current location, is precarious. “The potential lack of a premises to house the community throws up a range of dilemmas and possibilities,” they explain. “How do we continue to provide a structure of support, community building, and development without a permanent physical base?”

The situation at One Thoresby Street speaks to the bigger problem facing artist-led art spaces. With growing concerns surrounding funding and rent hikes, opportunities to establish new spaces are proving even more difficult. Fears have arisen over the construction of a major student accommodation site near Nottingham Train Station, and, coupled with recent similar developments in Sneinton and Hockley, space for artists is now at a premium.

One Thoresby Street established itself by delivering absurdly brilliant art to the community and nurturing the next generation of artists

The folks at One Thoresby Street are all too aware of the need to remain flexible, ready at all times to take over the next derelict shop front or warehouse. “One Thoresby Street’s strengths lie in its flexibility, spontaneity and the diversity of practices and skill sets represented in the studio community.” By focusing on alternative education, learning, and practice, the organisation remains in tune with what a sustainable arts ecology might look like.

Gasleak Mountain, a collective of NTU graduates, have recently taken over the ground floor in One Thoresby Street. “Their programme has been really exciting and ambitious, and has brought a whole new audience and energy to the building over the past year,” the directors muse. That energy is bundled into a diverse package: thoughtful exhibitions like Tulani Hialo’s In My Defence and the ever popular Queerphoria event alongside studio artist Christos Gkenoudis are just two examples of many. Gasleak Mountain are proof that organisations do best when they collaborate and support other creatives.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Even as they know that the clock is ticking on their time at Thoresby Street, there is no sign that they’re slowing down. Currently on view is Sticking Ground, a group show initiated and curated by Sophie Giller, Sophie Goodchild, and Hannah Dinsdale, that commemorates the history of the building and those that have worked in it. As part of New Midland Group alongside Nottingham galleries Backlit and Primary, One Thoresby Street is helping to deliver Roo Dhissou and Sahjan Kooner’s (ASTRAL VILLAGE) slooooowwww over at Riverlights, Derby. The New Midland Group project establishes relationships between both artists and galleries and, as Thoresby Street sees it, it’s been an essential part of “reinvigorating creative practice given the relative quietness of the art world through the pandemic”.

For them, it’s all about looking to the future. “We want to look back and see this time as one that marked and celebrated our existence in the building over the past years,” they say, “and look forward with optimism to the futures we might create.” It seems the beautiful thing about their organisation is not the building they find themselves in, but the deeply important programme they’ve built over the past fourteen years.

Sticking Ground is on view Saturday 5 March at One Thoresby Street, 12 - 6pm

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