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Image: Exhibition space inside Alfred House in Nottingham. Credit - BACKLIT.
Image: Exhibition space inside Alfred House in Nottingham. Credit - BACKLIT.

ACEd it! Seven AHF-supported Projects Secure Funding from Arts Council England

13 May 2024

Arts Council England has announced the awards from Round 2 of its Capital Investment Programme, which sees a total of 67 organisations benefit from a share of £24.2 million. Made possible with Government funding, the programme supports cultural and creative organisations to invest in equipment, digital infrastructure and technology; to acquire and adapt buildings for cultural use; and to extend and upgrade existing spaces. This investment will secure the creative future of towns, villages and communities in England, including in places where cultural investment has previously been too low, ensuring that they have the infrastructure needed for creativity to thrive.

The Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) is delighted that seven AHF-supported projects have secured funding from Arts Council England in this round, having helped them develop their plans to adapt and redevelop historic buildings for creative and cultural use. 

Congratulations to all of these projects. You can find more information about each of them below.


Image: The exterior of Alfred House in Nottingham, which is now home to BACKLIT. Photo courtesy of BACKLIT.

Alfred House, Nottingham - BACKLIT

Based in Alfred House, a former Victorian factory with links to the anti-slavery and education pioneer, Samuel Morley, BACKLIT is an artist-led public gallery and studios that supports arts and culture in Nottingham, providing a yearly free programme of exhibitions, events and educational workshops. In 2020, BACKLIT was given the opportunity to explore the possibilities of acquiring Alfred House. With this aim, the organisation came to the AHF to see what financial support was available to inform this decision and assist its case. It was subsequently awarded a Project Viability Grant towards a Viability Study, as well as a Project Development Grant towards surveys, valuation and fundraising. Now, Arts Council England has awarded BACKLIT £480,657 from its Capital Investment Programme to support the purchase of Alfred House from Nottingham City Council. Additionally, the organisation plans to renovate the building to make it more accessible and sustainable, and to digitise their ‘People’s Archive’, inviting local people from St Ann’s and Sneinton to take part in preserving the area’s culture and history.


Image: The interior of Blackpool Grand Theatre. Photo courtesy of Blackpool Grand Theatre (Arts & Entertainment) Ltd.

Blackpool Grand Theatre - Blackpool Grand Theatre (Arts & Entertainment) Ltd

Dating back to 1894, the Grade II*-listed Blackpool Grand Theatre plays an important role as a landmark heritage building in Blackpool. It is one of only 21 Matcham-designed theatres still operating in the country. The AHF supported the historic Theatre back in 2018, awarding a Project Development Grant towards a Conservation Management Plan for the whole building, which was damaged by storms and water ingress. Now, Blackpool Grand Theatre has been awarded £450,000 of Capital Investment from Arts Council England to repair the building’s stonework, replace and repoint damaged brickwork, restore the Victorian iron rainwater goods, and replace large areas of slate and lead on the two acres of roof. This will ensure the safety of the building, allowing audiences and visitors to access parts of the theatre that have been inaccessible.


Image: Touch D Sky Moko Jumbies at the Trinity Centre, Gateshead, which is now home to Gateway Studio. Photo courtesy of Gateway Studio.

Trinity Centre, Gateshead - Gateway Studio

The Trinity Centre on Gateshead High Street was originally an Anglican place of worship. It was later deconsecrated and converted into a community centre. Today, the Grade I-listed building is home to Gateway Studio, a charity that provides a space for dance and the arts in the community of Gateshead. Gateway Studio plans to restore and transform the Trinity Centre into a centre of dance, arts, heritage and community, which will also include office accommodation, studio hire and a café. The AHF has supported this project from an early stage, awarding a Project Viability Grant in 2018 towards a Viability Report. A Transformational Project Grant, awarded in 2022, is contributing towards professional fees and repairs to the existing structure and fabric of the building. Now, Arts Council England has provided further support to the project, awarding Gateway Studio £450,000 from its Capital Investment Programme.


Image: The exterior of 17-21 Bethlehem Street in Grimsby, which is now home to Our Big Picture. 

Canters, Grimsby - Our Big Picture

17-21 Bethlehem Street, also known as Canters, is a historic Grade II-listed building in the town centre of Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire. Dating back to 1781, it is believed to be one of the oldest buildings in the town. Today, it is home to Our Big Picture, a charity that delivers visual arts and heritage activities, exhibitions, events and workshops. The AHF supported the early stages of Our Big Picture’s project to acquire and restore Canters, awarding a Project Viability Grant in 2021 and a Project Development Grant in 2022 to help develop plans. Now, Arts Council England has awarded the charity £180,000 from its Capital Investment Programme, which will help to put these plans into action and transform the building into an accessible and inclusive creative community space for arts and heritage, enabling more people to visit the space.


Image: Redevelopment work underway at the Ice House in Great Yarmouth.

The Ice House, Great Yarmouth - Out There Arts

Located on the riverside, the Grade II-listed Ice House in Great Yarmouth is a prominent survivor of the herring fishing industry that once dominated the town. Out There Arts is an independent arts development charity that offers outstanding opportunities for artists and communities through supporting, hosting, and delivering circus and street arts events. The charity is currently working to repurpose the historic Ice House into a National Centre for Outdoor Arts and Circus, which will provide an arts and circus training hub, as well as opportunities for performances and a bar. The AHF has supported this project with five grants since 2018, the most recent being a Transformational Project Grant towards shell and core works to the building. Now, £400,000 of Capital Investment from Arts Council England will support the fit-out of the Ice House and enable Out There Arts to secure state-of-the-art production equipment.


Image: The exterior of The Silk Museum in Macclesfield. Photo courtesy of Silk Heritage Trust.

The Silk Museum, Macclesfield – Silk Heritage Trust

Based in the former college of education, which is understood to date from 1877, The Silk Museum is the only silk museum in the north of England. As well as industrial textile machinery and displays of textiles and fabric designs, it also offers an innovative programme of creative exhibitions and events. The Silk Heritage Trust manages museum collections and delivers inspiring experiences for visitors at four heritage sites: The Silk Museum and Paradise Mill, The Old Sunday School and West Park Museum. Its mission is to preserve the unique industrial heritage of Macclesfield for today’s enjoyment and for the benefit of future generations. In 2020, the AHF awarded the Silk Heritage Trust a Project Development Grant to support business planning, community engagement, and audience development for the Silk Museum. Now, Arts Council England has awarded £165,000 of Capital Investment to transform the museum building’s functions and accessibility.


Image: The Generator Hall exterior on Packe Street. Photo courtesy of The Generator CIC. 

The Generator, Loughborough - The Generator CIC

The Generator is an attractive Art Deco style building dating back to the 1930s. The Generator CIC is delivering a vision to turn the former Art College building into a multi-purpose creative hub for the town, with workspace for creative industries, a restaurant/café, a multi-media arts space for live performances, plus a venue for exhibitions, corporate events and celebrations. The AHF has supported this project with four grants since 2016, including three Project Development Grants to help develop plans, as well as a Crowdfunding Challenge Grant towards repair and conservation work. Now, The Generator CIC has been awarded £400,000 from Arts Council England. This Capital Investment will help to refurbish the building, enabling the installation of double glazed window units, insulation, solar panels and an air-source heat pump. Sound, lighting and audio-visual equipment will also be bought to make the building more appealing for private hires and allow events to be livestreamed

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