Charlotte Harding heads to Eastbourne to find out more about a creative regeneration project.
The Devonshire Collective is on a mission to get people flocking to that particular area of Eastbourne.
In 2016, Eastbourne Borough Council and Eastbourne Housing Investment Company supported the transformation of three of its properties on Seaside Road and Seaside into creative spaces (DC1, DC2, DC3) to be leased to the Devonshire Collective C.I.C. for the benefit of artists and community members.
Also included in the collective are Leaf Hall Community Arts Centre and Royal Hippodrome Theatre as DC+ Associates.
The initiative is supported by Devonshire West Big Local and was originally set up by B&R Productions, who were commissioned by Eastbourne Borough Council to deliver the project.
“People in Eastbourne tend to go to the Old Town, the pier or the shopping part but very rarely do they come to the Devonshire area,” explains programme development manager Amy Zamarripa Solis.
“It isn’t a place people naturally go so we want to make it somewhere they do.
“What we want to do is open people’s eyes to the opportunities and the different businesses we have here.
“I think it is a really cosmopolitan and lively area and we want to do so much with it to bring the community together.”
The three spaces comprises DC1, an old tobacconist’s at 67-69 Seaside Road, which houses a contemporary café and gallery with space available for events, workshops, seminars and training; DC2 was a cash converter’s at 137-139 Seaside Road and now houses four artists’ studios, four pods and two makerspaces, Eastbourne Studio Pottery and The Print Room, offering a wide range of accessible courses for all levels; and DC3 at 1 to 5 Seaside used to be a kebab shop and is now a workshop which acts as a multi-purpose space for classes as well as a place to make and build things.
“It was part of an initiative to look at and fill empty shops,” says Amy.
“We have space if people want to run creative writing workshops or yoga classes whereas we also have the artists studios which have a kiln and print-making facilities.”
At its core, the collective is about bringing the community together not just the artistic community but those who live in the area.
“People are stronger when they are together as a collective,” smiles Amy.
“It is about bringing a collective dynamic to Eastbourne and showcasing the people here.
“We want people to link up with us.”
Describing the areas as ‘lively’, the collective is also proud to include the Hippodrome and Leaf Hall.
“They are looking to work with one another on productions, which is great,” she says.
“We held a really popular comedy night at Leaf Hall and we had a bar and cafe. People were saying it felt like a proper venue.
“Many people didn’t even know it was there.”
Having previously worked at the Towner Art Gallery in the town, Amy says she has seen many artists relocate from Brighton or London to Eastbourne after being ‘priced out’.
“At DC1 we have the cafe with a gallery underneath with space for people to exhibit,” she explains.
“We have people come to us and say they can’t afford to exhibit so I mention to them that they could join up with others and it gives them this light-bulb moment.
“Most of the spaces we have are about giving artists exposure and giving them a shop front.”
The collective’s vision is to eventually have more venues, but at the moment the focus is firmly on what they already have and delivering their promise there first.
For more information, visit devonshirecollective.co.uk
Devonshire Collective is a managed entity, establishing and maintaining a self-sustaining economic model in order to support and develop emerging, mid-career and established artists across the visual and performance spectrum.
Through its work, it provides opportunities for community engagement, nurturing social cohesion and supporting cultural and economic regeneration.
This first featured in the June edition of etc Magazine pick up your copy now.