A Barrow charity will breathe new life into a historic building in the town by transforming it into a new arts location.
The doors to 102 Abbey Road will be open again this autumn for the first time in many years, welcoming people to enjoy free creative exhibitions, photography and digital arts workshops and a pop-up coffee shop.
The formerly derelict building has been refurbished by Creative Studios Cumbria, a charity set up by Signal Film and Media founders Kerry Kolbe and Loren Slater to provide
affordable, high-quality creative spaces for charities and community groups.
The building will form part of the adjoining ‘Cooke’s Studios’ and will be officially opened by Barrow Mayor, Councillor Helen Wall at the launch of West Coast Photo Festival, the largest digital art festival ever to showcase the rugged beauty of Cumbria’s West Coast, on October 7 at 6pm, an event to which all are welcome.
Delivered by Signal Film and Media, the festival will run over two floors, showcasing a new collection of work focusing on the west coast of Cumbria produced by internationally acclaimed photographers, shown alongside images and films by local artists.
Audiences at the Thursday and Friday launch events and Family Fun Day on October 9 from 12-3pm will be the first to experience the newly refurbished rooms and see 102 Abbey Road for the first time, as well as enjoying digital art exhibitions and getting creative with workshops for all ages at the family events.
The Grade II listed building’s ground floor will house a pop-up coffee shop run by local business Industry Kitchen, plus a large, versatile space that will host year-round events,
exhibitions, film screenings and creative workshops for the community.
The first floor has been given a new lease of life, containing a large exhibition and workshop space and two smaller rooms to host community activities. Fundraising is underway for the second phase of work that will see the top floor brought back into use, the frontage upgraded and a permanent cafe established on the ground floor.
Co-director of Creative Studios Cumbria Kerry Kolbe said: “We’re delighted to have been given the go-ahead to reopen 102 Abbey Road by Barrow Borough Council and are excited to get the space up and running – Cooke’s Studios in 104 has been full for a while and expanding into this extra space means we can keep costs down and make the whole enterprise more sustainable while expanding what’s on offer to the public.
“We want to make this a warm and friendly place where people can come together to enjoy local creative talent and learn skills themselves, as well as celebrate the heritage and culture of the area. We’re hoping this new space means more people than ever can be creative and have some fun.”
The charity has raised £95,000 from The Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, The Northern Powerhouse, The Sir John Fisher Foundation, The Francis C Scott Charitable
Trust, The Rank Foundation, The National Lottery Community Fund and The Hadfield Trust to help fund the refurbishment.
Co-director Loren Slater said: “We’re really grateful to the organisations who believed in our vision for the building and agreed to support us with funding and permissions to carry out the work.”
The refurbishment has been carried out sympathetically and attracted praise from the council’s planning committee. Councillor Bill McEwan, who represents Ormsgill, was an enthusiastic supporter of the project, saying: “How can we refuse this? This is what it’s all about. We want to bring Barrow alive and this is the thing to do to get it up and running.”
West Coast Photo Festival launches on October 7 and runs until November 7. More details can be found at