Artists’ studios plan and Beecroft Art Trust to be discussed

June 10, 2020

Plans to convert the former Beecroft Gallery in Westcliff into artists’ studios are set to change due to the condition of the building and rising costs, with plans afoot to provide more arts space in other upcoming developments.

Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and Focal Point Gallery (FPG) had planned to convert the listed building on Station Road into artists’ studios, but the condition of the building means that the cost of the conversion is now deemed unviable.

Both organisations remain committed to developing the local artistic community by providing new studios, but would instead focus this provision on plans for the Forum expansion – a new annex to be built on land opposite The Forum.

The Forum expansion gained planning permission in November 2019 and is set to open in 2022. It will contain a number of digital arts studios and facilities including sound recording, post-production and green-screen film and photography. In addition, the Council and FPG are working on further projects to provide studios in central Southend, in doing so delivering one of the town’s Southend 2050 ambitions to be well known as a hub for innovative and creative industries and ventures.

A report on this issue will be discussed by the council’s cabinet next week (Cabinet, agenda item 5, Tuesday 16 June). The report will also consider improved governance arrangements for the Beecroft Art Trust, with a recommendation that the council’s general purposes committee act on behalf of the Trust and make recommendations for Full Council to consider.

Cllr Kevin Robinson, cabinet member for business, culture and tourism, said: “Southend-on-Sea is home to a talented and burgeoning artistic community and it is right and proper that we nurture this talent and help it to flourish.

“Following the identification of further structural damage at the former Beecroft Gallery in 2019, and with the costs associated with its refurbishment beyond our initial expectations, we have been unable to attract the level of external funding we would need to make the initial proposals a reality.

“Next week cabinet will discuss these issues, along with improved governance arrangements and decision making for the Beecroft Art Trust. This will include gaining independent advice for the trust regarding the former site and its future.

“Furthermore we have some exciting opportunities to increase the provision of creative work space in the new building in the Forum expansion working with colleagues from Focal Point Gallery and are also exploring other opportunities within the town to develop new studio space.

“Southend-on-Sea remains an exciting and attractive place for artists to develop and practise their craft and we will continue to embrace opportunities to support this important sector of our local economy.”

The former Beecroft Gallery is a charitable trust property.