Work Begins on Drury Lane Library

21.05.2014

Work began today to breathe new life into Wakefield’s Old Drury Lane Library. Since the Library’s closure in October 2012 The Art House – which stands next door – has been planning an ambitious overhaul that will secure the future of this much-loved Grade II Listed Building and ensure it is open for use by artists, businesses and the public by Summer 2015.

The refurbished Old Library will house 34 artists’ studios, meeting spaces and offices linked to the current Art House building by an impressive double-height glazed extension to form a new public entrance on Mulberry Way.

Angela Galvin, Interim Chief Executive at The Art House said today: “The Drury Lane Library is too beautiful to stand empty – and the opportunities it provides are too precious not to invest in. We are delighted that WakefieldMetropolitan District Council, Arts Council England and the European Regional Development Fund share our vision not only to give Wakefield a bright building with brilliant projects but also strengthen The Art House’s ability to promote equality in the arts.”

Service Director for Culture and Sport at Wakefield Metropolitan District Council, Lisa Dodd-Mayne said today: “This is fantastic news for Wakefield’s growing cultural sector and we wish the very best to The Art House in transforming the former library into a vibrant space for local artists. The new venue will bring and add so much to the city centre and will create many new opportunities for creative artists to give them the resources and space to express themselves.”

The construction work will be carried out by York-based William Anelay Ltd.  The company’s Chairman, Charles Anelay said today“At William Anelay Ltd we are very lucky to get to work on some really interesting buildings, and with some very special clients. We are delighted to be working with The Art House, and are very much looking forward to playing our part in this stage of its development. We will be doing our very best as specialist builders to make sure that the work we do respects the building’s past, and alters it effectively to make a really good environment for people to work in for the future.”

John Pointon, Area Manager for Turner & Townsend, Project Managers, today talked about some of the challenges of converting an old building for The Art House – who pride themselves on providing “accessible” workspaces for artists: "We have been fortunate to have worked withThe Art House for several years now, involved in the development and delivery of both Phase 1 and 2 projects, and are proud to have been part of the organisations’ vision for the future. Both projects have had their challenges which has required us to work closely with The Art House and several key stakeholders to tight timescales and budgets, ensuring that both phases deliver buildings that provide true equality to all that visit or use the facilities on a day to day basis".

Alongside the Old Library Project, The Art House have also launched an ERDF-funded scheme providing free Business Mentoring for artists living and working in Wakefield. Hannah Mason, Mentor Progamme Manager, explained how the BELAY Business Creative Mentoring Programme scheme will work alongside the Drury Lane Library conversion: “Our Mentors will be working with artists from across the Visual Arts to help them develop their businesses. The scheme is specifically focused on providing time, space and support for artists wishing to turn their art into a business through a regular programme of events, alongside 121 support and group business skills seminars. The BELAY scheme is designed support the launch of several new artistic businesses over the next twelve months and support the growth of existing artist-run businesses. It’s likely that some of the artists enrolled on the scheme will become the first tenants in the Old Library studios when the building re-opens next summer.”

Artist Sam Hodgson who was one of the first to enrol on the BELAY Scheme said today: “The structured mentoring offered as part of the BELAY programme is the perfect thing to take me to the next step in my career.” The Art House are now inviting visual artists from across Wakefield to enrol on the free scheme. Full details can be found on The Art House website at www.the-arthouse.org.uk. Alternatively, artists can contact Hannah Mason, BELAY Programme Manager on 01924 312 000.