Q: What does the creative buzz at a former grammar school, the continuation of An artistic legacy and the transformation of a derelict mine have in common? A: All have benefited from investment from Europe.
Much has been said about Europe over the last year, but often people aren’t aware that many areas in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly have benefited from investment from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Convergence Programme. In addition to some of the better known investments into Superfast Cornwall or the university campus in Penryn, ERDF has also helped to enable refurbishments of historic buildings and the regeneration of key areas, to ensure the region’s cultural and artistic heritage can prevail while also encouraging new economic growth.
One such example is the already successful Krowji site in Redruth. The handsome Redruth Grammar School was almost bulldozed ten years ago when the school moved to modern
buildings, but Krowji founder Ross Williams saw the building’s potential and worked hard to transform the tired complex into an artistic space. Krowji, which roughly translated from Cornish means “workshop”, currently has space for more than 100 “makers” and creative businesses.
However, thanks to ERDF working in collaboration with other funds, the site is currently undergoing major regeneration. While the original 1907 buildings are not included in this phase of redevelopment, a dilapidated 1950s gym and canteen have been razed to allow two new buildings to be built in their place. The two phase 1 buildings will be linked by a glass bridge which will leave a ‘keyhole’ view to the sea from a newly created courtyard garden – the pathway between the old and the new and creating space on site for up to 200 people.
The excitement on site is spreading to artists already in residence, such as Kerry Harding, who says: “I looked at several studio spaces around Cornwall, and having seen the exciting developments happenings at Krowji, I thought this would be the perfect place to reinvigorate my practice and reconnect with the Cornish art scene.”
While Krowji is commencing, the refurbishment of Porthmeor Studios in St Ives has been complete since 2012. The building dates back to the early 1800s, and for its first 100 years was at the centre of the pilchard industry. The artists started to arrive in the 1880s, and built their studios on top of the fishermen’s cellars – among them, illustrious names including Ben Nicholson, Francis Bacon and Patrick Heron.
Exposure to Atlantic gales took its toll, and the building was placed on the English Heritage ‘Buildings At Risk’ Register. It was bequeathed to the Borlase Smart John Wells Trust in 2002, and the need for extensive repairs meant a major task to raise funding to protect and refurbish a building of great cultural and economic importance.
With ERDF investment, along with a raft of other funding streams, the grade two* listed building was refurbished within two years to provide workspace for artists and fishermen. There are now 13 artists’ studios; currently occupying a seaview space is artist Naomi Frears, who has been at Porthmeor since 2005 and knew what conditions were like before the refurbishment. “It often rained inside, and it was completely normal to have buckets everywhere. Once hailstones actually came inside, so you can guess how large the holes in the skylights were. It was always very, very cold.”
In June of 2014 RIBA rewarded the Porthmeor project both for Conservation Of A Listed Building, and for Innovative And Outstanding Architecture, with conservation expert Peter
Carey calling the work “clearly a labour of love”. The love of our Cornish heritage has helped a charity secure ERDF investment to regenerate the former home of Camborne School of Mines at King Edward Mine. The mine was bought by Cornwall Council in 2009, and is substantially leased to a local charity to be run as a mining heritage attraction, as the site is recognised as having Outstanding Universal Value as the best preserved mine within the Cornish Mining World.
The project will give a new lease of life to the former Count House and Carpenters’ Shop complexes, creating nine affordable workspaces ready for occupation from April 2015. This will also remove the Count House complex from English Heritage’s national Heritage At Risk Register. The units will be marketed to businesses within the creative industry sector, one of the fastest growing sectors in the Cornish economy with an estimated turnover of £500m per year. In order to achieve BREEAM ‘Very Good’ environmental rating, the refurbished buildings are as sustainable as they can be; and in compliance with best practice in heritage
conservation, contractors Midas Group Ltd have brought in specialist skills to work on the project. Midas site manager Phil Kitchener explains: “We will be using specialist heritage contractors to apply traditional skills and materials to conserve the two buildings. The work will include lime pointing, lime washing to the external walls, traditional carpentry, stonework and scantle slate roofing skills.”
2014 marks a special year for ERDF Convergence, as this current round of European funding is coming to an end. However, the legacy of Convergence will live on through its investments into our Cornish culture and heritage; find out more at www.erdfconvergence.org.uk
Friday 19 September 2014