Bid to turn Frome public toilet into micro-gallery gets Grand Designs backing
By Fromereporter | Tuesday, February 19, 2013, 16:04
A bid by locals in Frome to create an art café from a disused public toilet by sharing the cost online has received unlikely backing from the presenter of Grand Designs and data giants Experian.
Loop de Loop Gallery night view - artists impression by Wilf Swann
Loop de Loop Gallery day view - artists impression by Wilf Swann
Kevin McCloud who lives near Frome (& shops in Frome!), photo by Glenn Dearing
One local, Kevin McCloud, host of the popular Channel 4 homes show, has pledged £300 to the project, alongside £2,000 raised by other Frome residents. Experian have offered £2,500 as part of a match-funding agreement with Spacehive.com that's seeing the research giant contribute cash to worthy town centre campaigns designed to drive footfall back into town centres.
Anyone who pledges money on Spacehive.com only gets charged when projects hit their funding target. Loop de Loop needs a further £7,000 in donations to reach its target.
Nesta, the government's innovation charity, has said in a report that crowdfunding would raise around £15bn a year by 2015 in the UK alone.
Crowdfunding was pioneered in the USA to tap into new sources of finance to pay for ideas and innovations. Spacehive.com gives the model a civic twist by allowing people to fund amenities and community projects like playgrounds, green spaces or social hubs that may have been stalled in the wake of cuts.
Founder Chris Gourlay, a former Sunday Times architecture correspondent, believes the model of "crowdfunding" is helping to unlock creative ideas that previously had no route to market.
The Frome toilet block currently houses a series of glass blocks containing historic local artifacts, known as the Singers Links, which were created for the millennium project by local artist Helga Watkins-Baker.
It's hoped that the microgallery will also display the work of other local artists.
Katy Duke, who runs a thermal blinds company in Frome, decided to launch the online campaign when she noticed the glass blocks deteriorating.
Katy Duke, project promoter, said:
"When I saw that the Singers Links were deteriorating I was worried that we might lose a part of Frome's history, so came up with the ideas for re-use of the building in order to protect them."
"We are a close-knit creative community and I'm confident that local people will help to make this project happen by contributing a small amount. This is the first time we've crowdfunded anything and Spacehive.com has made the whole process really easy and enabled us to really market our ideas and build support."
Kevin McCloud, presenter of Grand Designs and local resident, who donated £300 to the project, said:
"Public space needs creativity, it needs art and it needs local involvement in order for it to thrive. Without these things, the spaces between buildings - the public areas that ought to be where we flourish as social creatures - will remain barren and mediocre. It's human imagination, not concrete and tarmac, that make our towns and cityscapes enjoyable places."
Chris Gourlay, founder of Spacehive.com, said:
"Frome's microgallery is another inspiring example of how communities are using crowdfunding to make creative things happen and drive footfall back into their town centres. As well as harnessing new funding, crowdfunding is a fantastic way of binding locals together while also bringing grand designs to life."