Bid to turn Frome public toilet into micro-gallery gets Grand Designs backing

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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.

The Loop De Loop project is raising £11,000 through, a crowdfunding website where the cost community projects is met through online contributions. You can contribute here.

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 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 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. 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 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, 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."

People can pledge support to the Frome project here. You can see photos of the glass blocks here.



  • Profile image for berty876

    To get money off of companies with "loose morals"like Expierian is really just stooping to their own low morals.

    Similar to football clubs wearing payday loan companies logos on their shirts like wonga who make a living from EXPLOITATION.

    By berty876 at 10:44 on 23/02/13

  • Profile image for sowitgrows

    Fair comment Millers. That`s how it is, really.

    By sowitgrows at 09:02 on 23/02/13

  • Profile image for millers

    Unfortunately, in these straitened times, projects like this have to get their funding from whatever source they can (within the law!). Commercial sponsorship of the arts has always left me somewhat queasy - I'm sure the companies' intentions are never really philanthropic, but more concerned with PR. However, like it or not. it's not going to go away, and with counties like Somerset drastically (and short-sightedly) cutting their support, it will only become more vital.

    And I'm also pretty sure that supporting something like Loop de Loop will not mean that issues of traffic management, job creation etc will be undermined in any way whatsoever...

    By millers at 19:04 on 22/02/13

  • Profile image for sowitgrows

    berty876 has a point re. Experian; a dubious and unpleasant business supporter. I suspect he has had a nasty run in with them. I sympathise. But the main point is that this little arts project is being funded mostly by local people.who WANT it to happen. Traffic problems, litter and such like are to do with people's unnecessary car journeys and disregard for the common environment & society. Money won't improve those situations, by any means. We all need small, achievable arts ventures to lift our spirits, give creative opportunities, and expand our imaginations.

    By sowitgrows at 11:56 on 21/02/13

  • Profile image for berty876

    Personally involved in the town center improvements?

    Yes i'm sure they would listen to the likes of me.if i turned up to a meeting i would get thrown out for telling the truth!!!

    I am not politically correct in anyway shape or form,this looks all very jolly but i and the other 30,000 residents that frequaint the Frome area need to see real issues like the traffic chaos,movement of the bus stops to cork street,job creation not faff around the edges.

    I say again-getting a wretched company like Expierian involved is a big mistake judging their reputation,WHY NOT ASK WONGA?
    Same principle.
    Both companies PONSE money off of us!!!

    By berty876 at 08:57 on 21/02/13


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