Artists living in abandoned Gloucester theater want £ 2million for overhaul

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An artists’ collective that has taken up residence in an abandoned theater and cafe in Gloucester wants to raise £ 2million to renovate the site.

The Olympus Theater and Café has been taken over by Deepbed Limited, a non-profit charitable organization that seeks to provide a haven for Gloucester artists.

The dusty old Barton Street Theater has not been in operation since 2014 when it hosted a live theater festival, with performances by the Royal Ballet School and the Everyman Theater in Cheltenham.

Read more: The Lost Pubs of Barton Street – a journey through time to a bygone era

The dilapidated theater opened as a cinema called the Picturedrome in 1923, during the jazz era and silent movie era.

Deepbed chief executive Neil Walker, 57, is keen to re-name the venue Picturedrome and restore it as an artistic venue, with plans to engage audiences once restrictions are lifted in July.

Neil has secured a six-year lease for the building, but hopes to raise enough funds by the end of the year to purchase the premises.

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Sal Davidson (left) and Kingsley Salmon of Barleyfield Records outside the Olympus Theater, Barton Street, Gloucester

The artistic director then wishes not to rearrange the entire space.

He says those plans will require £ 2million and is looking to fund crowdfunding over time with seats and heating removed from the auditorium.

The theatrical space will become more of an auditorium that will be used by a range of acts, such as dancers, circus performers and musicians.

Neil said: “Traditionally, artists, because they are poor or struggling, tend to take studios in exactly those type of areas where ownership is cheaper. So the Big Bang and the regeneration of places like Hackney is due to artists finding empty warehouse spaces and sort of regenerating the areas.

“What tends to happen is that artists take up spaces, and then shortly after that you’ll have a deli and cafes opening, and then the whole area will start to regenerate.”

He adds that he doesn’t want Barton Street to be bourgeois because he admires the diversity of the neighborhood.



The Reveness Professional Experience Group sits inside the Theater Cafe and Olympus Cafe in Barton Street, Gloucester
The Reveness Professional Experience Group sits inside the Theater Cafe and Olympus Cafe in Barton Street, Gloucester

Neil is used to fundraising to create art spaces, having done so successfully as the art director of Stroud Valley’s Art Space (SVA).

There are currently seven studios set up in the 1,200 square foot space for artists to rent.

Independent filmmakers, photographer and MC Rider Shafique, Woia Collective (who make carnival clothing and art) and music producers Barleyfield Records currently occupy the spaces.

Kingsley Salmon, 30, director of Barleyfield Records, said: “It’s really cool, you really get a feel for how many things have happened here. It started as a cinema, then a theater and music space. There were a few shows here in the 90s and then it got a little bit abandoned. As you can see there is junk everywhere but it is a very nice building.



Sal Davidson and Kingsley Salmon of Barleyfield Recrods in their Olympus Cafe recording studio, Barton Street, Gloucester
Sal Davidson and Kingsley Salmon of Barleyfield Recrods in their Olympus Cafe recording studio, Barton Street, Gloucester

“It’s getting exciting here. When you’re in a small room and trying to write or produce, you tend to go for what the walls allow. You can kind of just walk around here, play guitar in the theater or whatever, and start to feel bigger at what you’re doing.

Kinglsey, who is a father of one and originally from Essex, adds that having the space has influenced the direction of his business.

He is now able to offer work experience to young people at Gloucester College, who are taking a course in music production. He calls them the Barleyfield Youth.



Reveness: (left to right) Paulino Thomas, Amber Michael, Pearse O'Shea and Sebastian Thomas
Reveness: (left to right) Paulino Thomas, Amber Michael, Pearse O’Shea and Sebastian Thomas

The group of five 18-year-olds, who go by the band name Reveness (named after a pair of drinks they enjoyed), spoke of how “lucky” they felt to have the opportunity to ” learn the trade in a real recording studio. with professional musicians.

The group includes twins Paulino and Sebastian Thomas, Amber Michael and Pearse O’Shea.

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When asked what they think of the recording in the historic building, Sebastian said, “There’s just one word for it, lucky. At college, we don’t have the same atmosphere or the special equipment. Here, it’s more a question of atmosphere.

Paulino intervened: “Here it’s relaxed but at the same time it’s professional.”


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