In 2006, Amanda Galbraith came across a boarded-up shop in Allendale, Northumberland. Jewellery-maker Ms Galbraith had noticed how other artists would travel for miles to attend arts exhibitions and to display their work in galleries.
“I spoke to a few of those people, and suggested we rent this shop together and share the cost of running our own gallery,” she says. “Within just eight weeks, we’d raised almost £10,000 to refurbish the shop, gained a lot of support and opened to the public.”
The Pebbles gallery and art café was an instant success. It has become something of a social hub, complete with café, an exhibition programme and a vibrant youth project. Each year it hosts a cultural festival with workshops, live music and artwork displays.
By January 2007, Pebbles was ready to turn into a limited company. It was made up of 15 full members – all independent artists, musicians or food producers – and a growing number of associate members – 71 at the most recent count. Growth had come so rapidly that it was already time for Pebbles to think about new premises – especially as the original lease was due to expire.
“There’s a garage in the centre of town that went out of business during the foot and mouth crisis,” says Ms Galbraith. “The building is incredible, it was originally the blacksmith’s, and we decided to try and buy it. We set up meetings with partners including the local council, the Arts Council and Social Enterprise Northumberland.”
These discussions led to the decision to turn the organisation into a community interest company. “We wanted an asset lock, so that if we were to dissolve the company, we couldn’t just sell the building and share the assets,” explains Ms Galbraith. “It means the building would be passed to another local CIC and remain a community resource.”
Allendale Creative Artists is proud of its self-sufficiency: other than the start-up grants available to all new businesses, it hasn’t yet sought any other funding. It makes money by renting out space and by charging commission on work sold. The full members are micro-businesses, all operating under this one umbrella. In 2008, together they were named the best cultural and creative business in the North East Business Awards.
“We see our community purpose as encouraging and supporting enterprise in rural areas and it is hoped our expansion will help us to be sustainable up to 2030 ,” says Ms Galbraith. “Now that we have built the new building, we are able to organise projects on a larger scale. Being self-sufficient means we can move at our own pace, be flexible, and respond to customers, visitors to the area and the community.”
||Allendale Creative Artists
||The Allen Valley, Allendale, Northumberland
||CIC limited by guarantee
||2006, became a CIC In 2008
|Community interest statement
||To encourage, facilitate and aid the establishment and development of creative practitioners in the arts. music and education.
Find out more about Allendale Creative Artists