BARNSTAPLE is to be given a financial boost by the government so it can improve people’s access to arts, support local economic growth through culture and safeguard vital local collections for future generations.
North Devon Council has secured a £3 million share of a national pot of £58.8 million for investment into two of Barnstaple's historic buildings to support a programme of training and activities that inspire culture and creativity.
The Cultural Investment Fund will see arts venues across the UK transformed, upgraded and created as part of the government’s plans to make sure everyone, no matter where they live, can access culture.
In Barnstaple, the project will help to re-establish the town as a thriving cultural centre by:
• refurbishing (listed) Bridge Chambers as an accessible performing arts, learning, creation and performance venue
• supporting the council's Market Quarter project by completing the capital fit out of 36 Boutport Street
• creating sustainable co-working, office and studio spaces for creative industries, visual arts, community and environmental groups in both Bridge Chambers and 36 Boutport Street
• delivering training and skills support to the cultural sector
• investing in public art, streetscapes and wayfinding, and co-creating an interactive town trail
• supporting meanwhile uses of vacant shops, festivals and installations to animate the town
• commissioning activities and events that inspire young ambition and creativity.
The council says that, whilst this funding will be used to support projects in Barnstaple, it will continue to create plans for other locations in North Devon as it works to bring culture into focus around the district.
Head of Place, Property and Regeneration at North Devon Council, Sarah-Jane Mackenzie-Shapland says: "This funding is brilliant news for Barnstaple and North Devon.
“It is no secret that investing in creativity and culture can bring enormous benefits and improvements to a place and the people who spend time in it. Culture helps to drive economic growth, supports local businesses and can boost tourism - not to mention the joy and union it can bring to a community.
"Everyone, regardless of their location, should be able to access to culture and this funding gives us the opportunity to ensure the northern Devon community can continue to do so, as well as unlocking the boundless potential for creativity we have in the district.
"Bridge Chambers is a hidden gem and so The Bridge Trust is extremely excited to be given the opportunity to bring the building into community use.
“This funding will also add value to the existing Market Quarter regeneration project in Barnstaple, as well as being a major step in the implementation of the recently adopted Barnstaple Cultural Plan, and its delivery going forward.
“We won't stop there though; the Barnstaple Culture Plan is based around bringing people together, and we are committed to supporting and creating plans for our other North Devon towns."
More information on the Market Quarter regeneration project is available at: barnstaple.co.uk/market-quarter .
The Barnstaple Culture Strategy can be read on the council's website at: northdevon.gov.uk/culture-strategy .
The Cultural Investment Fund plans will be delivered in Barnstaple by March 2026.