Sixth-formers' artwork comes to the crunch

25th September 2009 at 01:00
School helps revitalise recession-hit high street by creating a gallery from an abandoned shop

A school in Nottingham is one of the first in the country to breathe life back into the country's fading high streets following the recession by setting up an art gallery in a former travel agent's shop.

In April, then Communities Secretary Hazel Blears called on local community organisations to consider taking over premises that had fallen into disuse because of the economic slowdown.

It led to the Holgate School in Hucknall, a specialist arts school, opening a gallery that would allow its sixth formers to showcase their work.

The scheme was launched by the Department for Communities and Local Government in a bid to stop the life seeping out of high streets with the proliferation of abandoned shop fronts.

The idea is to allow local community groups to use the empty shops without paying rent, enabling landlords to avoid paying business rates on empty properties.

Phil Crompton, head of the Holgate School, said they found a local travel agent that had gone out of business and turned it into their own space with the help of the council.

"We're allowed to use it rent free for as long as we want, or until the landlord finds another business tenant, in which case we have to move out within four weeks," he said. "But that doesn't look like it will happen any time soon."

The school took control of the site before the summer and looked at a number of options for the building. But an agreement only came when an art teacher came back from holiday in Barcelona, and decided to use it as an art space.

"The building has a great location right in the market place, and we are now displaying our students' artwork and some pieces are even being bought," Mr Crompton said.

The gallery is also helping to improve the school's reputation.

"Our school is a little out of the town centre and has a bit of a reputation," he said. "Four years ago we were put into special measures. But when I took over we worked our way out and in our last Ofsted inspection we were rated as good.

"This gallery is now giving us a chance to try to take this message into the community."

The school held an official opening on Wednesday, allowing local primary schools, councillors and other special guests to see the artwork on display.

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