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The Steeple, Newburgh

The Scottish Arts Council Capital Lottery Fund contributed to the successful redevelopment of The Steeple in Newburgh, Fife.

The Project
Background
Impact of the project
Cost and funding
Partnership

The Project

The WASPS Trust in partnership with Wasps Artists’ Studios and Fife Arts Co-operative (FAC) has recently completed the redevelopment of ‘The Steeple’ in Newburgh, Fife. This stunning new studio and events complex is the first of its kind in Fife and was designed by architects Nicoll Russell Studios. It features:
  • 6 affordable studios for visual artists
  • A flat and studio for visiting artists
  • A project/community room for classes, workshops, performances and exhibitions
Steeple exterior; Photo: Andrew Lee

Background

The former Town Hall, Town House and Corn Exchange together form a prominent historical landmark in the centre of Newburgh’s High Street. The Town Hall ceased operation in the late 1970s and had, except for very occasional use, been empty for two decades. When Fife Council put the Town Hall on the market in 2001, there was impassioned local debate about the future of the building and particular concerns were raised about it falling into the hands of private developers.

Steeple interior; Photo: Andrew Lee The founding member of the FAC, John Strachan, who lives in Newburgh then approached WASPS, proposing that WASPS buy and redevelop the building into a new arts facility for local artists and the wider population of Fife. John was familiar with WASPS work and believed that a WASPS/FAC partnership could deliver a new arts building in Newburgh, while retaining the Town Hall as an important community resource.

WASPS had previously looked at buildings in Auchtermuchty, Cupar and St. Andrews to meet the needs of artists working in the area. The Newburgh proposition, however, met all of WASPS conditions for developing new studios:

  • there was clear artist demand;
  • growing community demand for a new facility;
  • very strong support from Fife Council;
  • Fife Council's agreement, with Scottish Executive approval, to sell the property for less than its market value.

Impact of the project

Newburgh is an old fishing village on the banks of the River Tay. However, despite its picturesque setting, it was identified in 1997 by Fife Council and the Scottish Executive as one of Fife’s most needy rural areas. Steeple interior; Photo: Andrew Lee

Since 2001, Newburgh has been the focus of considerable regeneration and boasts a range of recent community initiatives, including the Newburgh Orchard Project and the Waterfront Regeneration Group.

The development of The Steeple has played a major part in Newburgh’s energetic renaissance.  In anticipation of The Steeple opening, a new commercial gallery The Sun Gallery and retail business, the Twist Fibre Craft Studio, moved into formerly empty shop units on the High Street. An artist who was awarded a year long residency by FAC in 2007 has also since relocated to Newburgh permanently with her partner. She has purchased a former church and plans to redevelop it into another cultural venue.

Steeple interior; Photo: Andrew Lee Fife Council has estimated that The Steeple will bring an increase in spend in the local economy by up to £66,000 each year.
 

With seven professional artists already working in the building and a diverse programme of exhibitions and workshops scheduled,  The Steeple is likely to have a major impact on both the economic and cultural life of Newburgh. Steeple exterior; Photo: Andrew Lee

Cost and Funding

The cost of redeveloping The Steeple was £430,000. This project was made possible with the generous support of the Scottish Arts Council Capital Lottery Fund, Fife Council, Scottish Enterprise Fife, Heritage Lottery Fund, Fife Environment Trust, East Fife LEADER+, the Community Environmental Renewal Scheme and loan finance from Triodos Bank.

Partnership

The WASPS Trust and partner charity WASPS Artists’ Studios specialise in buying, redeveloping and providing affordable studios for artists in Scotland. The Wasps Trust has assets of £3 million and now owns 6 properties for 300 artists. WASPS Artists Studios website manages 16 properties across Scotland for some 750 artists each year.

Steeple exterior; Photo: Andrew Lee Fife Arts Co-operative began life as a group of local artists, makers and designers who came together in 2001 to carry out arts activities in North East Fife.  The group was constituted in 2002 as a company limited by guarantee with charity status to develop, manage and programme the new project room in The Steeple.

This project represents a new way of bringing amenities to rural areas through an innovative partnership between local and national organisations. The project has been driven by local artists for the local community, through the efforts of FAC, with the support, expertise and experience of a national organisation, WASPS Artists' Studios.

Related links
* East Fife LEADER+
* Fife Council
* Fife Environment Trust
* Nicoll Russell Studios
* The Steeple
* Wasps Artists' Studios
 
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