Exeter venues offer save haven as emotions run high over EU vote

Leaders of arts organisations in Exeter have issued an open letter following the EU referendum, welcoming everyone regardless of their views.

Here is the full text.

A nation divided. A city divided?

17 million people vote against an establishment position. A younger generation blames an older one for giving away their futures. And there’s a 57% increase in reported hate crime.

In these turbulent times it is hard to find equilibrium. With emotions running so high, tolerance often falls by the wayside.

Culture offers an opportunity for us to celebrate our heritage, diverse and specific. It enables us to hear contrary views given equal weight, exploring complexity. And our spaces allow us to extend a welcome to all.

As leaders of cultural spaces in the city, we want to be clear that we welcome all, regardless of their ethnicity, age, gender, sexuality and political views. You are welcome to read, learn, think, dance, talk, eat, drink, laugh, cry and solve the world’s problems. You’re welcome to a safe place where you can be alone in a crowd.

This offer will always stay open.

Patrick Cunningham, Director, Exeter Phoenix

Ciara Eastell, Chief Executive, Libraries Unlimited

Paul Jepson, Artistic and Executive Director, Exeter Northcott

David Lockwood, Director, The Bike Shed Theatre

Rosie Denham, Lead Member for Economy and Culture, Exeter City Council

The Very Rev Dr Jonathan Draper, Dean of Exeter

#Theatre4Exeter | The Boat Shed – a new theatre for the Quay

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The article Boat Shed: Plans for £4m theatre and nightspot at Exeter Quay [E&E, 09 July 2015] unveils the ambitious plans to turn derelict MacLaines Warehouses at Exeter Quay into a £4m creative space, which will include a new theatre, live music hall, cafe/bar, bakery and indoor market.

Firstly, I must declare an interest. I am a member of the Board of the Bike Shed Theatre – a position I hold as much because I’m a theatre practitioner (in my free time I am a freelance theatre sound designer) as well as being an ECC councillor.

Secondly, I do NOT see this an alternative to any plans to come forward from the Theatre For Exeter Development Group for a theatre in the city centre.

Thirdly, the business plan takes into consideration the financial reality of the current political climate – and seeks to maximise earned income rather than expecting government subsidy. That said, there is the hope of securing investment from three main funders: Heritage Lottery Fund, the European Regional Development Fund and Arts Council England. We’ll also expect to raise smaller amounts from trusts and foundations, local businesses and generous individuals.

McLaine's Warehouse in 1870
MacLaine’s Warehouse in 1870

David Lockwood, Director of The Bike Shed Theatre explains the plans…

Two years ago, I was shown around the empty warehouses that used to house the Maritime Museum down on Exeter’s quay. The intention had been to find a site for the Bike Shed to move in the Summer months when people don’t want to be down in a cellar so much. Two things immediately became apparent:

  • it would take a huge amount of time, effort and money to get these spaces open for a pop-up Summer retreat;
  • if you were willing to spend the time, effort and money, you’d be able to create something phenomenal and unique for the city.

Since then, we’ve been dreaming about what we could do with the building and for the last nine months we’ve been working with some brilliant people. including the leading international theatre architects Haworth Tompkins, to present a feasibility study to the owners of the building, Exeter Canal and Quay Trust. On the 6th July, we presented our plans.

Our intention is that the building will include:

  • a 250-seat flexible theatre;
  • a smaller double-height space for comedy and live music;
  • a cafe, bar and bakery;
  • an indoor market for local craft, design, food and drink;
  • co-working space and studios for creative companies;
  • rehearsal rooms;
  • space for outreach and education work.

We want to create a space that is more than just a theatre. In fact, more than just a traditional arts space. We’re keen to have a sense of openness between the performance spaces, creative working areas and social parts of the building. Our aim is that the new space – provisionally called The Boat Shed – will be accessible to all, a creative and social part of civic life for all curious enough to want to pay a visit.

new-building

So where now? We’ve kindly been given two years by Exeter Canal and Quay Trust to start raising the funds needed to convert the space. Whilst we’re doing this, we’re keen to show people around the building and are inviting ideas from the public. We’ll update you regularly with news of our progress and opportunities to come and view the space.

Normally at the start of a capital project, you’d be asked for money. But at this stage we’d rather have your ideas. So if there’s anything you’d like to see in the space – however boring or outrageous – please get in touch. I’m on davidlockwood@bikeshedtheatre.co.uk. I look forward to hearing from you.

Read more about the plans for The Boat Shed as an engine room of creativity planned for Exeter’s historic Quayside.


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David, and all at the Bike Shed

David Lockwood
David Lockwood