Well, we certainly have been busy bees at camp Tin Shed.
Since launching a Rocket from
Blaenavon ironworks back in October 2021, which if you missed, you can find the full version here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3Qp0AQDC7k&t=5205s
and our new project HEULDRO, another outdoor collaboration with CADW https://cadw.gov.wales/heuldro-bryn-celli-ddu its all go go GO!
We’ve worked on growing our outreach provisions with a bigger and better youth theatre, our community company and skills share schemes, welsh language creation space and opportunities can all be found here https://www.tinshedtheatrecompany.com/education
However, our main focus over the last 6 months has been our Connect and Flourish Arts Council of Wales project, The People are The City.
Since launching the project we have worked on a number of branches and partnerships but by far the most exciting is the repurposing of the old post office on Bridge Street, Newport, which is taking on a new life as…
But what is it?
The Place is a brand spanking new creative and socially cohesive space right in the centre of the city.
Under its roof are a new venue space, artists' studios, coffee, wellbeing studio, hot desking space, workshop and community kitchen. The place also hosts The Living room - a social space imagined, designed and created by the Newport Youth Academy for young people of the city, with lots happening as part of The Sgilliau project with TGP Cymru.
We also have a garden - ‘The Wild Patch’ curated by Anna and Katie - 2 arts wellbeing practitioners who came to us last year in Unit 9 seeking to better people's health through movement. They are now opening a wellbeing space in The Place and are running a shared allotment plot ‘The Wild Patch’ where volunteers can take time out of the city and immerse themselves in nature.
Anna and Katie will be curating a new programme of wellness based activities. To find out more visit:
Its taken 2 years to raise funds, build the framework, convince people it's a good idea, gain permissions, sort out dodgy electrics, leaks and design what will essentially be a new city centre creative space. A HUGE thank you to Newport City Homes, Newport City Council, Arts Council of Wales and The Riverfront for supporting the vision.
Many moons ago as a company of creatives, we at Tin Shed realised that the work we were making in most theatre venues just wasn’t hitting it. Not the work itself, but the relationships we were having with buildings, the process of making and engaging felt HARD, it felt inaccessible and closed off for many who wanted or needed to be involved.
We ventured out, got keys to shops, made things happen in streets, in houses, on benches, in moving cars and BOOM! We found it. And the ingredients of the company were born.
12 years later we are still working with this methodology, except we’ve learnt how to harness the ingredients, negotiate the finer details of temporary space ownership or guardianship, gain permissions, work in partnership, create in a public place & curate and deliver creative social engagement work across cities, towns and rural locations not restricted but definitely inspired by Newport.
Working out of buildings, rather than shut away inside them.
Now we want to open the doors to enable others who want to do the same.
The Place will have carefully curated open space indoors, there will always be a place to sit and have a drink and the doors will always be open (as long as someone is in!). We believe in creating open spaces, not just by design but through a careful understanding of the barriers, invisible and otherwise that can exist in engaging with a space that you can't really put your finger on. Walking over thresholds and interacting with strangers is a daunting thing. This is why we've worked hard to consider outdoor space as much as indoors, with pavement licensing and event power sockets, the street outside can become a place to breath life and action.
The Place has visible Artwork on the OUTSIDE of the building. In our case, this has been given life by Molly Hawkins. It's often about changing the attitudes to the outside of places, the streets we walk down, giving the brutalist structure of the city a POP of colour can completely change the mindset and behaviour of those around it. It's playful, joyful, and costs you nothing to look at or to step inside. We’ve worked closely with Gwent Police on the Safer Streets campaign to look at a piece of artwork that directly challenges people's attitudes to negative space - an idea beyond the use of cameras and street lighting, that changes the ecology of how we behave in public places. A piece of work inspired by the late, great Lynette Webbe who would say to anyone who’d listen “You’re all bloody fantastic” those words now sit on the side of the building with some beautiful artwork by consumer smith.
Ok, But what is it? What is The Place? What does it do?
We’re going to get asked this A LOT.
And whilst I think we’ve nailed the ‘Art in the heart of the city’ strapline and elevator pitch, we have to remember that spaces like The Place and the young people's living room aren’t typical.
They don't fit under local authority banners of retail, coffee shop, A1, A2 business listing jargon. Because ultimately what this space will do is increase people's social infrastructure, promote social engagements through arts activity, increase people's social capital, increase people's civic pride, create new and lasting relationships and hopefully, in turn, better people's mental health and wellbeing and change attitudes and behaviours to the city and those around us.
For example, since opening Unit 9 in Friars Walk back in 2021 we were asked the same questions - since then its been a workshop space, pop up shop, venue, and meeting place and regularly hosts companies and organisations from all over. Hundreds of people have walked in and out of its doors having interacted in unique experiences, met new people, formed new relationships and often without any monetary exchange. Sometimes these temporary buildings and ideas just have to ‘happen’ they almost end up writing their own script and purpose for the time they are functional because they rely heavily on the people who need them, and that changes.
To find out what's coming up at Unit 9 visit: https://www.tinshedtheatrecompany.com/unit-9
Big up to Emily and the team at Friars for supporting Unit 9 and all those who have used it to run their excellent projects.
Now, by osmosis, other empty units in the centre are now hosting student galleries, fundraisers, social awareness campaigns, charity pop-ups and concerts.
But this isn’t a new concept, we had the empty shops project in Newport 11 years ago, it's just with increased UK government capacity funds comes a boost in creative and social engagement work, it's a shame this stuff can't be a constant, but we can't grumble. It's here and we’re happy, for as long as it lasts.
In order to respond to our changing world, habits, relationships and economies, we have to see that repurposing empty or disused space for more than just the traditional business use is essential. This includes outdoor spaces and the creation of more places and spaces that simply seek to better people's lives in ways that don’t involve a capitalist framework.
But this IS happening in Newport and it seems pretty quickly. Geek retreat gaming shop, Reality Theatre's space, The Remake Centre, Mark and Gap Bikes Cycle storage space, all within 2 minutes walk of each other. All supporting new spaces for people to engage with that serve far more than consumerism. We cant deny that Newport's economy and communities are fragile, and this is why organisations with social purpose woven into the fabric of their constitutions have to be better supported.
The Place has a website, www.theplacenewport.com where people will find more information, more on studio hire, venue bookings and what's coming up. We will be kicking off with an exciting lineup of resident artists from all over wales in multiple disciplines who will be working in, but mainly out of the building, directly engaging with the city outside the doors. But we want to curate the space collectively so tell us what you want to see here.
A huge thank you to our partners and funders at Arts Council Wales, Newport City Council, Newport City Homes, TGP Cymru, Riverfront Theatre, Newport Live, Gwent Police, Welsh Government.
And an even bigger thanks to all the hands that have helped imagine, design, build and paint from The Public Theatre Co, Newport Youth Academy, Molly Mural, Apple Tree Decorating, Digger and the Construction Boys, St Davids Hospice, Irina at Olneya woodwork, Georgie Berry, Alice and Lucie at Bon Homie Interiors, Anna Coviello, Lucy Llewellyn, Pete Morgan, Consumer Smith and all the Tin Shed Freelance team.
In the words of the late, great Lynette Webbe, whose passion for social engagement and Newport's people still inspires us today,
‘You’re all bloody fantastic’
You can find out more as it develops here
www.theplacenewport.com find us @theplacenewport
Find out more about what's on at our venues and events at www.tinshedtheatrecompany.com
And on socials @tinshedtheatreco