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Major new cultural centre to open in the heart of Northampton - first images revealed

24 November 2022

NN Contemporary Art, in partnership with West Northamptonshire Council, today reveals plans for a major new cultural centre at 24 Guildhall Road, in the heart of Northampton’s cultural quarter. The £4.7 million project, which is about to enter its second stage of works, will see the five-storey redundant heritage building transformed into a vibrant creative community, with a contemporary art gallery, affordable creative studios and public spaces.

With a phased opening planned from late 2023 / early 2024, the 2000 sq. metre Georgian building will become the new home of lead tenant and founding partner, NN Contemporary Art (NNCA), who will take over the lower three floors, opening a free public gallery space that will showcase the very best of international contemporary art. With a focus on nurturing the town’s creative ecosystem, the floors will also encompass 20 affordable creative workspaces and studios, enabling hundreds of artists and creators to grow and develop their practice in the town.

Designed to become a major creative hub for Northampton and the wider East Midlands region, the fully-accessible building will also incorporate multi-functional community and event spaces, including a civic reading room and arts library, a retail space and multimedia lab. Further creative and cultural tenants will be invited to lease the upper two floors.

Major new cultural centre to open in the heart of Northampton - first  images revealedMajor new cultural centre to open in the heart of Northampton - first  images revealedMajor new cultural centre to open in the heart of Northampton - first  images revealed

The project team includes Northamptonshire's PHP Architects, CS2 Chartered Surveyors and artist/architect Sean Griffiths, acting as Client Advisory. Taking inspiration from its original 1920s design, the plans honour the heritage of the building, seeing many of its original features restored, including the stunning terrazzo floor. Artist Giles Round has been commissioned to design the Civic Reading Room Space.

In advance of the opening, NN Contemporary Art, in partnership with West Northamptonshire Council, will this month launch Sensing Place, an ambitious programme of events and wider public realm commissions, that brings local communities together with artists, curators, academics and researchers to explore important conversations around cultural and artistic placemaking. Through a series of paracuratorial activities – including a 3-day symposium, screenings, workshops, installations, writing groups, tarot readings, food events, walks and other participatory events – Sensing Place will investigate placemaking through two different entry points: ‘architecture & design’ and ‘body & movement’. The symposium runs from 23-25 November, 2022 with a wider programme of events set to take place around Northampton’s Market Square in early 2023. Full details available on request.

Identified as a key element of Northampton’s regeneration, and highlighted as one of the public’s preferred priorities through a consultation carried out by Northampton Forward, the £4.7 million project is supported by the government’s Towns Fund and part of the Northampton Town Centre Masterplan. Alongside Towns Fund investment, phase one of the project has delivered £1.15 million through South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership’s Getting Building Fund.

Located within the town’s Cultural Quarter, with neighbours including the Royal & Derngate Theatre and the newly-refurbished Northampton Museum & Art Gallery, the project builds on the wider vision for the area as a vibrant, innovative public space for culture and creativity.

Emer Grant, CEO and Artistic Director, NN Contemporary Art, said: “We are delighted today to be announcing the next stage of our relocation & renovation project at 24 Guildhall Road. Working alongside partners we aim to bring a new kind of cultural institution to Northamptonshire. Our approach throughout has tried to expand the terms of collaboration (and municipal process alike) as integral to the design of 21st century public realm. Phase two of this capital project will continue to develop civic spaces to an environmentally sustainable and culturally ambitious outcome with the aim to open in late 2023. The completion of 24 Guildhall Road will bring exciting benefits to our local community and recognises the pivotal role of contemporary art in shaping extraordinary places”

Cllr Daniel Lister, Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Town Centre Regeneration and Growth at WNC, said: “We are delighted to be entering our second phase of work to deliver this ambitious project. Once open, 24 Guildhall Road will offer a unique cultural hub in the heart of the Cultural Quarter in Northampton, complementing the ongoing redevelopment of this part of town. Working in partnership with NN Contemporary Art and SEMLEP, we are able to combine our vision to regenerate this central building and offer a space for artists and entrepreneurs across our county and beyond. We look forward to continuing to offer local jobs as we enter into the second phase of redevelopment works, supporting our local economy.”

Judith Barker, SEMLEP’s Director of Programmes and Governance said: “We are proud that the Getting Building Fund investment has been delivered successfully and has unlocked further funding for this incredibly exciting project. It will create a creative and cultural centre for Northampton and increase employment as well as support our visitor economy.

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