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Ace-ing the Base

TRISH LEE takes a tour of the emerging new visual arts venue at Greenham Park

Trish Lee

Trish Lee


01635 886663

the Base

THE new £1.7m visual arts centre at Greenham Park – The Base – is rapidly taking shape. The roof’s now on, so – hard hat on – I went on a tour of the building with Greenham Trust CEO Chris Boulton. Although still a shell inside, it was easy to visualise and share the enthusiasm for the exciting developments planned for this new ‘hub’.

The land and building are owned by Greenham Trust and the Corn Exchange will be setting up a new arts trust to manage the venue.

On the ground floor, a spacious café will be run by Romilla Arber’s Honesty group. Anyone familiar with her other local enterprises – The Crown and Garter restaurant and hotel at Inkpen, the artisan bakeries, cookery school and coffee shops, will know that the company stands for quality. A ‘new kind of business’, they aim to be honest about food, what’s in it, where it comes from and how it’s cooked. They acknowledge the need for profit, but not at the expense of their principles – a great fit with the arts ethos.

Behind the café, is a reasonably-sized gallery space, with controlled lighting that, if well-designed, should be spot-on for the high-quality exhibitions planned for its walls, launching in February with the outstanding international Wildlife Photographer of the Year show on tour from the Natural History Museum. It will be the first of five planned exhibitions a year, all pay to enter, with the exception of the free Open Studios Insight show. The aim is to bring in works of the highest standard.

On the first floor, nine working studios will be occupied by resident artists and makers, who will rent the spaces, with part of their brief to engage with visitors to the centre. The Corn Exchange has invited applications from artists and makers who create exceptional, high-quality work, are open-spirited, generous and ambitious, committed to community engagement and will have a strong and regular presence at The Base.

I’m not sure how practical it will prove for a working artist to be accessible to the public at all times, but it’s a starting point and like any project, this one will evolve and adapt once the artists are in situ and have their input.

Finally, beyond the studios, is an adaptable meeting/teaching room that overlooks the park.

The Base is right by the first roundabout on the (now) main Albury Way entrance to the park. Johannes von Stumm’s Welcome sculpture, currently sited outside the Slater Centre, is to be relocated to the centre of the roundabout, a great place for this fine work. Further along the road is sister venue 101 creation space – 10,000 sq ft of warehousing with on-site fabrication, accommodation and rehearsal facilities, a major centre for artistic residencies, creation of new work for public spaces and innovation in site-specific and outdoor performance – which is also developing apace with the support of the Corn Exchange and Greenham Trust and no doubt will offer great opportunities for creative cross-fertilisation with The Base.

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