New creative center in Barrow to host the first show

Final preparations for the West Coast Photo Festival

A Barrow charity will breathe new life into a historic building in the city by transforming it into a new place of art.

The doors of 102 Abbey Road will reopen this fall for the first time in many years, welcoming people to enjoy free creative exhibits, photography and digital arts workshops, and a pop-up café.

The old abandoned building was renovated by Creative Studios Cumbria, a charity set up by Signal Film and Media founders Kerry Kolbe and Loren Slater to provide
affordable, high-quality creative spaces for charities and community groups.

The building will be part of the adjoining ‘Cooke’s Studios’ and will be officially opened by the Mayor of Barrow, Councilor Helen Wall at the launch of the West Coast Photo Festival, the largest digital art festival ever to showcase the rugged beauty of the West Coast of Cumbria, on October 7 at 6 p.m., an event everyone is welcome to attend.

Hosted by Signal Film and Media, the festival will take place over two floors, showcasing a new collection of Cumbrian West Coast focused works produced by internationally renowned photographers, presented alongside images and films by local artists. .

Audiences at the Thursday and Friday launch events and Family Fun Day on October 9 from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. will be the first to experience the newly renovated rooms and see 102 Abbey Road for the first time, as well as enjoy digital art exhibitions and to get creative with workshops for all ages at family events.

The ground floor of the Grade II listed building will house a pop-up café run by local company Industry Kitchen, as well as a large multi-purpose space that will host events all year round,
exhibitions, film screenings and creative workshops for the community.

The first floor has been given a new lease of life, containing a large exhibition and workshop space and two smaller rooms to host community activities. Fundraising is underway for the second phase of the work which will see the return to service of the top floor, the modernization of the facade and the establishment of a permanent café on the ground floor.

Creative Studios Cumbria Co-Director Kerry Kolbe said: “We are delighted to have been given the green light to reopen 102 Abbey Road by Barrow Borough Council and we are delighted to put the space into use – Cooke’s Studios in 104 has been full for a while and expanding into that extra space means we can cut costs and make the whole business more sustainable while expanding the offering to the public.

“We want to make it a warm and friendly place where people can come together to take advantage of local creative talents and skills themselves, as well as celebrate the heritage and culture of the region. We hope this new space will allow more people than ever to be creative and have fun.

The charity raised £ 95,000 from Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, Northern Powerhouse, Sir John Fisher Foundation, Francis C Scott Charitable.
Trust, The Rank Foundation, The National Lottery Community Fund and The Hadfield Trust to help fund the renovation.

Co-Director Loren Slater said: “We are truly grateful to the organizations who believed in our vision for the building and agreed to support us with funding and permissions to complete the work.

The renovation was carried out with benevolence and drew praise from the planning committee of the council. Councilor Bill McEwan, who represents Ormsgill, was an enthusiastic supporter of the project, saying, “How can we refuse this? This is what it is about. We want to bring Barrow to life and that’s the right thing to do to get it up and running. “

The West Coast Photo Festival kicks off on October 7 and runs through November 7. More details are available at

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