Artists’ studio and project space The Birley in Preston is tripling in size after taking over a new floor in its city centre premises on Birley Street in the city centre.

Run on a voluntary basis, the intention is to develop the new first-floor space over the year, working to a full launch event in the summer. Building work will take place alongside The Birley’s usual exhibitions, workshops and events.

The artist-led space was established in 2014 by graduates of University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) still living and working in the city. The studios have been oversubscribed since the first year of opening and there is a waiting list for spaces.

Studio directors Stephanie Fletcher and Benedict Rutherford said in a statement: “We are the only artist-led studios in the city centre, and have had more demand for affordable artist spaces than we ever anticipated.

“We are passionate about supporting contemporary art practice, and really excited about having more artists joining us – and the new opportunities and events this will bring.”

In 2015, Fletcher and Rutherford were recipients of an a-n Go and See bursary which funded a research trip to artist-led studios and projects in Newcastle, Middlesbrough, York, and Leeds.

The building occupied by The Birley is owned by Preston City Council who have worked closely with the artists to secure the extra space.

Councillor Peter Kelly, cabinet member for culture and leisure at the council, said: “We’re delighted the council can support the growing artist community in Preston by providing this extra space for The Birley. It’s a great example of keeping graduates in the city and adds to the vibrant and diverse cultural offer the city is delivering.”

The project has also received help and support from UCLan-backed curatorial partnership In Certain Places, as well as Preston-based 2017 Turner Prize winner Lubaina Himid, who has just become a Birley member.

Himid said: “Contemporary art is flourishing at The Birley and I am delighted to be part of this brilliant project in Preston.”

1. The Birley, Preston, exterior. Photo: The Birley
2. The Birley, Preston, new first floor space. Photo: The Birley

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