Devonshire Arcade, Penrith

If you’d like to come to one of our Space Exploration events in Penrith, sign up at the new Devonshire Arcade website.

Devonshire Arcade (Photo: Andy Broomfield)

In October 2011, we started our first project in the North West of England. The challenge is to bring a new burst of life to the Devonshire Arcade, a converted market hall in the centre of Penrith that’s home to a cluster of long-​standing quality local businesses — but also to an increasing number of empty units.

Like many market towns around the country, Penrith has been through a slow decline in its independent shops — and with the opening of two new supermarkets this November, there’s understandable concern that things could get worse. But it’s also a town with a lot of fight in it, as shown by the successful campaign to save the Lonsdale Cinema earlier this year, as well as the energy and imagination that went into the Hop Off Sainsbury’s campaign.

So we want to work with everyone who wants a thriving future for the town centre, to make the arcade a starting point for a revival of the kind of small, local businesses that make a place special, as well as a hub for cultural and social activity.

We’ve been meeting with traders in the arcade over the past three months, starting to get to know the area and to understand a bit about how things work. You could hardly find a greater contrast from Brixton, where Space Makers started out. But we’ve been made to feel very welcome by everyone we’ve met so far — and we know there’s a huge amount of creativity, energy and desire to make things work.

Mitchell, Dougald and other members of the Space Makers team will be spending a lot of time on the ground in Penrith over the months ahead, hosting events and bringing people together to fill the arcade with life. We’ll also be working with Eden Arts and building on the important precedent they’ve set for the potential of the arcade as a home for creative activity.

We held our first Space Exploration event in the arcade on Wednesday 19th October, when twenty local people came together to spend an evening sharing ideas for the town centre. We’ll be holding more of these over the next couple of months, so if you’d like to be kept informed, please sign up at our Devonshire Arcade website — where you’ll also be able to follow the development of the project over the months ahead.

This project is funded by the owners of the Devonshire Arcade.