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Preston pottery studio searching for new home to survive lockdown

Posted on - 15th April, 2020 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Business, Preston City Centre, Preston News, What's On in Preston
Inside the current Make North studio
Inside the current Make North studio

Preston pottery studio Make North is searching for new premises in a bid to survive the financial impact of the coronavirus lockdown.

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The studio, which opened in the former Saul Street Clinic in July 2019, has gone from strength to strength since launching – prior to social distancing, it had 52 members and 11 resident studio holders.

However Make North now faces a shortfall in funding, meaning it’s touch and go as to whether it will continue to exist after lockdown ends.

To try to survive this difficult period, Make North founder and director Louise Smith is looking for new premises near Preston.

Louise said: “Our current landlord has reduced our rent by 50 per cent only until June, and they won’t discuss extending their support beyond that. This means that if we remain where we are we could face a monthly rent payment of £4,000 as well as our other monthly overheads of £1,300.

“As our rateable value is £14,500, we fall just short of the £15,000 value needed to be eligible for the government grant for retail and leisure businesses, and will only receive the £10,000 grant for all small businesses.

“Even with our rent reduced by 50 per cent, other outgoings minimised, and a small income from our remaining members and studio holders, we still have a monthly deficit of around £2,000, so the government grant is far short of what’s needed to see us through temporary closure and a short recovery period.

“We therefore need to find premises and a landlord to support us during the next six to 12 months, while social distancing measures keep us closed. We are looking for a 3,000-6,000 square foot space near Preston, with parking and close to public transport routes.

“Beyond that, I have no doubt that we will be in a strong position and will fully bounce back and can start paying our supportive landlord full rent.”

Read more: First Preston firms to receive emergency government funding

Sadly, Louise has had to postpone various community projects that were planned, but she is hopeful of them happening in future.

She said: “This month and next we had partnership projects planned with The Foxton Centre, The Youth Zone Network and The Harris Museum.

“As soon as we are able to reopen and regroup we will be ready to deliver these projects. They are just the beginning of longer term plans, where we will deliver ongoing programs to benefit thousands of young people.”

Read more: St Catherine’s Hospice warn of huge funding shortfall in wake of coronavirus pandemic

To help keep the business going and continue to benefit members, studio holders and local services, Louise has also launched a monthly subscription for a delivery and firing service. The route currently covers Preston, Lytham, Blackpool, Garstang, Blackburn, Ormskirk and Southport.

Louise said: “Many of our incredibly supportive members have already signed up to the subscription service for work produced at home, and five new people have joined us too.

“We are also calling on more local people to challenge themselves to get creative and learn a new skill while they’re stuck at home. By signing up for our delivery and firing service, you’ll get online video tutorials, twice-weekly live question and answer sessions, and help by text or email whenever you need it.

“A subscription costs £25 per month per household, and materials and firing are charged ‘as you go’ at cost, as everyone works at different speeds and sizes. As an example, a large mug would cost 80p in clay and glaze, and £1.75 for firing.

“I’m hoping that when we reopen we will have an even larger and more enthusiastic membership, eager to get back into the pottery.”

Rolling clay at a pottery studio
Rolling clay at a pottery studio

Make North is also taking advance bookings for friends and family workshops. These 2.5 hour sessions are available for up to 12 people and cost £190, which can be paid in three monthly instalments.

If you’re a landlord who can help, or someone interested in the monthly subscription, email louise@makenorth.org to find out more.

Read more: Crowdfunder launched to raise money for Preston creatives hit by coronavirus lockdown

What do you think of Louise’s efforts to keep the business going? Would you like to learn a new skill during lockdown? Let us know in the comments.

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