Digital support for Inverness community arts hub

Published: 21/10/2021

A social enterprise, which is building a community arts hub in Inverness, has secured funding from Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) to help its tenants use digital technology to help promote their businesses and connect with others.

The site of the former Inverness Royal Academy is being developed by Wasps - a charity that provides affordable studio space to support the careers of artists working in Scotland.

The 125-year-old Midmills building, is being transformed into the largest creative and cultural hub in the Highlands - Inverness Creative Academy.

HIE awarded a Digital Enablement Grant of £24,600 to Wasps to help advance its digital capabilities and processes. As part of the project, a new website has been launched, which will support tenants at the hub to manage their bookings and sell their products.

Tenants range from those who practice in visual arts, ceramics and textiles, to media companies and businesses in the digital arts, as well as social enterprises and charities.

The first phase of Inverness Creative Academy, the ‘artists and makers’ building, was fully occupied within six months of opening in 2019. Phase One provides 31 studios as well as workshop and event spaces. During lockdown, tenants who could work from home did so, though many were unable to, due to the nature of their work.  

The second phase of the building project will provide workspace for creative industries and social enterprises, as well as hot desking and remote working facilities. It is due to be completed later this year and Wasps is already developing a list of interested parties keen to move in.

The new website portal will offer greater interconnectivity across its network including a resource centre providing information and advice on everything from marketing to promotion, finance, sales and tax, video and audio hosting.

People wanting careers or to build businesses in these sectors have faced obstacles in the Highlands, because of a lack of quality workspace and of hubs that allow them to collaborate and generate new ideas.

This facility will be critical in creating a pathway to sustainable creative careers in the Highlands, and once it is fully completed later this year, it will be open to the public.

The Inverness Creative Academy project was previously awarded more than £1m from HIE, through grant funding and a loan facility towards the costs of regenerating the former B-listed.

Rhona Fraser, head of strengthening communities and regional development at HIE’s Inner Moray Firth team, said: “Wasps has an excellent track record of converting redundant historically significant buildings into artists’ studios and creative spaces, bringing economic benefits to cities. This facility will allow people working in the creative industries sector in the Highlands to share their skills and ideas and promote collaboration and innovation.

“We are very pleased to support Wasps through our latest grant award, enabling them to invest in new technologies, helping to make a difference to local creative businesses. The Academy development will help the region to tap into the huge economic and cultural benefits of the arts and culture industry in the UK.”

Daniel Pollitt, Wasps’ marketing and communications manager, said:

“The support from HIE has been and continues to be crucial to Wasps in achieving its mission, to provide high quality yet affordable studio and office accommodation for the creative sector.

“Developing the former Inverness Royal Academy has been a huge undertaking for the organisation but the stimulus the facility will provide to the area will be far-reaching. A key development – as we near completion of the second and final phase – is the creation of a new, dynamic and flexible website, which will offer our tenants a platform to help promote themselves and connect with others.”

Wasps has also successfully fundraised more than £28,000 through a crowdfunding campaign for the central public space in the Phase 2 building, which will provide exhibition, performance and events space, workshop areas for businesses working in the creative industries.

The facility will support both established and emerging talent, and make the grand central space accessible to the public for the first time, with permanent exhibition space that is free to visit, and a cafe.