PLANS to transform Kendal’s Canal Head into a ‘cultural quarter’ have taken a step forward as work begins on its first original art commission.
Believed to be the largest piece of sequential comic art in the country, a series of giant murals by Manchester-based artist Oliver East will be unveiled at the end of this month.
The 10 panels were personally commissioned by the three people behind the venture – Mealbank Estates property developer Paul Proctor, director of Cactus Creative Andy Smith and Julie Tait, director of Kendal Arts International.
The development, known as ‘The Factory’, is intended to be a ‘cultural hub’ for the town with workspace for artists and businesses, studios, cafe, galleries and performance space.
The site consists of the former Goodacre Carpets Factory and other buildings which are in various stages of construction.
The ‘masterplan’ for the development initially included homes and a hotel but will now focus solely on space for artists and businesses due to the amount of interest received.
All studio spaces have been taken and interested artists are now being put on a waiting list.
“Most of the work we’ve been doing over the past few months is getting the studios ready,” said Mr Proctor.
“More than half the units are now ready and people are moving in to them on a day-to-day basis.”
The Factory has also entered into a partnership with The Brewery Arts Centre as part of its plan to host events such as gigs and festivals.
Ms Tait said: “Kendal has a lot of these events and having this sized space gives them more room to breathe. We’re open to people suggesting their own ideas for what they want to see.
“In time we’re hoping it will become an attraction in its own right – somewhere like Saltaire in Bradford where people can come and have a cultural experience.”
With the commission of Oliver East’s murals, she explained: “We’re laying down a marker for artists and letting them know they have the opportunity to do something like this.”
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The murals are a taster for the Comic Art Festival, where Mr East will have an exhibition and be doing live drawing. The panels chart a journey he made – on foot and hitchhiking – from Arnside to Carlisle following the coastal train line.
Known for producing covers for several of Elbow’s albums, Mr East will also be producing a comic for each day of his journey.
Of his Cumbrian expedition he said: “I stuck as close to the train line as possible so the decision as to where to go was taken out of my hands.
“It freed me up to think about the landscape, some of which was otherworldly – it’s a beautiful part of the world and the people have been amazing.”