In 1976 a small group of artists rented a derelict police station and established Bridewell Studios. Art Space Merseyside Ltd was formed in 1981 as a not-for-profit organisation, and with the demise of Merseyside County Council the artists secured a loan to buy the property.
Built around 1846, the large red bricked building is situated on the corner of a busy thoroughfare on the eastern edge of Liverpool’s city centre and opposite the Royal University Hospital. There is evidence of its original function still visible: a ‘Detective Office’ sign at the foot of a staircase and the row of cells (locked from the outside of course!).
Over the last thirty years, hundreds of artists have worked or had connections here. Some have national and international recognition - Adrian Henri, Richard Young, Stephen Broadbent, Maurice Cockrill, Ian McKeever and Anish Kapoor. It has also had singer-songwriter David Gray as a tenant. Even the building has had its share of fame - being a location for Alan Bleasdale’s ‘Boys from the Blackstuff’.
In 2006, the Bridewell is still providing workspace for more than thirty-five artists, craftspeople and designers. Art forms include painting, sculpture, printmaking, furniture restoration, jewellery, stained glass, fashion design, ceramics and multimedia. Individuals sell their work via galleries, retail and private commissions. Many are involved with education from primary school through to university, as well as art workshops for a wide range of community groups and hospitals.
The studios are still unique in the fact that the artists themselves own the building. Art Space receives no funding or grant aid of any kind and still maintains low rents, together with 24-hour access.
The building itself is full of character and has proved to be an ideal site for artists’ studios. However with all buildings of a similar age there is a constant battle against entropy and the elements. Despite this, the members are hopeful for the future and are looking into raising money to develop a gallery and start ‘open studios’ and workshops.
Clip from Boys from the Black Stuff=
God knows why it says police on the toilet roll holder in the ladies toilet..
One of the artist's studio's..
Couldnt resist..this is the floor where Snowy decided to get out of the window,no hand rail...
I really enjoyed this heritage tour..cheers