Ref no45338
TitleRecords of Spike Island Artspace Limited, Bristol
Date1973 - 2006
DescriptionThe collection contains records created by Artspace Bristol Limited, and its successor organisation Spike Island Artspace Limited. It includes correspondence, contracts, financial and administrative files, committee and management minutes, membership records, legal documents, photographs, slides, negatives, exhibition publicity and marketing materials, business plans, feasibility studies, consultancy reports, architectural drawings, newspaper cuttings, journal articles, and funding applications.
Extent61 boxes
Administrative historyIn 1974 a group of six artists joined together to seek affordable and large scale artist studio space in Bristol. As a not-for-profit co-operative, the group aimed to reduce costs by sharing space and equipment, and securing discounts through the bulk purchasing of art materials. By working together, the artists wanted to be able to gain mutual support: exchange ideas and information, create opportunities for group exhibitions and take part in other art activities that artists working alone do not often get. Using SPACE studios in London as a model (founded in 1968 by artists to establish affordable studio space amongst the old dock warehouses of the South Bank, and who had themselves been inspired by New York artists' use of warehouse 'loft' spaces) the group brought together a new generation of practising visual artists within Bristol.

By 1976 a disused Victorian industrial building adjacent to Bristol's docks, the McArthur Warehouse on Gas Ferry Road close to the SS Great Britain, had been identified as a suitable location, and a limited company 'Artspace Bristol (Artists' Studio Provision) Limited' had been established to administer and manage the building and finances. In December that year a five year lease was agreed at a very low rent.

The initial membership of Artspace consisted of seventeen artists who formed a workforce to convert the top floor space into studios with the assistance of a £6,500 grant from the Arts Council for the conversion. Bristol Printmakers' Workshop was also established in 1976 at McArthur Warehouse (as a separate company under the Artspace umbrella), and a grant of £2,000 from South West Arts enabled the purchase of equipment. Membership expanded again in September 1984 when 'Bristol Sculpture Shed Limited' secured a further lease of a large corrugated iron shed at the rear of McArthur Warehouse. During the twenty years which followed the foundation of Artspace demand for studio space had continued to grow, and as other commercial tenants left the building the organisation expanded into these areas, creating further studio premises and exhibition space. By the 1990s Artspace at McArthur Warehouse accommodated between seventy and eighty artists organised into six separate working areas: Top Floor Studios, Bristol Sculpture Shed, Bristol Printmakers' Workshop, Gas Ferry Studios, Transflex Studios and Sublime Studios. Artistic activity at Artspace ranged from group projects, 'Open Studios', artist residencies, environmental, education and public art projects, and a programme of international exchanges. From 1991 Artspace also ran galleries off-site, most notably at 35 King Street in Bristol between 1993 and 1995, organising programmes of exhibitions, talks, performances and events.

However, due to the threat of increased rents and a proposed re-development of the site, by the early 1990s Artspace had begun to seek new premises. In 1991 a charitable trust, Artspace Bristol Limited, was formed to assist with the relocation plan and fundraising. A property developer had purchased McArthur Warehouse in 1988 and with the building earmarked for demolition, the pressure to relocate intensified. Tenants were placed on short term leases, and a lack of building maintenance caused the site to become increasingly run down. The administrative management of Artspace moved to 35 King Street in 1993, partly due to the needs of the gallery but also because of the poor condition of McArthur Warehouse. This situation brought about several years of research into relocating, and a fundraising campaign was developed. As a result of a substantial donation from a private benefactor and the commitment of support from Bristol City Council, Artspace generated the potential to move and develop new premises.

Having considered a number of possible options, including the former Yeo Valley Cheese Warehouse on Redcliff Backs, Artspace identified the former Brooke Bond tea processing factory, located at 133 Cumberland Road, close to McArthur Warehouse, which had stood empty since 1991. In 1994 Artspace negotiated a new sixty year lease on the Brooke Bond building, with a peppercorn rent from Bristol City Council, the freeholder, and in 1996 secured one of the first major awards (for £935,000) from the newly formed National Lottery. This enabled Artspace to undertake the substantial conversion of the Brooke Bond building (first opened in 1957 and comprising 80,000 square feet) into the new complex 'Artspace at Spike Island'. Artspace's new premises included studios for one hundred artists, gallery spaces, a café, education workshops and accommodation for several other arts-related organisations and businesses. It was formally opened on 30th April 1998.

In December 1998 Artspace Bristol Limited changed its name to 'Spike Island Artspace Limited', which reflected the new premises and larger operation, and in 2012 new Articles of Association were filed. Since its move from McArthur Warehouse the organisation has become known simply as 'Spike Island' or 'Spike', describing itself as an 'international centre for the development of contemporary art and design'. Spike Island is now recognised for its public programmes of art exhibitions, talks and events, as well as the community of artists and designers who continue to work within its complex of studio spaces.
Access statusMixed: access to some items, in particular those relating to personnel, is restricted under the Data Protection Act 1998. See individual item level descriptions for details.
Access conditionsData Protection Act 1998
Closed until01/01/2101
ArrangementThe catalogue is divided into two sub-collections: the records created by Artspace Bristol Limited, which operated between 1974 and 1998, and Spike Island Artspace Limited, which the organisation became known as in December 1998, following its move from McArthur Warehouse. No original, or prior, institutional arrangement of the files could be clearly ascertained from the files at the time of accession, so the catalogue structure was created during the course of appraising the records to reflect the key functions of the organisational function, both administrative and artistic. Files are arranged broadly chronologically within each class or sub-class.

This collection has been catalogued following the principles of ISAD (G).
Archivist's noteCatalogued by Ellie Finch on behalf of Bristol Record Office with assistance from a Business Archives Council cataloguing grant (awarded 2014).
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