A CULTURAL CENTRE in Barrow is set to benefit from nearly £1 million in government cash to transform the site into the town’s first ‘real open art centre’.

Cooke’s Studios on Abbey Road will receive £910,000 from the government’s community ownership fund.  The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities announced on Saturday (March 23) that it is granting £30 million to 80 projects across the country in the latest round of funding.

The investment will allow Cooke’s Studios to refurbish the building, opening up the entrance for a café and reception area as well as reconfiguring the internal layout of the site.

Kerry Kolbe co-director of Signal Film and Media, the applicants for this funding, said: “It’s making that big jump to becoming an open creative media centre as opposed to a place where some organisations are based and then everyone’s doing their own separate thing.

“It also means we’ve got more places that are generating revenue, so the business model works in terms of paying all the bills and keeping the building open. We’re a charity so we have to cover all the costs of running the building.”

Signal Film and Media (SFM) is a digital arts charity dedicated to providing inclusive, creative digital media experiences who also run the Sankey Archives in Barrow.

Cooke’s studio is also home to The Theatre Factory, Freespirit Academy of Dance and Acrobatics, Furness Multicultural Forum & Youth Club as well as the Sir John Fisher Foundation.

Ms Kolbe added creative and community organisations are a ‘really important part of the ecosystem’ in Barrow.

She said: “While it’s brilliant there’s money coming in for engineering and STEM, the breadth of experience and interests’ people have takes in more than that, anyone can learn creative skills here, we’ve got the multicultural forum here supporting a very underserved group of people who need the services they’re providing as well.

“It’s about having a vibrant, rich diverse, offer that people want to have in a good town, not just one thing so that’s the idea.”

MP for Barrow and Furness, Simon Fell, said he was ‘delighted’ the bid for the funding was successful.

Mr Fell said: “I think the funding which has been announced today will take it to that next level and make it sustainable, open it up and give Barrow it’s first real open art centre, that’s a really important thing and I’m delighted we managed to get it over the line”, Mr Fell added.

The Mail: Cooke's Studios getting a revamp supported by government fundCooke's Studios getting a revamp supported by government fund (Image: Newsquest)

Mr Fell also spoke of how the Sankey Archives ‘allows us to celebrate our history and where we’re going’.

He added: “What I hope is that this funding will yes absolutely renew the building, but it will give us a place to put that permanent exhibition on. People will always be able to look back on Barrow’s history while remembering where we’re going in the future.”

Levelling up minister, Jacob Young, visited Cooke’s Studios to make the funding announcement where he took part in editing an animated film.

Mr Young said: “The community ownership fund is £150 million that we’re investing in communities directly, we’re investing £50 billion in different levelling up streams, but the community ownership fund is going directly to community groups to protect and preserve assets that are important for that community and that’s what I’ve seen in Barrow today.”

Ms Kolbe also spoke of the importance of having creative industries in Barrow.

She said: “In Manchester you might walk past the BBC building everyday and be like ‘oh yeah my uncle works there’ but in Barrow when I was a young person round here, I didn’t know anybody who did anything creative and made money out of it, it was seen as ‘no do something academic’ so it was shut down before you even started.

“I think It’s giving people a sense that that’s a real career path and if you’re passionate about that you can turn it into a well-paid job and something to get excited about, you can follow your dream.”