Falmouth-based Jewell Construction has won the prestigious tender to build the £2 million Phase 2 of the landmark Percy Williams Building for the nationally acclaimed Krowji creative hub at Redruth.
The established family firm, which faced stiff regional competition in the tendering process, starts work imminently on the next stage of Krowji’s major expansion plans, with Phase 2 seeing the creation of 21 “BREEAM Excellent” studios, linked by a bridge to the £3.7 million Phase 1 building which opened in 2015.
“We’ve worked on some impressive buildings but Krowji Phase 2 will be the largest new-build our team has constructed,” says Steve Jewell. “We’re delighted to be chosen for the project and pleased to be working alongside Fox Construction Solutions on the build. We’re very proud to be creating such a sustainable, state-of-the-art building.”
The Phase 2 scheme will be project managed for Krowji by Truro-based Currie & Brown and will add coveted Krowji workspaces for around 40 extra people to the current community of 200 working in the arts and creative industries on the site of Redruth’s Old Grammar School.
At the same time Krowji’s cool new café “The Nook” has opened its doors in the heart of the original building – designed, created and run by the team from the popular Hungry Horsebox mobile beach café at Gwithian and fuelling studio tenants and visitors with inspirational, locally-sourced food and great coffee.
“We’re incredibly excited to take the first step in expanding our business,” says Ben Austin who started the Hungry Horsebox with his partner Kelly Trelease three years ago. “Alongside our work at Gwithian it’s now great to have a permanent site where we can expand our offering, open year-round and an integral part of the incredible community that has developed over the years at Krowji.”
Funded mainly by the European Regional Development Fund, Arts Council England and Cornwall Council, Phase 2 marks the fulfilment of years of meticulous planning by the Krowji team led by founder and director Ross Williams:
“We’re in the privileged position of seeing our most ambitious dreams for Krowji become reality,” says Ross. “Our business plan has been rock-solid and we’ve been operating at capacity, providing inspirational work spaces of all shapes and sizes which are hugely popular among our community of tenants. We know the new workshops and studios will be in high demand.”
Cornwall Council is investing £250,000 in Krowji’s Phase 2 build. Bob Egerton, the Council’s cabinet portfolio holder for culture, economy and planning says, “We thoroughly welcome this expansion of one of the key hubs for creative businesses in the UK, already the largest creative cluster West of Bristol. Cornwall Council has been 100% behind Krowji’s work since the very beginning and we are happy to provide financial support to see the project to completion.”
Glenn Caplin, Chief Executive of Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership adds, “This is a key sector for the LEP and Krowji is a model much admired by other regions in the UK as well as internationally. The expansion is responding to an increasing demand for high quality, fit-for-purpose workspace – and it’s all helping the ongoing regeneration of the local area.”
A further £250,000 grant has been invested by Arts Council England, whose South West Area Director Phil Gibby says, “Krowji is an essential part of Cornwall’s creative ecology and we are delighted to be supporting them through our Capital funding programme. This investment will allow them to increase the spaces available to artists and creatives in the area which in turn, helps boost Cornwall’s rapidly growing arts and culture economy and achieve our mission of Great Art and Culture for Everyone.”
Krowji – meaning “workshop” in a rough translation from Cornish – has come a long way since Ross Williams and the dedicated Creative Kernow charity team breathed new life into the 1907 Redruth grammar school buildings fourteen years ago. With early renovation work mostly self-financed from rental income they created an iconic Cornish arts hub, originally a working home for around 100 artists, “makers” and creative businesses as well as Cornwall’s key arts-sector agencies.
An ever-increasing demand for Krowji space inspired a plan to create a state-of-the-art eco building, with Phase 1 providing 50 new studios and workspaces for a further hundred people. These spaces have complemented those in the older buildings helping regenerate the local community and nurture creative talents from Cornwall and beyond far into the future.
Already Phase 2 has seen the demolition by CGS Contractors of a dilapidated part of the old 1950s Science Block, whose tenants have all been found alternative space by the Krowji team. For many, including illustrator Esther Connon who has been working at Krowji for ten years, this has been an opportunity to expand into larger studios better suited to their practice.
“As an illustrator I work in isolation and could work from home,” she says, “but it makes a real difference being surrounded by like-minded people here at Krowji. It’s such a great community and having a clear place of work made it all feel real when I first started out. I’ve always participated in Open Studios here which has encouraged a lot of interest in my work and my business has really taken off since I joined Krowji.”