Artists fighting to save studio from closure due to rising costs

Artist Ann Wright, who has rented there for 28 years, describes West Park Place as 'a family' in campaign to keep it open.

Edinburgh artists are fighting to save their space from closure after owners sold up the premises due to escalating costs.

More than 50 tenants of the Working Artists Studio Provision Scotland (WASPS) building on West Park Place in Dalry were told in January the creative space would be closed and artists relocated to another building two miles away.  

The charity face a £4m renovation bill for the building and rely solely on tenants rents to stay afloat.

But artists, like Ann Wright, who have rented a space in the studio for 28 years are refusing to move and now fighting back against the closure.

“Its family to me, I’ve got good friends here,” She told STV News. “I practically brought my daughter up in these studios.

“I don’t want to move, it’s good we’re part of this community. I get work from businesses nearby, we’re part of the place.”

West Park Place studio is set to close

WASPS rented the building from Edinburgh City Council for 25 years, then in 2021 they bought it for £1 and agreed to take on all running costs of the two large industrial former factory buildings.

But artists argue the building has been neglected for years.

“It would break my heart to sell it,” said Ann. “Not enough maintenance has been done over the 25 years where they were paying small rents to council for building.

“Essentially the artists paid for the building and we’re being rewarded by being pushed out with no consultation on how we feel.”

“I don’t think anyone would take this on and do it up as is, it would be rubble that’s very sad.”

Artists, local councillors and members of the community have now started a petition to save the building, gathering more than 1,500 signatures already.

Violin maker Steve Burnett works out of the studio.

He said: “There’s something about the spirit of the place. It’s one of last remaining factory buildings.

“It’s a second home to most of us. Hopefully there will be some sense and people see this is a jewel in the crown.”

The studios are a haven for professional artists and one of the few remaining creative spaces in Dalry, which locals argue is being lost to gentrification.

Local artist Yvonne Weighand Lyle, who runs free accessible classes for the community said: “It would be catastrophic to have this resource taken away.

Steve Burnett described the studio as a 'second home'

“We don’t have any investment in the area for local people so its important to have artists like me, who are from here, doing this kind of work. Its important for this area that someone speaks up.”

A spokesman for Wasps said they have been in discussion with artists and local councillors over the future of West Park Place over the last few months.

They said the charity has been hit by a “perfect storm” of rising costs and defunding and that it’s a picture replicated across the local sector.

The statement read: “As a charity, we cannot afford the £4m needed to bring the building up to standard in terms of structural condition, building security and energy efficiency.

“As tenants’ rents are our sole income, it would mean a 400% increase to meet those costs.

“The best way to guarantee a future for our 70 artists is to find a new affordable, sustainable home that meets modern building standards and is accessible for all.

“We are in talks to acquire a building less than two miles from West Park Place.

“When we bought the property from the council after 25 years of renting it, we also took on the substantial running costs of the building.

“All proceeds from any sale of our current property will be reinvested back into supporting community arts in Edinburgh through the provision of studio and exhibition space at another location in the city.”

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