An arts and culture center will open in an empty high street store to boost the city center

Jonathan Mather, Southend Council, Lorraine Cox Creative Estuary, Ami Solomons Kiwi Advisor Carole Mulroney, Natalie Solomons, Kiwi, Stephen Wojcik, Southend Council

SOUTH-END The High Street is set to get a huge boost with a new arts and culture center to breathe new life into the city centre.

Opening in July, 90 High Street – the former Morrisons mini-supermarket near the former Ann Summers store – will be transformed into “The Ironworks”.

It will be a “multi-purpose” center that will be rented out to businesses, community groups and arts companies for a minimum of three months.

The name is inspired by the original use of the building – built for the hardware store over a century ago.

A performance area for Ted talks and open-mic events will be set up while companies such as PlastiCity – a driving force in promoting plastic recycling – have already shown interest in using the building to deter items from go to the dump.

The new scheme can go ahead after Southend Council successfully bid for the government’s local growth fund and used the funds to acquire the property – giving the council another stake in High Street after its purchase of the center commercial Victoria.

Organizations were then invited to pitch ideas with community interest company Kiwi Community Events winning the chance to partner on the council.

Natalie Solomons, director and project manager of Kiwi, said that although funds have been granted to cover rent and rates for two years, they hope to stay on the high street for the long term.

She said: “We are absolutely delighted to have been awarded this magnificent building on behalf of our town’s community, an iconic piece of architecture in the heart of the High Street.

“If you want to be part of it, whether you want to exchange, exhibit, lead a workshop, we are open to all suggestions. The Ironworks will be amazing and we can’t wait to get the ball rolling with its development.

Talks have also started with arts and crafts groups to hold sessions in the space to improve people’s mental health.

Southend Council leader Ian Gilbert said the new center would have a positive knock-on effect on other businesses in the town centre.

He said: “This new arts and culture center will be a big boost for the High Street and will also provide residents with valuable skills to contribute to personal wellbeing and growth. Investment and recovery projects for our High Street are well underway, with a growing number of organizations attracted to our new town. I look forward to welcoming even more companies filling our empty units.

To register your interest, email [email protected]

Laura J. Boyer