Gallery is putting the art of Brid into the heart of Brid

Nigel and Rebecca Folds
Nigel and Rebecca Folds

Have you been to ‘check out’ the former supermarket which has been transformed into the town’s huge new art attraction?

Almost 1,000 people have been through the doors of Bridlington Contemporary Gallery in its first six weeks.

They have come from far and wide to see the new project which is being curated by artists Nigel Folds and his wife Rebecca, and is currently showing the work of textile artist Vivien Stamford and paintings by Nigel.

“People are really taking an interest, spending a lot of time here and coming back,” said Nigel.

“We are trying to do something a bit different, to develop a centre for really contemporary, thought-provoking work.”

The Old Town has traditionally been the home of art in Bridlington, but the contemporary gallery’s town centre location could open up art to a different audience.

By the end of the year, it will nestle between the busy £25m leisure centre and the soon-to-be-built Premier Inn - perfect for attracting passers-by, who wouldn’t normally visit a gallery.

Nigel said: “We are not about commercial art, in fact the terms of the tenancy mean we can’t sell from the premises.

“So that has freed me up. It means I can try to do things that are unusual.”

The use of the building has come about thanks to East Street Arts, a Leeds-based organisation which is involved in cutural projects around the UK.

“East Street Arts get unsused commercial buildings and make them available to artists,” said Nigel. Co-op have handed over three stores around the country.

“We were a bit stunned when we first came in here at the end of August. The shelving was all still here and East Street Arts got it all moved out.

“We’ve been left with a fantastic, open space with you can do so much with.”

There are still hints as to its previous use as a supermarket. Indeed, the freezers which used to be filled with pizzas, oven chips and ice cream, are still lined up alongside one of the walls, complete with the signs.

One part of the gallery will be known as the Loading Bay and will be given to visiting artists.

First up will be Rob Moore, who runs the Studio 11 gallery in Hull.

“That will be spectacular because a lot of people know his work,” said Nigel.

Also in development is the Digital Deli - the store former meat and cheese counter has been turned into a room to show video installations, and an Israeli artist has shown an interest in being the first to show work there.

“This building will always have the character of its time as a supermarket,” admits Nigel.

Fashion and textiles students from East Riding College will be holding their end-of-year show there and, as Nigel’s current exhibition is based on signs through the ages, visitors can make their own symbols which he will combine to great a mural.

The gallery has already hosted a book launch

and open mic night by the Mutiny Poets.

“There are a lot more artists and writers in Bridlington than people realise,” said Nigel, a former art teacher.

“City of Culture has done a lot for us. Our first visitors on New Year’s Day were a family from Fife who had come to Hull for the fireworks display but had seen about our opening on the Hull 2017 website and came through.”

The couple hope the new gallery will be a long-term success.

“We have had some wonderful feedback and support,” said Nigel. “People are saying this is fantastic because they never thought they would see this sort of thing in Bridlington.

“Even people not particularly interested in art are pleased the building has a positive use.”

“It’s hard work but we are having fun,” added Rebecca. “This is and exciting and brilliant opportunity.”

It could end at any moment, if a retailer wants to take over the building in Promenade., so they are keen to make the most of it.

Nigel said: “There have been no serious bids during the three years it was closed, so we are hoping to be here for a long time.

“We have taken the view that we need to plan as if we will be here for 10 years, even though we know we could be given a month’s notice to leave. We look at the gallery as a contribution to the community of Bridlington.”