With one of the upper floors being rented out to a locally-based computer firm, owners, North Kesteven District Council took the opportunity to take on visitor and resident feedback to reshape how the arts space is used, resulting a new extension to accommodate extra, cafe, shop, workshop and dance studio space on the ground floor.
The return to the name of The Hub recognises the building’s status as a multi-use centre for broader expression of arts and creativity beyond craft and design.
The Standard was given a preview tour of the venue last week, before it reopened on Monday.
The main first floor gallery sees its first exhibition, Play, by Jo Fairfax, a collection of installations exploring movement, sound, and place.
Amongst these is a special new artwork ‘Pea Run’ which marks the history of the craft and design centre and its first incarnation based in The Pearoom at Heckington.
The mezzanine floor above has now been fully walled in to form useful office space.
The floor above is furnished with hot desks and brightly coloured sliding doors along a central aisle to act as sound baffles for MRI, the computing firm moving in soon.
The top floor had initially been planned to be used by MRI too but will now be used for community arts and as a small gallery space.
The Hub will retain its Arts Council England status as ‘a national centre for craft and design’ and continue to showcase celebrated exhibitions and learning programmes, as well as being a hub for more local-based and community creativity.
In a survey, visitors had suggested having more visually engaging installations, live performances and more clubs and workshops.
Director Clare Edwards said the team at The Hub were hugely excited about the reopening and seeing people back inside the facility: “It brings so much more opportunity. The team are eager to crack on and open up the programmes and welcome people back.”
She said lockdown had been useful, enabling staff to do more in the community and with partners, trying a range of projects.
She said: “It strengthened those health and wellbeing partnerships and we can bring that into the centre now.”
They invited people to submit artworks and did lots of online workshops. An exhibition on the ground floor celebrates how people have used creativity to respond, recover from the pandemic and look ahead to a new world.
Clare said it was giving the building, a former seed warehouse, back to the community.
“We have spent nearly three years developing our future vision, working with the architects to create a space that responds to that local need - and it does - and in turn we have thought about the programmes we deliver here.”
A grand opening has been postponed until June. Artist Jo Fairfax will be doing projects with groups.
They will also be considering how to spend government funding designed to kickstart the visitor economy again.
Also viewing the redeveloped centre, Leader of NKDC, Coun Richard Wright described it as “fantastic”.
He said: “You see it at the concept stage and on drawings, but to see what we are delivering now is a better facility with multi-use spaces, it is right for the people of Sleaford to use.
“The original design served its purpose, but things have moved on. It is a better use of the space.
“We have added to it and yes we are renting some of it out, but it has given us the ability to do what we are doing - it hasn’t restricted us.”
He said it was about generating new visitor interest in Sleaford, celebrating its culture and offering more.
“We have the Sleaford Masterplan and that is about tying that all in, creating leisure space and bringing that much-needed tourist spend into the town, which everyone benefits from.”
At the same time Coun Wright said it has been important to make sure it is an accessible and useful centre for locals too, as well as being a national attraction.
“There are some very gifted people locally and this is their opportunity,” he said.