Baxendale Studio comes to the aid of a local movement
What do you do with a semi-derelict pub in a depressed part of a west Midlands town that has turned by degrees into a hub of anti-social and criminal behaviour? The answer seems to be turn it into a community space.
Compulsorily purchased by the local council due to drug dealing, addiction, vandalism and prostitution, the Portland Inn has been used for the last four summers by local artists Anna Francis and Rebecca Davies to produce a summer programme of arts and community-based activity to identify, test and generate possibilities for its future use.
On a small green space immediately outside, Baxendale was commissioned to build a temporary external structure that would help deliver a diverse programme with, given its limited budget, a key set of requirements as part of the brief. These were that the local community should be able to participate in its construction. The structure should also be fireproof and resistant to vandalism and secure, and should be visually engaging, demountable and re-usable.
Baxendale’s proposal used the most utilitarian and ubiquitous of materials – scaffolding poles, corrugated metal and fibreglass cladding – to create a cylinder beneath an oversailing roof. This created three types of space that can be occupied – verandah, hut and stage – all within its 7m by 4m footprint.
During its inaugural four weeks last summer, a ‘contested and feared’ local space was temporarily transformed, with local families reclaiming the space to offer a hopeful and engaged alternative to the Portland Inn’s former manifestations of social deprivation.