New academy for Highlands

Work to begin on £5.7m creative hub

Audrey Carlin: creative sectors have faced obstacles

Work is to begin early in the new year on a creative hub for the Highlands following a campaign to raise funds for the project.

The initial £1.2 million to be spent is the first phase of a wider £5.7m scheme announced in April to transform a part of the former Inverness Royal Academy and later Inverness College.

It will be converted to affordable workspaces by next summer.

Wasps Artists Studios, which is leading the Inverness Creative Academy project, is also fundraising for work on a second building which would provide exhibition, performance and events space, a public café, workshop areas and offices for business working in the creative industries.

As one of the largest developments of its kind outside the Central Belt the Creative Academy is expected to play a valuable economic role by supporting jobs and providing new business opportunities.

Tenants could include everything from visual artists, theatre groups and craft makers to media companies or businesses at the cutting edge of the digital arts.

Wasps – Workshop and Artists’ Studio Provision Scotland – has had success with similar hubs such as South Block in Glasgow.

The Creative Academy will be a first for the Highlands, helping the region tap into the growing importance of the creative industries, which generates £3.7 billion a year for the Scottish economy and provides 73,600 jobs.

This is in line with the aims of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) for the creative sector to account for 7% of the economic activity – equaling the Scottish average.

Audrey Carlin, Wasps chief executive, said: “Scotland is a powerhouse for the arts, craft making and the wider creative industries.

“But people wanting careers, or to build businesses, in these sectors have faced major obstacles in the Highlands because of an acute shortage of quality workspace and of hubs that allow them to collaborate and generate new ideas.”

The project supported by The Highland Council, HIE, Creative Scotland, Inverness City Heritage Trust and McCarthy and Stone Retirement Lifestyles.

The phase one work is being carried out by Elgin-based Robertson Northern.

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