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Putting the ‘art’ into the heart of the North East

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Published on 10 April 2019

Vincent Todd and Joy Dagless of Norfolk Street Arts
Vincent Todd and Joy Dagless of Norfolk Street Arts

A University of Sunderland graduate is putting himself front and centre of the North East arts and creative industries’ scene in order to help other young artists.

Vincent Todd – known to friends as Vin – graduated last November after completing an MA in Curating.

Seeing the multitude of creative talent in the region, Vin wanted to establish an environment in which burgeoning young artists could flourish without having to move from the North East.

So, in January, the 26-year-old approached the University of Sunderland’s Enterprise Place for help to start up his own Community Interest Company (CIC).

Skip forward a few months and Vin, originally from York, has now set up Norfolk Street Arts in the heart of Sunderland City Centre, providing a 17-strong studio space where visual artists can explore, experiment and cultivate their talents.

Vin said: “The Enterprise Place played a key role in helping us through the extensive paperwork needed to start up the CIC. It was challenging and they provided the support we needed, at the time we needed it.”

Now it is Vin who is supporting other artists when it comes to applying for grants and funding. His support and expertise allows them to keep working and ensures Sunderland and the North East remains at the centre of creativity and culture.

He added: “I’d noticed that a lot of artists were unaware just how much support and funding there is which they are entitled to access, while those who were aware of it were struggling to fill out the forms in a way which would ensure success.

“There was also a real need for creative space which quickly became obvious when we launched Norfolk Street Arts. Within the first hour of us launching, 15 of the 17 studios were full – and we are now working at full capacity.”

So, is Vin enjoying his new career in helping support the artists of the future?

“It’s an exciting time,” adds Vin. “We have PhD students, MA graduates, self-taught, grass-roots’ artists, all using the studios.”

And what was it which made Vin decide to come to the University of Sunderland in the first place?

“Before I decided to study in Sunderland I visited a few other places. I also considered London but the fees alone were so expensive that it was just not going to happen.

“Then I met Professor Beryl Graham from the University of Sunderland and, for the first time, there was somebody who was able to answer all the questions that I had. I thought to myself if there was anybody who was going to be able to help me, it would be her.”

Beryl Graham, Professor of New Media Art at the University of Sunderland, said: "It was great to visit Vin at the studios and see such a thriving hub in Sunderland.

“Vin moved to the region for the course, and he has really made the most of all of working curators that we visit, both in the region - and in London as part of our one-week professional development course. I'm very proud of him, and of our other alumni now working in the arts from Penrith to Ohio."

A spokesperson for the Enterprise Place said: "Vincent joined us in 2018 towards the end of his MA. His determination to set up a successful arts based business was clear from the start and Norfolk Street Arts Community Interest Company was born shortly after joining us.

“Vincent has taken full advantage of the workshops and support available through his membership with the Enterprise Place, including regularly attending 1-2-1 business advice sessions.”

Norfolk Street Arts has been supported by MBC Arts Wellbeing, Media Savvy & Sunderland Culture.

Rebecca Ball, Creative Director of Sunderland Culture, said: “The work that Vin Todd and his colleagues at MBC Arts and Media Savvy are doing to build a vibrant hub for artists in Sunderland City Centre is really exciting.

“We are delighted that Sunderland Culture has been able to support many artists to present their work at Mackie's Corner. These sorts of developments are vital in encouraging more creative graduates to stay and develop their careers here in Sunderland.”

The Enterprise Place project is receiving up to £1,344,431 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund.

Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regeneration. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding(link is external).