Unique Arts & Heritage Centre is perfectly placed in Leicester’s historic New Walk

A new business initiative bringing together two of Leicester’s most innovative organisations, is in the process of creating the city’s first ever Youth Arts and Heritage Centre.

rg+p, the award-winning architect and project management practice, based on New Walk has been appointed Lead Consultant for the design and delivery of the centre by Soft Touch Arts, a local youth charity. The centre, when complete will house music studios, an exhibition and performance space, arts, crafts and furniture upcyling studios, a healthy eating kitchen with pop-up cafe and a digital arts and heritage activities space.

Soft Touch, which was founded to create brighter futures for disadvantaged youngsters using arts, media and music activities recently bought 50 New Walk, a former nursery from Leicester City Council. With the investment of an Arts Council capital grant, a Heritage Lottery grant and the charity’s own fundraising activities they are aiming to raise the £800,000 required for the refurbishment, which is set to take place early next year.

The rg+p team headed up by director Rob Woolston together with fellow-director Mitch Dale, are working closely with the Soft Touch team and service users, to transform the building into what will become an artistic hub, creating art, media and music and providing young people with a unique opportunity to become part of the cultural life of what is now a thriving city.

Rob and the team at rg+p were delighted to be asked to take on the role, after becoming involved in the initial consultation process. Rob said:

“Whilst we have worked on community focused buildings before, this is the first time we’ve designed a dedicated arts and heritage centre. At present we are working with young people to engage them in the design process for the building Stage 1, which is the initial design stage and we have been involved in a number of consultation exercises with Soft Touch, including their management board, staff and outreach workers.”

Helen Pearson, Soft Touch director said:

“We are delighted to have appointed rg+p as our architects. They really impressed us with their enthusiasm for the project and they are committed to making sure young people have an input into the designs.”

What is unusual about this partnership is rg+p and Soft Touch plan to work together beyond the life of the refurbishment project. rg+p has already given pro-bono support through the Leicestershire Cares Pro-help scheme and are already taking on board young people’s design ideas for the project. In return the young people involved had a ‘real life’ experience of working with architects and understanding what they do, raising awareness of the world of work and ideas for future careers.

Soft Touch plan for the New Walk youth arts centre to be a place where young people can unleash their creativity and learn about creative enterprise through running pop-up craft shops, restaurants and other art and music-themed events.

The centre is due to open its doors in June 2014.