A new home for Joy Division and Macclesfield arts

Hot on the heels of the highly praised exhibitions and events that were on offer at Charles Roe House on Chestergate during the two weeks of The Barnaby Festival, Incubation Arts who have been based in the former home of Charles Roe, have been awarded a start-up grant of almost £10,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund to develop a plan to turn this iconic building into a heritage, cultural and arts centre for Macclesfield and the surrounding area. The grant has enabled detailed research and analysis to take place with a view to acquiring the building from its current owner and supporter of the scheme, Martin McMillan.

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If the application for the full award is successful, Incubation Arts Ltd will develop Charles Roe House, to become a focus and conduit for the town’s emerging creative development and excellence, through exhibitions, seminars, workshops, small-audience performances, and an interactive exhibition on Joy Division. In raising the profile of the arts and creativity within the town and beyond, and by encouraging and facilitating community participation from all age groups, backgrounds and abilities, Incubation Arts aims to make the arts and associated learning forums accessible, visible and participatory to be enjoyed by all residents and the surrounding rural communities alike, for years to come.

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Charles Roe was instrumental in developing the silk and copper industries in Macclesfield, transforming it from a small rural market town into a place of considerable importance, and his home, the Grade 2* listed building on Chestergate was where it all began. It has been a site of considerable significance, vision and re-incarnations in the past, and Incubation Arts want to re-create this significance for our community’s future.

’ The positive feed-back and excitement we received from the public who visited the three floors of exhibitions, lectures, performances and workshops during Barnaby for such a facility to exist in Macclesfield was fantastic’ says Julie Hamer, one of Incubation’s directors, ‘and has really encouraged us into making this a permanent success for good of the whole town for years to come’.

‘Central to this is a plan for an interactive exhibition area celebrating the considerable achievements and influence of the band ‘Joy Division’, and Ian Curtis, the band’s singer, was a resident of Macclesfield. A considerable number of people visit his memorial in Macclesfield’s cemetery annually from all over the world, and we want to create a venue in the town for them to visit, and where they can experience and share Joy Division’s significant place in 20th century world-music development’.

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Says Jeff Teasdale, another director of Incubation, who has long campaigned for some kind of centre in Macclesfield to celebrate the considerable talents of its residents, and its schools particularly, ‘It has been a long road to get to this point, but at last we are getting some recognition for our efforts, with some great people coming on board with us, and who are all behind this idea, and not least the public who were so supportive over Barnaby, and at the other other ‘pop-up’ events we have put on in Charles Roe House over the last year. If it wasn’t for Charles Roe, in this house, Macclesfield would probably have remained a rural backwater. Here we have a chance to really help to re-invigorate the town, as is happening with Barnaby and The Treacle Market, and which happens in many other places throughout the UK with a vibrant creative heart. Macclesfield has been waiting a long time for this…….!’

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One of the many people involved with this phase is architect Dominic Williams, who has was responsible for redeveloping the iconic ‘Baltic’ gallery in Gateshead, and also the stunning Mostyn Gallery in Llandudno, Wales’ only purpose-built exhibition space for contemporary art. Both buildings ‘rose from the slough of inertia’ through Domenic’s ideas and designs, and have become international centres for creative excellence in stunning environments, thanks to the creative vision of a handful of people who made it happen.

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