‘We are trying to create alchemy...’

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When you look at the facade of MK train station, and its surrounding shimmering mirage of glass you might imagine big business being done around suitably big tables by grey-suited high flyers.

And in part, that might be true.

But peek into happenings on the third floor, in a space formerly occupied by Railtrack and you’ll get an altogether more colourful assembly – a bustling hub of artists and musicians, and of writers and creatives working under the roof of Arts Central.

On Tuesday, the space was officially opened by The Mayor Councillor Brian White, signalling the start of another exciting chapter for the folk at Arts Gateway, who delivered the idea, formulated the plan and took action to turn this fabulous space into an arts hub.

John Best is Chair of Arts Gateway, although he told me, it wasn’t without some fraying of nerves that the project was executed.

“I was very nervous,” he admits.

“At one level it is high risk because although we aren’t putting a lot of money into it, there has certainly been a lot of people hours going into it.”

In all , the premises will be a professional home to 40 Milton Keynes creatives, boasting space for performance and drama, for exhibitions and workshops and all manner of other vibrant opportunities.

And renting a space here is affordable to say the least.

The bane of many, the recession is actually part responsible for the surplus of empty buildings that are not being utilised, so this is a fantastic way of making good use of otherwise dead space.

“The reason this block is empty though is because Network Rail put in tens of millions of pounds’ investment into a brand new office, so in a sense it’s good news, that they were able to move up into something that is a superb building, and it does show a certain amount of churn in the property market.”

Arts Central is only here until a company comes banging on the door with an offer of renting the unit.

If that happens tomorrow, the inhabitants will have just 28 days to pack up and move on, so John is already taking tentative steps to ensuren a future for this clever idea.

“Part of the business model is to build up a relocation reserve, so that we can have a pot of money in case we need to bring in contractors, hire a van...we’ll need to move out faster than we moved in – and we moved in pretty quickly,” he says with a smile.

There are many talented types making use of the Arts Central opportunity, and all are united in the ir vision of a vibrant hub for the arts.

“What we are trying to generate is alchemy,” John says passionately.

“We’ve got a non-traditional mix of people, cosmeticists and virtual world creators...all sorts, and we are pulling in some fairly obscure, non-mainstream artistic componenents.”

And this all encompassing space isn’t out to take from existing success stories among our artistic fabric.

“We are really keen not to be seen as poaching,” John promised.

“My passion is about making Milton Keynes work.

“MK is on a journey, it is lampooned and mocked from the outside, and it needs to have something which draws on all parts of the city and all genres of arts and creativity.

“Art is important for the soul of Milton Keynes.”

And John has no regrets about tackling such a large project during an economically tough time.

“To say ‘not now’ is to walk away from an opportunity...” he says, and what a fabulous opportunity this is.

> For a video from the event visit www.miltonkeynes.co.uk