Relocation, relocation – arts space to leave Uppermill

UPPERMILL art gallery, The Weavers Factory, is on the move to North Wales after the COVID-19 pandemic forced owners Julian Bovis and Nigel Durkan to close the doors in March.

Opened in April 2019, the pair are relocating the New Street arts space to Snowdonia.

Weavers Factory on New Street

The current Grade II listed property is expected to be converted back into a house next year.

Gallery curator Julian explains why they have decided to move the popular Saddleworth tourist attraction.

“This summer we faced the difficult reality that COVID is here to stay and we needed to do something urgent to save the gallery,” he said.

“We watched lots of local businesses re-open by cleverly re-inventing the way they worked.

“But for us, that wasn’t an option. Social distancing, masks, hand-sanitisers and plastic screens would have ruined the gallery’s unique atmosphere.

“So, we had a stark choice; we either closed permanently or found alternative premises.

“We couldn’t find anything for sale locally but then out of blue while on holiday in Snowdonia, we found the perfect place.

“The new Weavers Factory will give us more space, better accessibility and help us protect the wonderful legacy left to us by our neighbour Joan Charnley.

Inside the Weavers Factory

“It’s going to be really sad to leave Uppermill and all the wonderful people who supported the gallery and made it such a success.

“But hopefully when this awful pandemic is over, they’ll come to the new Weavers Factory in Snowdonia and have a holiday at the same time.”

For 50-years the Weavers Factory was home to award-winning textile designer Joan.

The gallery was built in 1808 and used as a weavers’ factory before being abandoned when the Industrial Revolution made small-scale weaving untenable.

In the first half of the 20th century the building was used as a coffin-makers, illegal gambling den and temperance hotel before being converted into a house in 1963 by Joan and her artist husband Archibald MacDonald.

2 Replies to “Relocation, relocation – arts space to leave Uppermill”

  1. I am not sure how this fulfils Joan’s ‘simple brief … to turn her artist’s home into an art house for the Saddleworth community.’ as stated when the Weavers factory opened.

    Moving to Snowdonia does not benefit Saddleworth at all from what I can see!

    If Julian and Nigel want to move, fine. But surely the building should stay for the community, not be sold for profit!

    1. Dear ‘Saddleworth Resident’,

      We appreciate your concerns but we can assure you that the building is not “being sold for profit”, but to fund a larger gallery in Joan’s honour, a place that will protect her legacy and give us more space and time to promote Joan’s work. Like all businesses we’ve had to adapt to COVID and the decision to leave Saddleworth was not taken lightly.

      However you are correct about Saddleworth needing more creative spaces. If it’s something you’d like to do yourself we’d be more than happy to give you guidance and advice about starting one up. It’s not easy but it is very rewarding.

      Julian & Nigel

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