Brighton artist collective to grow its reach to Portslade

Mike Edwards and Sarah Davies (Photograph: Manel Ortega)
Mike Edwards and Sarah Davies (Photograph: Manel Ortega)

Phoenix Brighton is a creative space just a stone’s throw away from The Level, which provides studio space for more than 100 artists.

Now Phoenix is to expand its reach into Portslade, after permission was granted for 40 new artists’ studios, a gallery and cafe in the old Portslade Brewery. The development will also include 37 flats and 11 homes.

Phoenix Brighton (Photograph: M Stoakes)

Phoenix Brighton (Photograph: M Stoakes)

Artists at Phoenix Brighton opened up about what it means to them to have their own space in the city and on expanding their reach to Portslade .

Sarah Davies, interim executive director, said: “It’s hard to imagine just how much this means to us all. We will be able to transform the future of Phoenix and provision of artist studio spaces in the city.

“It really gives Brighton and Hove an outstanding platform to react to the huge numbers of artists needing work spaces in the city and wider.

“We help our artists create an income, in turn, they contribute to the community through education and community projects. It is rare to find a developer willing to create such a space, and we are so pleased to be able to provide a home for our growing waiting list of artists looking for affordable spaces to work.”

Sophie Abbott (Photograph: Manel Ortega)

Sophie Abbott (Photograph: Manel Ortega)

The organisation, which is owned and run by artists, also boasts a gallery, educational programme and runs a series of events to bring the community in to get involved and experience art.

Sophie Abbott, a painter who has been with Phoenix for six years, said affordable studio space was key for artists. She said: “For me, I can’t earn a living without it.”

Having other artists around was also important: “We’ve got an amazing community. We do coffee mornings and open studios.”

Photographer Manel Ortega said: “For eight years I was walking past, I always thought it wasn’t for photographers, only for painters.”

Sarah Davies  (Photograph: Manel Ortega)

Sarah Davies (Photograph: Manel Ortega)

He worked from his home and then from a studio in the city, before getting his foot in the door at Phoenix.

“It changed my life actually,” he said. “Obviously everything is so expensive in Brighton. And photographers need a lot of space.”

Mike Edwards has been with Phoenix for four years, and has recently been working on his ‘black firework’ pieces after Donald Trump’s inauguration, and ‘Text Me’, where he will print people’s texts onto a print of Debbie Harry at an event in Manchester later this year.

He explained why having a space at Phoenix was so important to him.

“Artists’ studios are places of experimentation and quite often failure,” he said. “If you do not have cheap space to work it is impossible. You can’t work at home.”

But the community aspect of Phoenix was also a key aspect of the organisation.

He said: “It is so great to be in a community of artists. We are all in the same boat. We are really lucky to have this place in the city.”

Painter Louise Bristow has been at Phoenix for 18 years and said: “It is stable, we own the building. Before moving in here I helped set up another studio space which is now social housing, For us it was that we were always at the mercy of landlords. There was no stability in how long you would be somewhere.

“For me the community is obviously important. There is a lot of artists in Brighton and a lot of them are in this building.”

Christina Ure, is a trustee of Phoenix, and has been with the organisation for 20 years.

“I was part of building it,” she said.

On opening a second space in Portslade, she said: “I think it is obviously exciting, We have built this brilliant organisation.

“It is really important to be in the centre of communities.

“Artists in the middle of communities bring something to a place.

She said Phoenix’s slogan is ‘We Grow Artists’, and explained: “We facilitate that growth. We create these spaces where things can happen.”