Are you arty enough to know? Director offers ‘mystery’ free space for creative Manchester artists

By Katie Moore

An award-winning theatre director is offering artists across Manchester free space to develop and show off their creativity to the public.

Benji Reid hopes the new creative rehearsal space, based close to the Printworks, will bring artists and the public closer together.

MARS (Manchester Artistic Research Studios) is a completely free resource and the area was originally used as offices for Co-op staff.

Benji said: “We want an air of mystery around it.”

“Like a back-street theatre – those that do know about it know it’s the place to be.”

It consists of two rooms, one small enough for one-man shows and the other an impressive 7,000 square feet.

The unused Co-op offices were offered to Benji by Castlefield Gallery, whose project New Art Spaces offers properties to artists for low or no rent.

The deal allows the creative community to use it for free on a charity basis.

“They have a corporate social responsibility,” said gallery Director Kwong Lee. “It is good for the cultural life of the city.”

As Artistic Director, Benji plans to run the studios with the help of a management committee.

They will carefully select small to mid scale companies and individual poets, directors, actors and dancers facing funding barriers in their work.

Keen to tackle the current system, Benji argues that advertising a commissioned show in a brochure when it hasn’t even been created yet will only act as a constraint.

He goes on to challenge the idea of creativity as a means to an end.

He said: “We for one see the value in experimentation and the investment in the learning process.”

He champions a DIY ethic in theatre making, believing that too many artists are ‘afraid of work not hitting the right mark right away’.

Having created the theatre space from scratch, with no pre-existing etiquette, they have been able to make their own rules.

Audiences will bring their own cushions to sit on and there will be a genuine relationship with the lucky ones invited through the door.

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