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Newcastle community studio lands £45k Big Issue Invest funding

Newcastle's Cobalt Studio

Big Issue Invest, the social investment arm of The Big Issue, has made a £45K investment in Newcastle creative non-profit Cobalt Studios.

Cobalt will use the funding to refurbish its current premises and expand its offering to local artists by providing further studio space.

The not-for-profit, community interest company was created in 1999, and works to bring people together through creativity and arts by programming high quality culture which is both affordable and accessible, and through offering learning opportunities to the local community.

Cobalt aims to support all creative production and champion new and underrepresented culture, ensuring inclusivity is at the heart of the organisation prioritising people over profit. It does this by providing affordable workspace for artists and through a multi-function venue which offers a diverse programme of cultural and music events as well as creative learning opportunities.

The organisation contributes to the economic and cultural landscape in Newcastle and, increasingly, a wider national cultural economy through the programming of national (and international) artists.

The founders of Cobalt are creatives themselves and believe that shared space and cultural activity can improve mental health, increase confidence, support general wellbeing, and help with social isolation.

As part of its mission give back to the community, Cobalt promises:

  • To welcome an audience of at least 15,000 to the building per annum
  • To providee at least 3,000 places to free events over the year
  • To deliver at least 35 creative learning events and workshops each year
  • To create performance opportunities for 25 young musicians each year
  • To offer free venue hire for at least 20 events each year for organisations to deliver with a social impact, on low or non-existent budgets
  • To aid and safeguard the creative incomes of at least 20 arts professionals with the provision of affordable, safe and secure workspace
  • To keep average ticket price for all Cobalt events no higher than £8 per ticket
  • To pay all artists taking part in events
  • To put at least £50k in artists fees into the cultural economy
  • To strive for a balance of 50/50 male female/non gender specific performers on stage within its own events
  • To network with and create opportunities for at least three new organisations wishing to use its space, promoting diversity each year
  • To create one job or voluntarily position for unskilled workers who learn and train alongside it

Michael Burns, investment manager at Big Issue Invest, said: “The work Cobalt do is vital to ensuring culture is available to all, whatever their background or means. Our investment will help Cobalt to provide additional spaces for artists, which we are delighted about. We are really excited to watch Cobalt expand and grow from strength to strength.”

Mark Collett, director of Cobalt, added: “For over two decades, this has been and will remain a passion project supporting the creative doers. Providing a stage for artists and audiences generates support and meaning in an increasingly fractured time. It’s a different type of wealth that we’re both very proud of and one that nourishes an increasingly wide and diverse community.”

Founded in 2005, Big Issue Invest is the social investment arm of The Big Issue which extends the organisation’s mission to dismantle poverty through creating opportunity. It offers loans and investment from £20,000 to £3 million to social enterprises and charities across the UK. The capital raised by the fund is from private sources and not from sales of the magazine.

Big Issue Invest currently manages £42.8m and since 2005 has provided £44 million in impact loans to more than 400 social enterprises, alongside nearly £27 million in larger and more patient investments across three major funds with a committed capital of nearly £43 million.

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