“Flagship” venue to open in Birmingham

Published: 5 March 2021
Reporter: Steve Orme

“Transforming neighbourhoods”: YARD Outhouse

Arts and social justice organisation MAIA is to open a “flagship” venue in Birmingham for artists from black and under-represented communities.

YARD Arthouse is a three-storey townhouse at Port Loop, a new neighbourhood on a former industrial site at Ladywood in the north of the city, “one of the most culturally neglected neighbourhoods in the West Midlands”.

The ground floor is made up of a community kitchen and podcast facilities, with flexible space for exhibitions, scratch night performances and screenings. The first floor has a soundproofed recording studio and rehearsal space. The second floor is made up of two large en suite rooms where artists can stay.

The project “aims to demonstrate the powerful role of the arts in transforming neighbourhoods and to give local people from marginalised and culturally deprived communities a sense of agency”.

The creatives behind YARD Arthouse include playwright, theatre-maker and producer Amahra Spence and producer Amber Caldwell. Both are co-founders of MAIA which has been “championing, platforming and fundraising for black artists across the UK” for more than eight years.

Spence, who grew up in Ladywood on the same road where YARD Arthouse is located, said, “decades of austerity have meant that our spaces for being together have gone—youth centres, libraries, arts spaces. Many more are under threat.

“It’s vital in a post-COVID landscape that we find ways to support and amplify the work of creatives from black and under-represented communities.

“By providing quality arts programming, an innovative business model and a sound infrastructure to a neighbourhood which has never benefited from any cultural investment, our hope is that YARD arthouse and ultimately our artist-led hotel Abuelos become a beacon for sustainable ecosystems for arts and culture in the community.”

YARD Outhouse’s first season of programmed work will be Imagination SZN. It will be available online in April 2021 and includes a mixture of workshops, talks and participatory arts projects.