Oxheys was started in 2011 as a response to the closing of PAD Gallery in Preston, as the council could no longer afford the £84,000 a year it cost. At that time, there were no artist studios and nowhere else for local artists to exhibit or show their work.
Oxheys was set up to try and show that supporting the arts in Preston didn’t have to cost that much – just an empty building, a sympathetic and visionary landlord and a few artists that wanted to make a difference and who were prepared to roll up their sleeves to make it happen.
We got the keys to the near-derelict factory mill on Stanhope Street in April 2011. Despite much initial interest from quite a few artists, just 3 of us were left to clean it up in time to run our first open exhibition in the August. Several other artists then decided to join us as residents and other than a few short gaps, we remained fully occupied until 2017.
We were determined to be self-sufficient – we didn’t ask for funding nor did we charge visitors for events, making just a small charge to artists to enter open exhibitions and taking a small commission on sales. Our landlord Cllr Albert Richardson was completely supportive and proud of what we achieved, never increasing the rent once in 6 years. He took great pleasure showing his friends around ‘his gallery’ – it also gave him bragging rights!
This model was however, totally dependent on the voluntary efforts of just a couple of resident artists on whose shoulders it fell to organise, manage, install, run and publicise exhibitions and events. We were also lucky to have some invaluable supporters who provided unpaid help with maintenance, installations, moral support and publicity. We say a big thank you to them.
Albert always enjoyed attending our preview evenings so our last one on March 2nd 2017 was tinged with some sadness that he was unable to attend due to his failing health. We all wish him well and say once again a huge Thank You to Albert.
During our 6 years in Oxheys Mill we’ve organised and run 37 exhibitions, accommodated 27 resident artists, hosted 3 residencies, collaborated with 17 organisations, exhibited work from 111 artists.
We ran 14 arts-related events including theatre, live music, poetry and creative writing, hosted 8 talks and welcomed over 3777 visitors.
In March 2017 we sadly lost the use of the old factory mill on Stanhope Street so we have evolved into a peripatetic arts collective, now known simply as Oxheys. Watch for details of our future endeavours and do join our mailing list.