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Feature: Hazlehurst Studios

You can do art anywhere, but there a places you shouldn’t do art to. Hazlehurst Studios are a fabulous example of how artists should exist in their setting; make friends; make change; make art.

Shipping in international artists, and community practitioners is a typical day in the office for a council arts team. I get it. They should invest in artists and studios in their community, but when they do, the loudest voices in the community tell them it’s a waste of resources; and that traditional floral bedding and regularly mown grass verges should be a priority. It’s a lose-lose.

So councils ship existing work in, on tour from one local authority to the next, because it’s cheaper than investing in local skills and knowledge, and makes budgets stretch further by reducing engagement.

It’s not the case in all councils, but it’s the complaint levelled against many by the artists working in them, regardless of size or status.

In that context, investing in Hazlehurst was a risk for Halton Council. They put their money, time, and strategic energy behind people who had proven they cared about Runcorn, and proven they could make a difference. It wasn’t cheap, but it was worth every penny.

I visited the new Hazlehurst for the first time last week. I was blown away. Community gardens, dozens of local artists, spread across two buildings, on split-floors I lost count of.

t’s glorious. It’s warm. It’s comfortable. It’s safe. It’s secure. And it’s not even finished (there’s a few years of development in the area still to come, with more detail to be announced by Halton Council over the coming months).

To the point I started with… Hazlehurst don’t do art to Halton, they make art in Halton. They live there, eat there, sleep there. The work they’re making is very much of Runcorn, but it’s universally useful.

Their relationship with Runcorn is really clear, even to the point that new studio members are actively sought from the local area, ensuring a continuation of the dedication to the space they’re in.

We’ve seen it before with studios like Altenator and their relationship with Oxton Road, or Platform and their dedication to St Helens and supporting the artists of it, but there’s something incredibly powerful, and very directed about what’s happening at Hazlehurst right now.

But, more importantly than all of that, there are constant events, workshops, and socials planned over the next few months, so go and see it for yourself.

Find out more about Hazlehurst Studios, including their regular events programme at www.hazlehurststudios.co.uk
Words, Patrick Kirk-Smith

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