RELEASE: Makespace Oxford reanimates derelict day centre into a thriving community hub in the heart of Wantage
We’re proud to announce the transformation and opening of a previously derelict day-centre into an affordable, accessible space for local artists, entrepreneurs and community groups wanting to connect and flourish in the centre of Wantage.
The recently renovated building, named ‘The Old Stables’ in reference to its historic location, was re-opened in December 2022 by Makespace Oxford, as part of the ‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire…’ programme; a county-wide initiative aimed at tackling the rise in empty buildings in Oxfordshires urban centres. The programme was developed by The Oxford City Council, with funding secured by OXLEP from the government’s ‘Getting Building Fund’.
Makespace Oxford worked with local architects, Transition by Design, to conduct community engagement which informed a major redesign and the building was transformed into a new mixed-use community space that facilitates connection and collaboration between socially-minded organisations.
The building has been retrofitted to improve its energy efficiency, and now offers artist and maker studios, coworking spaces, a meeting space, a community cafe and a large shared garden. In their short time occupying the building so far, The Old Stables residents have said how much this space has impacted their work, while noting the deep need for more community spaces like this.
Lily (left) and Kate Farrington (right) Makespace Residents, Down to Earth Cafe at The Old Stables, Wantage
Facilities Coordinator, Jason, and Community Coordinator, Nor, from Makespace Oxford, installing the new signage at The Old Stables
“The cost of living crisis is having an impact on everyone – at Down to Earth we want to make sure that both community space and affordable food is accessible to everybody, as well as being committed to environmental sustainability … the community cafe is a lovely space and I wouldn’t have had the confidence to do it if I didn’t have so much support and funding – the response from the local community and from Makespace has been amazing.”
– Kate Farrington, Down to Earth Cafe
The Old Stables building under construction, July 2022
Makespace has secured an initial 5-year lease on the former Wantage Health and Wellbeing Centre, which was closed in 2017 following government cuts; a move that brought the number of day centres for the disabled and elderly in Oxfordshire down from 22 to 8 by the autumn of that year. Following the closure, the building sat empty and vandalised in the five years that followed, resulting in the nearest community centre being 12 miles away.
“We are delighted to relaunch this previously derelict building as a hub for community and local social enterprise in Wantage. This building is a flagship for the ‘Meanwhile in Oxfordshire’ programme and offers an inspiring example for how we can increase the accessibility of spaces regardless of an individual’s identity or background; to give early-stage, purpose-driven organisations an opportunity to grow, while also breathing life back into the high number of underused buildings in Oxfordshire’s urban centres.”
– Andy Edwards, Co-founder, Programme Lead & Director at Makespace Oxford
Through the programme, Makespace Oxford have reopened 27 buildings and connected 56 purpose-led organisations with affordable space, supporting over 130 jobs.
Councillor Neil Fawcett, Cabinet Member for Strategic Partnerships and Place said:
“It has been great to work alongside Makespace Oxford and our other partners to develop and open up facilities like The Old Stables for the community in Wantage and surrounding areas to use.
“This building will offer an affordable space for people to come together for business and for creative projects. This is one of many ideas that has become a reality from the Meanwhile in Oxfordshire… project, enabling high streets to bounce back after the financial impact of Covid-19.”
Before: Community Deliveries Manager, Alex Lui (left) | After: Reanimated conservatory space
Chris Evett, a co-working resident at The Old Stables in Wantage said “It’s great to be part of the Wantage Makespace community! It’s a lovely space for co-working with an interesting community of makers, remote-workers and general ‘doers’.. . . it provides a real hub for the modern community where families, friends, and workers can all come together. It’s great to be a part of such a positive, relevant change.”
If you’d like to join ‘The Old Stables’ growing community you can apply to join the coworking, individual studio spaces or hire the events space, available for local businesses and community groups, apply online.
Makespace Oxford are now recruiting for a new Communities Coordinator to help steward activities and events as part of the centre in Wantage and beyond. For more information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org