I stand under hanging wires and exposed roofs, next to towering scaffolding, touching dusty walls. I stand with my feet planted on concrete, but my mind in the sky. Radiant does this to you. In the hands of arts company Effervescent, this derelict building and former bank will soon become a gallery – showcasing talent from across the creative spectrum. It will become a studio for lifechanging work with young people from across the region, it will become home for a handful of talented companies, which dance, draw, perform and more.
I’ve heard a lot about Radiant over the last few months and seen pictures of its progress. So, with its doors soon to be swung wide, I thought a pre-public peek would be a good way to Feed.
“It’s about opening up the creative scene and inviting people in. And we’re really proud to be driving it.”
Peering in through the huge glass windows that look out across Derry Cross to the Theatre Royal in Plymouth, I’m shocked. There’s still so much to do. But Ray White from Effervescent is adamant it will all get done. “You should see where we started,” he explains as he gives me a tour, “we’ve taken out over 10 tonnes of rubbish so far and there’s still more to come.”
It is an impressive space with an industrial style starting to emerge from the brickwork, air vents and spidering light fittings. There’s also a tea parlour planned where cinema seats, churchills and gold leaf will add a touch of bohemian to proceedings, drawing in punters to relax before exploring the exhibition on offer. And of course Effervescent will be based here, opening up their work to the public eye and augmenting what they offer as a company – from socially engaged arts practice and eye-popping live art and performance, to tea and cakes for shoppers.
“We’ve never undertaken a commercial venture like this and of course it’s a risk,” Ray continues, “but it’s exciting to think that there’ll be a permanent space in Plymouth to showcase the diverse and rich work the region has to offer. It’s about opening up the creative scene and inviting people in. And we’re really proud to be driving it.”
As we walk from corner to corner, our voices echoing off the empty walls, Ray tells me more about the first exhibition that Radiant will host: a project which sees a handful of young people turn curators –bringing together work in a show inspired by bees. The project – run by Effervescent in collaboration with Peninsula Arts – uses curation as a vehicle to help young people who’ve faced massive challenges in their life start to look at the world differently.
The idea is that by understanding and engaging with the processes involved in pulling together an exhibition, the young people build confidence, see value in their opinions and become enthusiastic about making decisions, on their own. It will result in a beautiful experience for Radiant visitors and a positive experience – and future outlook – for the young curators themselves.
When it opens its doors on the 9 June, Radiant will look like a gallery and cafe. A good one, I’m sure, but still probably pretty similar to any of the other good galleries and cafes across the country. However, it’s more than that. Much more. Because there’s a subtext to Radiant that gives it roots. A subtext that carries a statement of intent, a vision for change, a shard of hope for people who really need it and a manifesto for everyone to seize the day, inject creativity into the every day and bring the derelict to life again.
Just like the curation project, it’s what’s happening behind the exhibitions that will be hanging on the walls that is important. The impetuous driving Effervescent to set up Radiant is an impetuous that many creative minds share, to go beyond in any given situation, to see the potential and to give it meaning. That’s what Eff’s done with an old derelict bank and it’s what any of us could do, if we put our minds to it. Think about all the empty spaces out there…
For me, Radiant House is a rallying call. And one I’m all fired up to respond to.