Artists getting their 'taste for space': The Parlour and The Showroom

Another initiative developed through Capacity Bristol is based at College Green in the city centre, and comprises two ground-floor shops used as exhibition spaces, The Showroom, and the three floors above used for theatre development, The Parlour. Because it is a council-owned building, Ruth holds the lease from Council's Properties Division and sub-leases the upstairs space to arts groups who share office, rehearsal and storage spaces. Showroom and Parlour theatre spaces

When the respected Mayfest Theatre Festival moved in, a theatrical hub developed and the space is now home to the Stand and Stare Collective and Interval.

"I decided to directly manage the leasing to maintain a program of constantly changing events or exhibitions." says Ruth Essex. "I'm like the estate agent with these projects. As well as talking through people's work in the building, I turn up with the licence agreement and the keys and leave them to get on with it."

Just because it's easier, Ruth Essex tends to prefer working with experienced, autonomous artist groups such as Artspace Lifespace but she understands that her program must include opportunities for less experienced artists to access space; hence her 'estate agent' hat.

"I wouldn't necessarily give a whole building over to this activity, but through sub-leasing to artists they get a taste for this activity which is very important professional development," she says.