Builders have begun work to transform the last remnant of Edinburgh’s industrial past into a £12.3 million hub for artists in Fountainbridge.
And at the heart of the new Edinburgh Printmakers Dundee Street will be an artist’s flat to encourage international artists to visit and share their skills.
Conservation work to restore some of the salvageable original features of the 160-year-old building has started in tandem with careful restoration and remodelling of the historic factory. The home of the former North British Rubber Factory – manufacturer of the welly boot, first traffic cone and hot water bottle – will become home to jewellers, textile workers and other artists by 2019.
Edinburgh Printmakers chief executive Sarah Price said: “In redeveloping Castle Mill Works we are preserving an iconic piece of Edinburgh’s industrial heritage and planning to look after it for generations to come.
“What we’ve learnt from our consultation with the community is because this is the last standing remnant of what was a 20 acre industrial site it is really the last bit of evidence of Edinburgh’s industrial past.
“The community have really fought long and hard to keep it and not allow it to be demolished in the same way as the rest of the factory.
“In some way it defines what this area is – it is a physical symbol of how people define Fountainbridge.”
The Grade C listed Castle Mill Works will be brought back into public use and as well as providing a significant space for artists to work in, the Edinburgh Printmakers’ new Centre for Excellence will work with local colleges and young people to provide an insight into the life “as a creative”.
Complementing the architectural design and retaining links to the history of the building, a series of permanent artwork commissions will also be sited throughout the building.
Inside Castle Mill Works, visitors will be welcomed to a world-class cultural facility housing galleries, a learning studio, a state-of-the-art printmaking workshop, creative studios and a cafe.
Lucy Casot, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Scotland, commented: “This is an exciting day for the community of Fountainbridge.
“The area is undergoing transformation, yet the residents remain justly proud of its heritage and identity.
“They have shown enormous drive and support for this building which is all that remains of the industry which once supported so many local families.
“With the help of National Lottery funding, its restoration into a thriving cultural centre, benefitting many hundreds of national and international artists is now underway.
“I look forward to seeing it develop.”
The project has been funded up to £10m of the £12.5m target and a further public fundraising drive has been launched.
Members of the public who donate to the campaign will have their name immortalised in print within the new building.
Supporters of the project will also have the opportunity to receive a limited edition print by Billy Connolly mural artists John Byrne and Rachel Maclean.