Links Studios


Building owner/client:

Wasps Studios

Local Authority Area:


Nominating Body:

The Tenants of Links Studios

Project Description

Links studios in Nairn were officially opened in September 2015. This studio building supports 11 local artists and makers with affordable studio space in the Fishertown area. The studios are based in the former Links School, which closed in the late 1960’s. The Links School was established 178 years ago as a Free Church of Scotland School and operated as such until 1967. For a while, the building was home to the Voluntary Association of Nairn Groups and served as a community resource centre. But when the Nairn Community Centre was custom built, the centre was deemed surplus to requirements. The last tenant was the NHS who used the premises to deliver mental health and ante-natal services from 2008. However, these would move to the new hospital and in 2012, the future of the building was called into question. As Fishertown’s best loved historic and iconic building, local residents and councillors were keen to identify a new sustainable use for the Links School building. Local artists including myself were keen to talk to Wasps about the potential project and enhancement of cultural activity in the town. A creative use for Links School seemed to fit, with the Arts Society and the Little Theatre operating just around the corner from the school building. The redevelopment of Links School was led by Wasps Studios, a social enterprise which supports around 800 artists per year with space across Scotland. Links Studios became Wasps first Highland Studio project. The project itself demonstrates excellent partnership between different bodies including Highland Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Creative Scotland, all of whom endorsed and funded the project. There are 9 accessible studio spaces within the building and a space for a Creative Industry or Social Enterprise. There is also a social space within the building which has so far been used for live music and an exhibition and we sincerely hope to invite more projects to this space in future that the local community can attend. Artists that are now based in Links Studios are mainly from the town and work in a variety of different mediums including drawing and painting, glass, felting, textiles, sculpture, video and installation. Links Studios will help to build a stronger infrastructure for creative practitioners. Many students who study on the BA (Hons) fine art course in Elgin wish to stay in the region but find the lack of studio spaces, exhibition spaces and other networking opportunities difficult. Following a presentation by Wasps at the UHI in 2014, students and graduates stated that to be part of a creative community and having access to affordable workspace would encourage them to stay. Now that the studios are let, we will focus on giving the public more access to the building and events which we can tie into or become involved with. Events such as Wasps Open Studios and Highland Doors Open Days allow us to open our doors to the public, introduce them to artists, show them our work and attract extra visitors to the town.

Supporting Statement

We, the creative tenants of Links Studios have nominated this project as it has benefited us greatly as artists. To have a studio space in Nairn allows us to continue making work in professional surroundings with like-minded people. As the building has been purchased by Wasps, we know that it will be protected for arts use for a long time to come. We are delighted that the building has been kept in the public realm and its new use fits in nicely with existing activities. We believe that this new resource will provide the local community with space to collaborate on projects, share skills and develop ideas in the heart of Fishertown. Ultimately, we want to engage people in the arts, promoting awareness and understanding of contemporary art through exhibitions, open studios, workshops, residencies and other cultural activities. When we opened the building on Friday 18th September 2015, 96 people came to the party and a further 116 people attended our open event the following day. Many of these people were local residents who were delighted to access the building once again, meet artists at work and see the improvements which have been made. The project is a superb example of partnership working between Wasps, Creative Scotland, Highlands Council and Highlands and Islands Enterprise to provide a socially valuable new use for an empty building. Hubs like these can boost local economies and be invaluable in providing options for skilled young people who might otherwise have to move away to develop their careers. Back in April 2015, just as the project was being completed, The Highland Council’s Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey Area Committee Leader, Councillor Liz MacDonald endorsed the project by saying to the Nairnshire Telegraph: “We are delighted in Nairn that Wasps are moving ahead with this development. “Fishertown is our cultural district, and includes the Arts Society and the Little Theatre. The creative hub planned by Wasps should fit in well with existing activities, enhance and support the community and provide much-needed employment in our town. “I wish Wasps the best of luck with this project and it appears to be generating lots of interest and support from people who are involved in the arts. This is a great opportunity for like-minded people to work together and share ideas in partnership. I am also delighted that we will now have a social enterprise in Nairn.” Winning a Scottish Civic Trust My Place Award would allow us to celebrate the transformation of the historic Links School building after a long period of uncertainty into a beautiful arts facility. It would also help us to raise our profile within the local community and beyond as an innovative contemporary arts hub in the Scottish Highlands.