Mike and his trusted band of merry men spent a week knocking down walls, carrying fully loaded paintbrushes and sprucing up the studio ready for its inaugural launch on 10th September 2011.
We were really lucky to have an amazing team of builders, painters, electricians, garden designers, signage companies to name but a few, many working 12 hour days to achieve what Mike had planned to do in the week between getting the keys and re-opening the doors. And on the whole, they were remarkably tolerant of Mike’s ambitious plans and the taxing timescale.
I couldn’t quite believe what was on the To-do List (Mike is used to re-fitting hospital wards and clearly thought he’d test his project management skills to the limit on this project!). It really was an extraordinary experience to watch the building transform. Every time I walked into a room it was full of people beetling away, and every time I turned around there was something else to see. Far from being stressful (although there were some moments!) it was really exciting and thrilling. Some friends called in during the re-fit and suggested we should have made a fly-on-the-wall programme about it, and it did at times feel as though we were in an extreme version of 60-minute makeover. But I don’t think we could have fitted anyone else in the building!
One of the main changes involved building a ‘box’ within Studio 1 in order to create a lobby area at the front door, meaning that Studio 1 is now a private space (students used to travel through it to get to Studio 2). And the Gents now have a brand new changing room with access off the reception area, meaning they don’t need to disturb a class to get there. The Women’s changing room has now doubled in size and they now have their very own shower!
We have also opened up the reception area to create a shop and tea bar: students can make themselves tea after class and drink it over a chat on the new deck, beautifully crafted by Claire’s husband Nigel and his brother Gary.
Perhaps the most exciting bit of all was seeing people’s faces on the Open Weekend as they absorbed the changes!
The teachers were amazing: we asked them to come in on the Friday afternoon for a photoshoot for the website (which we launched without photography). I was somewhat distracted and Bob took control of the art direction with Oliver the photographer and Wayne our designer, and between them they created a fantastic set of images which Wayne and Andy uploaded to the site the following week.
At 6.45pm, we were still clearing rubble and the lovely Lou was whizzing round with her hoover as guests began to arrive for the Launch party. It was lovely to meet everyone (some for the first time, and some old friends) and there was a great feeling of excitement at the studios re-opening after a summer break.
On the Saturday Annette taught 2 well-attended classes in the morning and the building was open for exploration in the afternoon.
If you haven’t seen it yet, do pop down and take a look.