Monday, 23 October 2017

Gallery owner appealing for moving help

A GALLERY owner in Wargrave is trying to crowdfund £30,000 to move to a bigger property outside the village.

A GALLERY owner in Wargrave is trying to crowdfund £30,000 to move to a bigger property outside the village.

Jo Sinclair, 43, who opened the Robin’s Nest Gallery in High Street in February last year, says she needs to move to a larger premises for the future of the business, allowing her to run art workshops with local artists.

The shop had previously been Willow Dress Agency, which closed after just eight months in Wargrave after the owner said High Street was “dead”.

Miss Sinclair, an illustrator who has lived in Wargrave for 39 years, says the gallery has been a “huge success” in the village but she is now targeting a move to Henley or Marlow.

She said: “I’m asked all the time about workshops and it’s something I’ve thought an awful lot about. It’s something I can’t do here, I don’t have the space.

“From day one I have been asked about workshops, and there seems to be a lack of them in the area. Possible workshops offered at the new premises would range from lino cut printing, needle felt, painting, life drawing, free hand embroidery to copper etching, and the potential for many more.

“Moving would be a great thing all round for the business and the community. I’ve got a lot of artists here who teach so it will support them and keep the gallery going.

“It’s quite difficult to find somewhere that is the right size and price. I’d prefer to be in Henley but these kinds of places come up quite rarely and get snapped up quickly.”

Miss Sinclair, whose family also lives in Wargrave, says it will be a shame to leave the village but it is the right thing to do for the future of the business. She added that it can sometimes be difficult to get customers when the village isn’t busy.

She said: “It will be sad to leave the village because I have lots of friends and customers here but I think they will follow me if they like what I do. The gallery is very different to other places in the area.

“If you want to keep a business going you need to keep moving forward and I can’t do that here. When places close on High Street it impacts on everyone else.

“One business closed for a holiday recently and the place was like a ghost town. If you go somewhere bigger you’re not going to have that same impact.

This is a move for the future of the business.”

Miss Sinclair, who lives in Langhams Way with her mother Christina, has set up a fund-raising page through www.crowdfunder.co.uk, where patrons can pledge money towards her target, with all the proceeds going towards finding and furbishing a new shop.

There are rewards for those who donate different sums of money, with £50 earning a handmade felt bird and pledges of £10,000 or more receiving discounts of up to 25 per cent, a print from the gallery and a customer “VIP card”.

Miss Sinclair said: “This is a way for people to invest in the gallery and they can get some really nice rewards back in turn. They can get money off purchases for life which is great, especially for regular customers. It’s one of the newest ways of raising funds and lots of people are starting to do it.

“There are quite a lot doing it for charity but I’ve also seen businesses and it’s a good option for start-ups to do this rather than the conventional route.

People can invest in your business which is a nice way of including the community.

“To get that backing would be amazing, it validates the business and tells you you’re doing something right that people like. I’ve had lots of positive feedback since I’ve been here and it would be really nice if those people helped me with the future of the business.”

Willow Dress Agency shut on New Year’s Eve in 2014 with owner Janet Middleton-Stewart blaming a lack of customers in the village.

Mrs Middleton-Stewart, who worked at the shop with her daughter Sarah Penny, says there was not enough footfall in Wargrave, meaning the shop didn’t have enough customers to be profitable.

But Miss Sinclair says while Wargrave can be a difficult place to attract customers, she has worked hard to get her name out. She said: “Since I’ve been here I’ve been very busy but it’s been a lot of hard work to get people to visit. I put a lot of work into my window display and it does make people stop their cars to come and have a look.

“I do lots of social media and advertising to get people to visit. I have one regular who comes all the way from Watlington and to do that you need something they want to come and see.

“We are quite remote here, lots of people say they just drive through Wargrave. I always tell them to stop, we have a great coffee shop and I’m here too! You need to give people a reason to come, you can’t just expect them to turn up.

“There are other businesses here that didn’t do any of that and closed down but I’ve always been big on getting the word out.”

For more information or to make a pledge, visit www.crowdfunder.co.uk/become-a-patron-of-the-arts-in-your-community



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