original projects in Great YarmouthWalking into a building you feel might not be ‘for you’ can be intimidating. It’s a challenge many arts centres, theatres and galleries face when trying to make their venues accessible and welcoming to all. 

Shops, on the other hand, are familiar – and whether you enjoy shopping or not, most people are accustomed to how it feels to walk inside one. So it’s unsurprising that arts organisations that take over vacant shop premises often find themselves visited by people who might feel reticent about engaging with a more formal cultural hub.

Founded in Great Yarmouth in 2016, originalprojects; (and yes, that semi-colon is meant to be there) has had a ‘can do’ attitude from the start. Having spent seven months in a shop unit formerly occupied by Marks & Spencer (welcoming an incredible 6,000 people during that time), the group then moved into a former branch of Debenhams in the Market Gates shopping centre.

With 20,000 feet of gallery space, artist studios, workshops and community spaces, ‘PrimeYarc’ opened in September 2020, giving residents of the Norfolk town an opportunity to fit creativity into their everyday lives. Every activity originalprojects; carries out is relevant to Great Yarmouth, whilst staying ambitious and keeping an outward-looking approach. 

Our presence in this trusted location encourages individuals to cross what might otherwise be seen as an intimidating threshold,” explains co-director Julia Devonshire. “Within this space we actively engage with visitors, having friendly, open and transparent conversations about our work, and its purpose, and remaining attentive to their perceptions and feedback. Furthermore, we extend our warm welcome to diverse community groups and collectives, providing a hub for their regular activities.”

In July 2023 originalprojects; became one of the first organisations to receive a ‘Know Your Neighbourhood’ grant from Creative Lives, as part of an Arts Council England/UK Government-funded programme exploring how creativity can help combat loneliness and increase volunteering. The 12-month programme originalprojects; proposed (‘YarMakers: Crafting Connections in the Community) stood out to the award panel for its artistic ambition and the use of a neutral, trusted space within a shopping centre.  

Comprising free creative workshops, socials, talks, screenings and exhibitions, YarMakers began with 10 taster sessions introducing techniques as diverse as Danish cord weaving, slow stitching, gelli plate printing and phenakistoscopes (a device for creating animation), followed by a festive social. The sessions gave people a chance to see the PrimeYarc space being used in a wide variety of ways.

“It's not uncommon for people to express surprise upon discovering our presence in their town,” says Julia. “And the YarMakers project has played a pivotal role in enabling diverse ways for individuals to get involved, from one-off taster sessions to regular weekly courses, collaborative projects and socials. 

“This endeavour not only informed discussions but also provided an ongoing opportunity for the development of creative skills and connections in Great Yarmouth in the long term. It's been an exciting step towards fostering a more inclusive and valued hands-on approach to creativity within our community.”

To find out more about their work visit: originalprojects;