We speak to Chloe Williams, Director of The Children's Arts School in Huddersfield, to find out how she set up Maker World, an innovative space for children and families to express their creativity.

What is Maker World?

Maker World was set up in 2020 in Huddersfield Town Centre using a vacant, glass-fronted shop in a declining retail area, called the Piazza Centre. It's a unique space to make, create and innovate, open to all children, young people and families in the area. They provide free weekly workshops and an extensive summer programme to engage local communities in a range of creative activities.

Dynamic practitioners generate excitement and inclusivity through storytelling and making: bringing characters and places to life through puppetry, sculpture, performance and play. As Chloe explains, finding the right space was so important:

The position and visibility of Maker World is the key to its success. People can see us when they go shopping, so they come in and just have a go as there are less barriers to engagement. It's changed the perception of art to local residents and changed the perception of Huddersfield Town centre, making it a more desirable place to visit. We offer something vibrant and aspirational.

Having an outdoor space was also crucial, as it allowed people to spill out onto the grassed area in front of the shop. That made a huge difference in terms of engagement, especially during the pandemic when people were worried about being inside.

How does Maker World work?

The space was made possible through an innovative partnership between Kirklees Council and the University of Huddersfield called 'Temporary Contemporary', which provides free spaces to creative practitioners in vacant retail spaces. It's part of Kirklees Council's regeneration scheme, which aims to turn the Piazza Centre into the cultural heart of the town centre, to foster economic growth and social cohesion. 


Maker World also provides space for other initiatives, and Chloe and the team play a key role in the network Evoke (the Local Cultural Education Partnership). Evoke brings together members of the local creative sector that support children and young people in Kirklees, including Our Biennale - Kirklees arts festival for children and young people.


As Chloe says, Maker World has had a hugely positive impact on the children and families who attend, and the community as a whole, especially during the pandemic:

Despite, or even perhaps because of the pandemic, we have come to realise our ambition and be everything we wanted to be - providing a creative space that people want and need in the local area. Maker World offers hope, joy and creativity. It also brings people together, across generations and ethnicities, people love it and come back time and time again.

Maker World provides an affordable way to have a shared family experience. It reduces isolation and enables people to grow in confidence through freedom of expression and decision making. Both the children and their parents/carers tell Chloe and her team how coming has improved their wellbeing.

Maker World has had a huge impact on not only the children and young people who have visited the arts sessions, but it also contributes to the look and feel of the town centre. It’s bright, energetic and inviting.

What next for Maker World?

Kirklees has now been made one of Arts Council England's priority places in the north, where they want to develop new opportunities for investment and cultural growth. Kirklees Council has also made a commitment to arts and culture in its 10-year strategy, which promises ambitious long-term visions for the area, with culture set to regenerate the high street and town centre.

Chloe, along with Evoke and other local art and cultural organisations in the area, is working closely with Kirklees Council to make the case for Maker World and other successful initiatives to be included in new development plans. As Chloe says:

In terms of delivery, there is still work to do to engage families who might not see art for them, so we take Maker World into communities. Outreach is still really important, to ensure we truly deliver to everyone in the community.

A vision for other towns and cities

As one of the Maker World volunteers said, “Towns shouldn’t just be about shops, we should have this kind of space in all town centres. We should change what towns are about.”

If you'd like to learn more about Maker World - and perhaps get inspired to work with partners to set up something similar in your area - visit their website and watch this short film documenting how and why they set up Maker World.