Residents 'gutted' as Coventry University announces closure of two creative services

'Closing down' sign at the Inkwell in Coventry
'Closing down' sign at the Inkwell in Coventry -Credit:Sherrie Edgar Art

Locals have been left saddened by news that two popular creative services in Coventry are shutting for good. Fablab and the Inkwell have been going for years but are being closed by Coventry University.

The outlets provide access to machine tools and printing services, respectively, for the community as well as students and staff. Both announced their closure in late March, with Inkwell's last day listed as June 28.

Coventry University said there is not enough outside funding for FabLab and that Inkwell has been losing money "consistently." It can not fund the outlets directly due to "financial challenges" hitting the sector, it said in a statement.


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The university will still be going ahead with plans to turn floors in the old IKEA building into a "cultural hub." Last year, the university revealed plans for these to house a range of creative areas like studios, a gallery, an events space and shop where students can sell artwork.

Many of these will be open to the public or available to hire, it said at the time. But locals say closing down Fablab and Inkwell will be a loss for the city.

Alan Van Wijgerden said: "They will both be much missed and were very useful to the local community. It makes you wonder how believeable all the talk of public facing facilities in the old IKEA will be."

Artist Mary Courtney said she is "gutted" that Fablab is closing, adding it had helped her make projects including a "flying fried egg," mechanical fish and robots out of whisks. "All that technical know-how and equipment for making stuff, open to the public and free for local people to use, is now lost," she added.

"I'm very sad this fantastic community resource has closed and I hope that Coventry University reverses its decision. What is the point of the revamped Ikea without a Fablab?"

Artist Mary Courtney (R) and member of the public Andrea Lyndsay White Jones (L) with 'Sponnie' the mechanical fish, which was created by Mary and FabLab in 2018
Inside the former IKEA building (Image: Exhibition Boards)

Jack Shuttleworth, who taught skills at Fablab, said it "played a small role in so many big things in Coventry." It ran courses for mostly unemployed people, worked with small businesses and supported people from overseas.

The group supported other projects in the city and made facemasks for local hospitals during the pandemic. "Model railway enthusiasts made unique bridges, kids made trinket boxes with secret compartments to tell Mum how much they loved her. Everything was so individual," he said.

"I was really proud of how FabLab became a unique part of people's lives," he added. "I know for some people FabLab was a resource they knew they could call on if needed - almost like a tyre repair shop - you don't use it often but it is really good to know it was there when you need it."

The Underground Lights Community Theatre said Fablab do "brilliant work" in the city and they are "so sorry" to hear it is closing. "Our members loved their costume and prop set making workshops, thank you for helping their ideas become reality," they wrote in a Facebook comment.

On Inkwell closing, local photographer Aaron Law said: "It's very sad as they provided a quality service that you won't get online as I could go in and see different papers and work with the team on what was needed."

He added: "Ultimately it's a loss to the students who get excellent support from the staff and it's a loss to wider Coventry as it was affordable printing and art supplies in the city centre." Sherrie Edgar Art said it is "devastating news" and she would miss it.

Photos by local photographer Aaron Law printed using Inkwell's services
Artist Mary Courtney (R) and member of the public Andrea Lyndsay White Jones (L) with 'Sponnie' the mechanical fish, which was created by Mary and FabLab in 2018 -Credit:Mary Courtney

"Where will students, researchers and artists have their work printed and scanned?" she added in a comment on Facebook.

Fablab and Ink Well statements

Both services posted on Facebook to share the news of their closure. Fablab said: "Unfortunately, due to financial challenges, the decision has been taken by the Coventry University senior leadership to close FabLab Coventry. This decision was made with sadness and regret.

Colourful characters made at Fablab with a community group
FabLab, City Arcade, Coventry University

"Our personal achievements over the past eight amazing years have been phenomenal, directly supporting over 14,000 local citizens to learn new skills, gain qualifications, build confidence, make innovative products and build connections. The relationships we have been able to make and the people we have been able to support have made each day exciting, never knowing what mad project idea is next to hit the table.

"We would like to take this opportunity to thank every one of you for making the last eight years of operation so much fun and we apologise for this sad conclusion." The Inkwell posted: "Unfortunately @coventry_university has decide to close the Inkwell art store and print room.

Zines by Coventry photographer Aaron Law published using Inkwell printing services
Photos by local photographer Aaron Law printed using Inkwell's services -Credit:Aaron Law

"We wanted to say a big thank you to all our customers and sorry that we will not be able to continue growing and providing our services to you. To all our regular staff, students and external customers/business, please do pay us a visit before June and the doors close"

Coventry University statement

The Local Democracy Reporting Service asked Coventry University why it is closing the services and how it fits with its plans for the IKEA building. We asked if the hub will have new services to replace the old ones.

In a statement, the university said: "Sadly FabLab’s external funding is no longer sufficient to sustain its activity and Inkwell has been losing money consistently. We are unable to fund either ourselves due to the current financial challenges facing the higher education sector.

"These are decisions we would have preferred not to have to make but we must prioritise services to students and our research partners. While we delivered growth in revenues of 10% in the last year, a number of factors beyond our control, including high inflation, Brexit cutting off the recruitment of EU students, the fallout of the Covid pandemic, rising pension costs and now government policy forcing a large drop in international students, all mean we are having to make some tough financial decisions.

"Where possible, we do need to invest in our future and the Cultural Hub at the City Centre Cultural Gateway is going ahead. Alongside our investment in world class facilities at our Delia Derbyshire building, it proves our commitment to the arts and creative sectors and helps us provide the facilities we need for now and the future in sustainable, modern buildings."

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