‘A place everyone can use and see great art at the same time...’

Belper Market Place on Farmers Market day (Photo: Ashley Franklin).
Belper Market Place on Farmers Market day (Photo: Ashley Franklin).

The husband and wife team who run a popular Belper community venue say they want it to be both an asset to the community and a centre for high quality local art.

Pippa Mansel and George Jones opened No 28 the Market Place just over three years ago after converting it from the Salvation Army Hall it had been for the previous 80.

Dementia Friends installation at Belper's No 28.

Dementia Friends installation at Belper's No 28.

Since then, the venue has cemented a reputation as being a ‘go to’ place for events that matter to people in Belper and at the same time has played host to an increasingly impressive range of art and comedy.

Pippa said: “The aim is for No 28 to host more and more quality art shows and become a real centre for contemporary art in Derbyshire.

“The whole philosophy of what we are doing is integrating the things that a community venue does with art so people who come here, see things on the walls and people who maybe wouldn’t go to galleries can see great art and have an interesting experience.

“I also love community buildings and I think they should be a quality environment - there is no reason why they should be harsh and hard places - they should be welcoming.

The annual Belper Fair exhibition includes  images and information about the history of Belper Fair.

The annual Belper Fair exhibition includes images and information about the history of Belper Fair.

“With the Strutts Centre doing so well in Belper we now have a whole range of community venues for people to use in the town - it is fantastic.”

Pippa and George have lived in Belper for the last 23 years - Pippa moving there from London and George from Manchester.

Both architects by trade, they bought and converted No 28a - the house behind No 28 - and have long harboured designs on their neighbouring building.

“The Salvation Army used to hire it out and do teas for the farmers’ market - we want to carry that forward,” she said.

Pippa Mansel of No28 discusses aspects of an architecture students scheme for Belper Meadows Edge with members of the public.

Pippa Mansel of No28 discusses aspects of an architecture students scheme for Belper Meadows Edge with members of the public.

“We run it as a social enterprise - not for profit. It’s £3,000 per year to rent it out and we pay for that plus its running costs from hiring it out to businesses and the community.

“Our main focus is on things that contribute to the Market Place and the life of the town.

“We do really good rates for people who want to do something that is open to the public and it is a bit more expensive for private firms.”

The venue is used by four or five regular customers including the National Childbirth Trust and a number of Yoga groups.

The Ship of Fools stand up comedy night.

The Ship of Fools stand up comedy night.

As well as that they have a number of regular events including the Ship of Fools stand-up comedy night and the Wandering Ale House - a ‘pop-up’ pub.

“At the comedy night they have four to five acts plus the compere - a couple of headliners, a couple of established comedians and some newcomers as well.

“Their biggest act so far will be Mitch Benn of BBC Radio 4 fame July so they are really starting to attract some big names,” explained Pippa.

And as well as the comedy they have themed nights like ‘Noche Mexican’, the vegan ‘Freedom Feed Em’ and the ‘Wandering Alehouse’, a monthly pop-up pub featuring the best of Derbyshire’s brewing expertise.

However, despite the vast range of cultural attractions on show, it is clear from talking to Pippa that the art the venue features is her primary focus.

“Our ambition is to have a new show for every farmers’ market,” she explains.

Kingston School of Architecture students explain their Derwent Valley project proposals to local people.

Kingston School of Architecture students explain their Derwent Valley project proposals to local people.

“We want the venue to be both a place which community arts groups can use but also which can be a home for more established local artists as well.

“Next year one of the big shows we will have is an exhibition for the 200th anniversary of the luddite Pentrich revolution which took place in Derbyshire in 1817.

“And in terms of the stuff for the community we will be having our first life class exhibition soon although I’m not too sure if Belper is ready for it actually!”

If you would like to use No 28, email Pippa and George on twentyeightbelper@btinternet.com.

The first ever Belper Freedom Feed 'Em.

The first ever Belper Freedom Feed 'Em.