The Parlour was a disused funeral complex in Preston, and then we took it over. We have reinvented The Parlour as an activity centre for creative professionals & cultural events. The site is a step north of the Bell Street, on the 86 tram & a short walk to The Preston Market.

The complex is comprised of two levels; offices, a residence, car park, chapel and yes, a mortuary. The Chapel has become a dedicated studio gallery. We are currently soliciting expressions of interest for planned public events including photo/film shoots, performances, exhibitions, workshops, meetings- any excuse to gather diverse audiences. Hire rates vary from event to event.

“There is a demonstrated need for affordable studio, office and gathering space for the creative class of the Inner North. Without the opportunity for cultural activity to develop what will surround these grey five storey styro-crete constructions?” Brian Cohen

How was the space first identified and who was contacted to secure it?

I live in the area and in a hunt for new office space came across the building which was in a state of neglect. I contacted the owner through an online title search and negotiated a commercial lease. There are plans to develop the site but not until 2012.

What was required to secure the space?

Signing of a commercial lease & bond through the owner’s real estate manager. Beyond that the owner agreed to repair all broken windows in the building, of which there were many.

What needed to be provided by you as hirer or user of the space?

Just identification and money, plus work on repairs and getting the empty building occupiable.

What were the costs?

$1,100 per calendar month, plus one month’s rent in bond (and $1000 in repairs and modifications)

What were the resources available to you?

Approximately $1,000 of personal savings.

Who helped you to fit it out?

The tenants.

What were/are the obstacles?

The main obstacle is having access to the resources needed to launch an ARI, such as materials, labor, marketing, etc. Money is one quick way to those resources and there is always a shortage of that. It’s taken a while to figure out the model by which tenants participate & invest in the building as a asset to their business. Getting the message out that this place is available for both studio & event hire has been challenging. We are confident there is a market for a cultural space like The Parlour, but publicity is not cheap and the message takes time to spread through word of mouth. Building our audience & participant community is something we underestimated in relation to financial planning.

What were/are the risks?

The key risk is that we don’t have enough tenants to pay the bills to keep the rent paid to the owner. We’ve tried to mitigate that by advertising our event space to the general public. Marketing the event space & the available studios is costly and takes time. Any events which involve the public, as well as the relationship of a tenant to their space carries a fair degree of risk. I’ve undertaken a public liability policy to help protect myself and the venture.