Turntable Gallery:
A Welcome Disruption

Two Lincolnshire-based artists have come together to open a new art gallery in the port town of Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire. Oliver Ventress talks to Darren Neave and Dale Wells about the engagement of a high-street audience, the practicalities of funding a contemporary art space and Turntable’s aspirations for the  future.

Darren Neave, Friesgagoral, 2021

Situated on Grimsby’s Victoria Street, Turntable Gallery launched with the opening show Perineum/Perineum, an array of works produced and curated by the gallery’s co-founders. The reiteration of the title plays on the artists’ echolalia, a neurodiverse condition whereby speech patterns are characterised by repetition. The perinium itself, situated at the bottom of the pelvis, represents a region of the body that is both sensual and functional. Through sculpture, object and installation, the opening show is an eccentric take on sensualities of the body, as the artists explore the nuances of psychosexual geography.

Darren Neave, Savouredsaviours, 2021

The gallerists explained how fundamentally, the shop-style frontage offers the ability to disrupt the high street and provoke the voyeuristic impulses of the passer-by, both by the nature of the work shown and as a break from the surrounding budget stores and betting shops. Turntable seeks to brush aside many of the typical barriers experienced by a public otherwise keen to access local art spaces. 

Turntable Gallery, Grimsby, photo, 2022

Oliver Ventress: Turntable Gallery is placed on a central street in Grimsby amongst discount stores and empty units - what inhabited the building before and how were you able to occupy it as an art space?

Darren Neave: Before we took the space on, it had been temporarily used as a pop-up window space, for a couple of arts projects, using the headline: Blip. Before that, it was a dress shop called Rachel’s and further back still, a hardware store. When we got the keys the shelving system was still in place, so we were keen to de-retail it, and develop a space that could be modular, and multi-functional. 

OV: Grimsby has historically struggled with post-industrial decline and a lack of opportunities. What do you think Turntable Gallery can offer the town and how would gauge public response to the space so far? 

DN: We are both incredibly keen to engage with the public - ultimately, our practices rely on that interface, that dialogue, that encounter. There are so few cultural spaces - particularly arts-based - within Lincolnshire, and so there is little investiture in local, creative talent, especially sculpture, installation and media-based work. Turntable seeks to change that. With street-level access and an ever changing, eye-catching window feature, we understand that people may not want to brave the threshold, but the view to the interior space may be enough to entice them in - it plays with the vernacular of the high street. 

People can, and should decide for themselves, about what they want to see or engage with. The town has been in decline, but we feel there is a civic duty, carried by all of us; a responsibility to seek and to question people, without being patronising. No one ever asks what is needed, they have always simply presumed. We both have local connections and this allows us to tap in to what is missing or perhaps what makes people more engaged with these types of endeavours.

OV: I think it is often assumed that to open an art space, you have to have been awarded large sums of funding through Arts Council England, local councils or ultimately private funding. How do you foresee supporting the gallery over the year and beyond?

Dale Wells: We have found that many local projects are gate-kept, by cultural partnerships relying on funding that requires responses to proposals. As is unfortunately the case, they invariably invoke box-ticking, hours of online interfacing and prescriptive pigeon-holing. We got our space through showing our commitment face-to-face, our agility and our sincerity. The charity we work with, Skippko, quickly identified our passion and our creativity within the space of our initial meeting. They have been brilliant and we are willing to take the risk, by believing in our energy and our vision. Through them, we have been fortunate enough to side-step the usual funding methods, which can often present an insurmountable barrier, especially to those with a neurodivergence. 

OV: What kind of projects and shows are you hoping to produce over the course of the year? 

DN: We have been assisting with a local project based on Grim and Havelock, a beloved local sculpture (legend states the name Grimsby derives from Grim, a 9th Century Danish fisherman) which was removed from a nearby site after vandalism and undue care. By having the space, and the facility to show the removed statue, we are proposing that there be a re-investiture of interest in the piece, around this lost work of art. Luckily, our cheekiness seems to have cut through a lot of the bureaucracy which often surrounds a public work such as this. We have also been in discussion with a well-known British Artist, who is allowing us to show collected and donated works within the gallery. This is really going to put the town on the map.

Dale Wells, L.O.R.{d}, 2022
All images courtesy Turntable Gallery, Grimsby

Opening with a show which exposes vulnerabilities of the body, matters of queer sexuality and the display of items which - at first glance - appear phallic, has gained the gallery some attention. Speaking with Dale Wells, he expressed that there is no link between the identity of the space, its former use, or the current show, as the site offers complete flexibility to be what it needs to be for any exhibition context. Operating away from traditional funding routes has allowed this freedom, to turn heads and make impressions without having to assess, evaluate or prove itself to external bodies. Darren and Dale have written a schedule of exhibitions for Turntable for the year, including You Will Find Me Under the Heaviest of Blankets - a show by Abigail Jouanides, which is a tender, but visceral opening into the experience and impact of a late autism diagnosis. As neurodiverse artists themselves, it is clear to see the impact that having ownership of the space has made, and it definitely makes for a refreshing change.  

Turntable Gallery is at 8 Victoria Street, Freshney Place, Grimsby DN31 1DP, open 11am – 4pm Wednesday to Saturday. 

Perineum/Perineum is showing until 16th April 2022.

You Will Find Me Under the Heaviest of Blankets is opening 23rd April and will be showing until 21st May 2022.

15 April 2022