Making a Difference

Preserving The Creative Heart of Cornwall's Forgotten Corner

Tom Ogilvie for DMS - 25 May 2018
The Adventures of DMS

Occupying the highest point of the Rame Peninsula in South East Cornwall, Maker Heights provides affordable art studios and music spaces, a chic restaurant and a campsite, all surrounded by rolling hills, farmland and a postcard panoramic of Plymouth Sound. Since the turn of the century, internationally exhibiting artists, drawn to the non-commercial bohemia of the area have taken up residence in the rundown studio spaces atop the hill. Distinguished musicians, poets and photographers moved from the cities in which they made their name to be a part of the melting pot of creativity that Maker has to offer.

The DMS crew have always had close ties to Maker Heights – many will remember the good old days of Plymouth Music Collective – and we’re proud to have played our part in encouraging music and life to the site throughout the years that we helped to organise the Maker Sunshine Festival. Here at DMS we’re privileged to be in a position to not only provide emerging artists and labels with fine vinyl records and compact discs, but also to support local educational projects, creative community ventures and grassroots music venues. For us, Maker ticks all of those boxes.

Until recently, one of the key attractions to the site was the Random Arms and Energy Room, a community pub and dedicated live music venue that had a significant impact on widespread social and educational development for well over a decade. Upcoming generations were inspired by those before them to strive for their own creative achievements. Over the years this has given rise to some incredibly successful touring bands and a wealth of talented artists and musicians - many of whom now have their own studios on site, often teaching as they were once taught and continuing to provide valuable opportunities for creative growth within the area.

The courtyard of the Maker Sessions, a series of often-sold-out monthly events hosting acclaimed touring acts. Until the recent closure of the venue by developers, live events brought an influx of culture to the surrounding communities. Photo: Dom Moore

Unfortunately a series of mistakes made by the Trustees previously charged with protecting the site led to a contentious transfer of community assets to a private development company, seemingly interested in preserving the artistic ethos and helping the Maker project to grow through a much-needed investment of capital. Fast forward a few years and the true nature of their intentions were revealed with plans for 30 luxury houses, and then a hotel, and more recently still the forced closure of what was South East Cornwall’s sole surviving music venue.

Upon realising that the gravity of the situation with the developers, locals of all ages, and from all walks of life, had banded together and rallied the community to protect the remaining assets for the benefit of future generations. We worked closely with their local artists and musicians to produce a series of limited edition records fondly dubbed the Maker Tapes, which we donated to the cause, the first of which, combined with the already impressive fundraising efforts of the community, enabled the group to demonstrate their significance and obtain a seat at the negotiating table.

With the voice of the community on their side, the campaign was ultimately a success and ownership of the Barrack block – widely regarded as the jewel in Maker’s crown – was retained for public benefit. A new board of Trustees stepped up to take the project forward in a more appropriate direction, working tirelessly to bring more studio spaces online – painstakingly, one by one – with the help of many generous local tradespeople. But years of neglect and lack of investment had left the building in poor shape, and to this date critical repairs still remain incomplete.

The level of commitment and the work ethic of the many folk involved in rescuing Maker Heights from what they saw as the ultimate cliff edge has been beyond impressive; for a group of rural fishing villages in Cornwall, it’s staggering. So why not help a community to help themselves? This, as it happens, is exactly what we have decided to do. We’re extremely proud to announce that we have pledged £30k to help facilitate the next stages in the preservation and protection of such a significant site, and with it the abundance of public benefits that it provides to the Southwest.

The building will soon be undergoing vital restorations, including repairs to its structural floor joists, which will enable five further studio spaces to be brought back online. To celebrate the tenants are throwing open their studio doors on the 24th June to exhibit their work, live paint and offer a range of workshops and artistic attractions throughout the day. The event will also see the launch of the second volume of the Maker Tapes, complete with a host of live local acts taking place in a brand new community music space within the Barrack block – part of a bigger complex of rehearsal, writing and recording studios currently being created by local musicians.

Our team here at DMS work proudly to serve the independent music sector, both through helping artists and labels through the process of manufacturing their music, and by supporting the very community that we emerged from all those years ago. We’ve said it before, but if every company working within the music industry managed to find the time to champion their local roots and enrich the creative communities that raised them, this vibrant sector would be even stronger still.

The first completed music room of the three spaces that will make up the Patchwork Studios complex within the Barrack building.
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