Thinking Big in The Sorting Office's Production House
Thinking big is easier said than done. For all those involved in the creative industries around Eastleigh Borough, a suitable space in which to build large sets, organise photoshoots or host conferences can be hard to come by. The Production House, attached to The Sorting Office on Wells Road, is the perfect answer.
1: The Production House being used to make a ballet shoe display for the Point’s new café/bar
To a passer-by, the inside of the unassuming building that is the Production House may seem like little more than a large, predominantly empty room. Upon closer inspection, you can start to see signs that this room isn’t always so predominantly empty. The stacked chairs and tables, the large metal shutter, the scratches on the floor and the undecorated, whitewashed walls all indicate that this room plays host to a lot more than meets the eye.
The Production House is a bit like a non-magical version of the Room of Requirements in Harry Potter, shifting its landscape to accommodate for whatever its user needs. In its short history, it has fulfilled a staggering variety of purposes; workshops, seminars, markets, set building, film screenings, photoshoots and costume creation have all taken place within its walls. More than that, it acts a centre of community for the arts across Eastleigh Borough.
Ria Loveridge manages The Sorting Office and Production House as part of a-space, a company that provides artists with studio spaces and helps them to develop their careers. She explained that the Production House was formed out of demand within local artistic communities for a larger studio environment with access to professional facilities.
She said: “One of the big things that came off the back of having other studio projects is that there is always need for a big space that’s separate to the studios for bigger projects or for welcoming other people in.
“Having a space like that to hire out to people externally helps to bring in wider audience, which raises our profile and provides an additional stream of income for The Sorting Office”
In terms of facilities, the production house boasts enough equipment to create a set up for just about anything. The room itself is a decent 10x7 metres in size, with high ceilings and a 2.6 metre high shutter which means that getting large objects and equipment in and out is not an issue. There are also 10 tables and 50 chairs, and an extensive range of drills, saws, sanders and hand-tools, complete with two heavy duty workbenches. Wi-Fi access, a projector and an audio system also accommodates for the running of computer workshops and seminars.
Perhaps one of the best things about the Production House though, is that it can be hired out by anyone. It has been used by theatre groups for set and costume making, Nepalese elders for craft sessions, and a whole variety of other activities.
For Ria, two visitors to the Production House stand out the most:
“We have had artist’s question time in their, which was a really exciting event, it was absolutely jam packed, all fifty seats were taken.
“That event not only engaged the guys in here, but also the wider creative industries. It was really exciting and felt like a really positive event.
“ZoieLogic also built amazing, beautiful sets in there, really big stuff. They’ll just hire it for a couple of weeks at a time and they’ll just sort of develop their ideas. That’s really exciting”
2: ZoieLogic all male dance group used the Production House to build the set for SAFE
ZoieLogic is a male dance company associated with the Point and run by Zoie Golding. One of the things they pride themselves on is innovative set design.
Zoie explained how her company has benefitted from the Production House:
“We used the Production House to build the set for our touring work SAFE. It was really great to be able to have access to a space that is designed for set building and often we find ourselves in theatre docks or wing space preparing what we need.
“We had to create a floor structure from Scaffold planks and steel that our whole show would be performed on. Our challenge was to figure out how best to construct this floor as it would be performed on for over 6 months.
“Having a dedicated space where we could work the hours we needed and leave the structure up was vital to the success of this show. This would not have been possible without the Production House and we look forward to using the space again in the future.”
Theatre designer Carl Davies has also used the Production House on several occasions, most recently to build the set of Show Girl/ Girl on Show:
“For Show Girl we used the Production House to build a massive tent with lots of lights on it, and we did the costumes in there as well
“It’s a great all-round space. The rigging points were vital in helping us to put up our tent, as well as having a space and plugs for the lights, glue guns and sewing machines”
3. The Production House was used at this year’ s Sorting Office Winter Open Studios to host market stalls
Given the market, and the usefulness, for having such a versatile room, one of the most surprising things is that there isn’t anything similar in the surrounding area. Ria believes the Production House’s uniqueness is partly down to committing to the idea of a truly diverse space.
“You’ve got community halls, which are central to the community just like the Production House, but they don’t have the same professional element to them.
“Then there are conference rooms and offices, but they tend to be a bit sterile so it’s not as creative.
“The Production House is unique in that it’s for the community, but it’s also a professional space, without having that stifling corporate atmosphere.
The Production House is already an incredibly diverse space, and the plan is that it will only get better. Future updates to the building intend to separate it from the Sorting Office and give it its own point of access, meaning that the presence of a manager won’t be necessary to hire the studio out. There are also plans for the addition of some moveable walls, so that the space can also be set up for art exhibitions.
The overarching hope for the studio is that it will continue to foster and grow a wide community of artists outside of The Sorting Office, who can come and use the space to progress their own work, as well as helping to further the reputation of the arts within Eastleigh borough and further afield. With its affordable rates, existing benefits, planned improvements, and a brilliant and enthusiastic team behind it all, there’s every reason for it to do so.
By Harry Usborne
Figure 1: Photo by Harry Usborne
Figure 2: Photo by Farrow Creative, Dancers: Sam Cook, Ashley Hind, Danilo Caruso, Andy Gardiner and Hal Smith
Figure 3: Photo by Harry Usborne