Bailiffs seize works in Art Works Gallery rent dispute

BAILIFFS were ordered by council officials to seize paintings and other art works from a gallery after rent on the building went unpaid.

Matt Forster, The Art Works Galleries

BAILIFFS were ordered by council officials to seize paintings and other art works from a gallery after rent on the building went unpaid.

Newcastle City Council is now appealing to artists whose pieces were taken from the Art Works Gallery, at the top of Stepney Bank, Byker, to collect it from the bailiffs.

Yesterday, Nick Rowley, the council’s head of property services, said they had until October 21 to retrieve their work, after which it could be sold.

He said steps were being taken to retrieve rent owed by Matt Forster. He ran the Art Works Galleries but started to fall into arrears in 2007.

Mr Rowley said Mr Forster had expressed an interest in establishing a gallery in the former Tyne Tees TV warehouse in 2006.

The council, keen to support the arts in the area, had agreed to take on the lease from the landlord, Tyne Tees, which runs until next June.

Meanwhile part of the building was occupied and refurbished for film screenings, music gigs and other cultural activities by the Star & Shadow Cinema, a community-interest charity.

Run by volunteers, it has more than 4,000 members, who pay £1 a year.

The Star & Shadow became a sub-tenant of Mr Forster, paying rent which he was meant to pass on to the council.

Mr Rowley said yesterday that in May the council had asked the Star & Shadow to begin paying its rent directly to them.

He said: “The Star & Shadow is a completely innocent party in all this and we are doing everything we can to make sure they are not affected.”

He added: “With Mr Forster, we reached the end of the line and instructed bailiffs who gave him the chance to pay before taking possession of goods on Friday.”

Art works and other property were taken into safe keeping and the locks on the building were changed. It is understood that on Saturday several artists arrived to collect their work but found the building locked up.

Mr Rowley said the council was ensuring the rent was still being paid to the landlord, Tyne Tees, although the lease was still the property of Mr Forster.

“We have a policy that we support the arts but we are taking steps to retrieve money owed,” he said.

Star & Shadow volunteer Christo Wallers said the charity was solvent and still in business and had ambitions to remain in the building beyond next June.

To collect their work, artists must contact the bailiffs at Thoburns Enforcement Services, Gateshead, on (0191) 477-0296. Alternatively, they can email council surveyor Chris Healy on chris.healy@newcastle.gov.uk

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