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Interview with AWOL Studios’ Phil Walton

AWOL Studios provide an artistic home for the burgeoning creative scene in Manchester. Offering flexible workspaces in a convenient location at realistic prices, AWOL Studios is a cost effective space to an eclectic and diverse range of creative individuals, organisations and businesses. As a supporter of the Aesthetica Art Prize, we speak to founder Phil Walton about his aspirations for the studios and his passion for art.

A: What was it that made you want to set up AWOL studios?
PW: I set up the Studios in 2001, originally as music studios, but increasingly became interested in visual arts and creative businesses. After a few years and a relocation, I joined forces with David French and started to rapidly expand through 2009-2011, as we developed a great creative atmosphere and a reputation amongst local artists and businesses. I love the chance to see artists and creative businesses start out, expand, and become successful, and its happened a lot in our Studios.

A: Why do you think studio space is so important for artists?
PW: There were so many people doing great work, and they often have to work alone at home, or in a cold damp studio, and I really wanted to give people the chance to collaborate in a comfortable environment. Everyone needs motivation, and working together with like minded people really helps. And there are so many more opportunities available when you are part of a group, such as group exhibitions, and the chance to apply for the Aesthetica Art Prize!

A: What projects do you have coming up?
PW: We are already planning for the AWOL Open Studios event in May 2013, one big event with 100+ artists showing what they have been working on. It is usually fuelled by my AWOL beer that I brew a couple of times a year. But there are also lots of individual projects such as an installation in Shoreditch, a group exhibition in a new gallery in Manchester, and some music videos being shot in the basement.

A: Which artists (generally) have particularly inspired you?
PW: The ones that work hard! Success rarely comes just through good luck. When I walk around the Studios, it is often the same people I see every day, working day and night. Each one of them has been successful in their own field of work, coincidence?

A: Are you an artist yourself?
PW: A creative entrepreneur.

A: What is the art scene like in Manchester?
PW: There is ALWAYS something going on! I often have an aimless wander through Manchester just for the chance to stumble upon a launch night, a new opening, an exhibition in new bar, a piece of street art. And it never fails!

A: Any plans for expansion?
PW: We really want AWOL Studios to keep growing! We have been invited to several cities by councils and arts groups, but not yet found the right location or building. But I have a good feeling about 2013.

A: What inspires you on a daily basis?
PW: Like many of the creative people in AWOL Studios, I am passionate about what I am doing. The work day never starts and ends because it is part of your life, always thinking of the next project, the next idea, the next improvement. And you do that because you WANT to, not because you HAVE to. The success of AWOL Studios inspires me, and the success of the people inside the Studios inspire me. It is a privilege to work alongside them!

AWOL Studios, Hope Mill, 113 Pollard Street, Ancoats, Manchester M4 7JA.

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