Former Falkirk Marks and Spencer store now serving completely new purpose

It was once a go-to place in Falkirk for new clothing or the weekly food shopping.

Monday, 4th October 2021, 4:45 pm
Viable Creative directors Jim Dunbar and Greig Shankland have turned Falkirk's old Marks & Spencer store into a rehearsal, recording and filming space. Picture: Michael Gillen.

Now, though, the High Street property previously occupied by Marks & Spencer serves an entirely different purpose.

The town’s old M&S store is home to Viable Creative, a community interest company set up by Falkirk men Greig Shankland and Jim Dunbar last summer to “empower and support the arts and creative sectors” locally and nationally.

The duo, aged 38 and 69 respectively, had production companies of their own and acted quickly when the chance to move into the premises arose.

The old Falkirk M&S Foodhall is now a filming studio. Picture: Michael Gillen.

Directors Greig and Jim have set up recording, rehearsal and filming spaces on the building’s three floors, which have already been utilised by a steady stream of individuals and organisations, including Funbox, formerly The Singing Kettle.

With a background in sound and light hire, Greig wanted to support creative types amid the pandemic.

Whether it’s a band looking for somewhere to practise or a chef seeking a filming location, Viable Creative has been able to cater for most needs.

Explaining how the opportunity emerged, Greig said: “It’s run through EP Spaces.

The old M&S store in Falkirk's High Street is now home to Viable Creative. Picture: Michael Gillen.

“They take on buildings sitting empty for the benefit of the creative industries. We met with them on the Thursday and by the Friday morning we were in.

“We’ve taken three floors: the ground floor, the food level and the level below. We’re using the ground floor as the main rehearsal and gallery space.

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“We’re using the food hall as a studio space; we’ve got lighting, cameras, an LED wall, a green room, a changing room and technical mix rooms.

“The basement is a blank canvas space we can use for rehearsals and we’ve got a 12-metre green screen.

“Business is picking up. We haven’t really stuck our head above the parapet because there’s a lot of stuff going on about the building being sold.

“Because we licence the spaces, we get a month’s noticed to vacate should the building be sold.

“We’re being cautious about bookings. M&S still own the building. M&S basically bring in a charitable partner, Hammond Associates, who secure buildings and they lease it out to EP Spaces, who are our landlord.

“It means M&S, as an owner, aren’t paying any rates, charities don’t pay rates and because we’re licensed we don’t pay rates. It’s designed for creative space.

“We’ve had a range of organisations in: Project Theatre, Stenhouse School of Dance and Funbox, which used to be The Singing Kettle.

“We can turn our hand to do anything. We’ve had enquiries from chefs who want to do their own channel and enquiries from the comedy industry.”

Viable Creative has bookings into March next year and hopes to welcome the public inside soon.

Greig added: “Because of Covid, we haven’t been allowed an audience but we have the facility to do that.

“The plan going forward is to have a hybrid. Things are picking up in the events industry and we have a team of freelancers who we bring in to cover any events or filming.

“We’re looking for any company in the creative industry within Falkirk or the surrounding areas that needs a space to rehearse, record, practice or perform.

“Reach out to us because we’re here to help.”

Email [email protected] for more.

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