Soft Touch brings new life to old building

Screen printing – one of the many creative projects for young people run by Soft Touch Arts.

We’ve just released our largest loan to help an innovative community arts organisation to buy empty city centre premises from Leicester City Council. The long-established Soft Touch Arts plans to refurbish the former child care nursery building and reopen it as an arts and heritage centre for young people.

Soft Touch Arts uses arts, media and music activities to inspire young people and help them develop creative, social and employability skills. It works mostly with teenagers and tackles problems such as gang culture, anti-social behaviour and unhealthy lifestyles. Since it started in 1986 Soft Touch Arts has run hundreds of creative projects in Leicester and Leicestershire which have engaged thousands of young people. The 10 staff work with well over 1,000 young people a year.

Sally Norman, one of the founders of the co-operative, said: “We are delighted to have acquired the premises in New Walk. The city centre location is much more accessible and appealing for young people. The building needs a lot of refurbishment but when that’s done it will be a superb arts and heritage centre for young people. We hope to open in June 2014.”

City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “This is a great way to bring a vacant building in a prime location back into use. It has been vacant since the nursery there closed six years ago, so it’s good to see Soft Touch offering to breathe new life into it, with a project that will benefit young people from across the city. Soft Touch Arts has a track record of offering hands-on, creative arts opportunities to young people who might not otherwise get these chances.”

Ian Taylor, of Co-operative & Community Finance, said: “We are pleased to help Soft Touch Arts buy this building and take a significant new step in their development. We’ve helped them to grow in the past and they’ve been great to work with so I was confident in recommending them for one of the largest loans we’ve ever made. I’ve been very impressed with the innovative way they work with the disaffected young people that many other agencies prefer to ignore.”

For more information about Soft Touch Arts: