Alex Young: One Man's Journey To Success Through Art & Well-being

At Hammond Associates, we pride ourselves on sourcing and negotiating the best ‘temporary space’ property solutions in the UK. We help commercial landlords with vacant properties to reduce holding costs on property that would otherwise remain empty for extended periods of time by leasing them to charitable organisations and individuals in need of meanwhile spaces. Our services are mutually beneficial for the landlords and charitable tenants involved while also providing a way to give back to the surrounding communities by reinvigorating and rejuvenating the high-street that is all too often filled with boarded windows that could be put to so much better use.

Just one example of how our work can help to make others’ passions come to life and thrive is through the story of Alex Young, a gifted photographer working with our charitable partner, Outer Spaces who collaborate with artists, art collectives, organisations and commercial property owners to activate and reanimate the nation’s empty commercial spaces. Our work resulted in sourcing and negotiating a meanwhile space for Alex at the Avenue Shopping Centre in Newton Mearns, Glasgow which he has transformed into his very own art gallery now open to the public.

Alex started out not as a photographer but in fact with a forces background, joining the Royal Navy in 1986 as an Electrical Engineer then leaving to pursue a career first in shipbuilding followed by a career in IT. It wasn’t until 2012 when Alex discovered he had a passion for photography after embarking on a safari in South Africa where he fell in love with the beauty of landscapes and wildlife that sparked something in himself that he wanted to pursue.

In 2014, a conversation with friends about Jackson Pollock led to Alex photographing and creating his first piece of very own ‘talking point art’. In an excerpt, he says: “My friend, who is herself an amateur artist, believed that I had managed to achieve something unique and beautiful at the same time from something so innocuous that was under our noses in the kitchen of the timeshare we were staying in.

Fast forwarding to 2021, Alex’s love for photography had not diminished but in his own words his enthusiasm had waned in the face of smart phones with everyone becoming an overnight photographic expert, and the perils of the world on top of a full time job had begun to take their toll on Alex’s mental well-being.

“I suddenly I found myself burned out by work and the pandemic, constantly working from home on high pressure projects until eventually one morning after months of anxiety I cracked and found myself in tears on a phone call discussing my mental health with my GP.”

During the subsequent two months Alex took time off work, and whilst on another trip with friends he found himself recounting the tale of Jackson Pollock and the conversation 6 years earlier that sparked the creation of his first piece.

“To prove a point” he said, “I took another photograph, but little did I know that “Coming Up For Air(pictured) had been born and my passion for photography (not wildlife or landscape, but making everyday objects appear unique and beautiful) was rekindled.”

In November of that same year, realising that he was in desperate need of a work life balance change, Alex made the decision to resign from his full-time job (by which time he had 20 new pieces of “digital art” creations under his belt) and after having seen an Outer Spaces sign in a window at the Avenue Shopping Centre in Newton Mearns he got in touch and set foot on a new and exciting venture where he could focus on his true passion – art.

Now, at the beginning of March 2022, Alex has successfully built a platform for his artwork, recently publicly debuting his art gallery in the Avenue Shopping Centre. The acquisition and subsequent use of this space has given Alex the life-changing opportunity to put his artwork in the spotlight for all passers by to admire. In the pursuit of better well-being, Alex has also been running 5km a week with mental health running group Run Talk Run as well as working on leveraging his art to as large an audience as possible through the use of social media, a medium he is hoping will generate the exposure, popularity, and appreciation his artwork deserves.

We will leave you now with a quote from Alex himself as he perfectly sums up how his well-being has improved through following his passion:

“I’m extremely proud of what I have achieved, and my mental health has never been better. It was truly the best decision I’ve made. I know my art isn’t for everyone, but I do want to share it with the people who do like it and of course…I never tell what it was I photographed…where would be the Talking Point in that!”

We’re so proud of what Alex has achieved and glad we could help by sourcing what would become Alex’s very own public art gallery in the heart of Newton Mearns that we encourage everyone passing through to come and see. We know you won’t be disappointed! We are also proud to have been able to work on this with the incredible Outer Spaces, who found such a deserving person to use this space and thrive. For anyone on social media, why not check out Alex’s recently established Twitter and Instagram profiles where he aims to further grow his audience through the exposure of his unique and mesmerising artwork? Best of luck, Alex. We’re all rooting for you!

Cornerstone Arts - An Example Of How We Reinvigorate The High Street

How do we reinvigorate the High Street? As we emerge from yet another financial crisis; attention once again focuses on the High Street, and yet more casualties. A number of ‘Think Tanks’ have produced reports and papers on how to regenerate these areas using arts and cultural organisations to kick start the process.

Hammond Associates (H&A) devised a business model in 2009, which has remained fundamentally unchanged to this day. The main reason being, the simple business principle that for a scheme, or transaction to work, there have to be benefits to all parties, and the more even those benefits, the more chance of success.

Since inception, we have used more than 10,000 empty commercial premises, and we cover the whole of the UK with several hundred in use at any one time, so it is reasonably successful. H&A developed a strong network of Property Owners and Consultants who see the benefits, we also have a network of Arts and Community Charities with nationwide membership, these are the ‘enablers’; the individuals who make it happen.

darlington before

One shining example of how Hammond Associates have helped is in our partnership with occupying charity Cornerstone Arts, and retail giant Marks & Spencer, who provided one of their void sites for rejuvenation.

When the old M&S store in Darlington was handed over to Cornerstone Arts (a group dedicated to creating a new independent arts centre for the local area) it was clear that they had a mighty transformation task on their hands, but they rolled up their sleeves and got to work shaping the dark and gloomy building into their very own hand-crafted world of art!

Bit by bit, Cornerstone Arts’ vision started to take shape…

Once the floor, walls, and pillars had all been seen to, the real fun could begin!

Talented artists in the local and surrounding area combined their skills to create paintings, sculptures, murals, and many more fine exhibits of the wonders of the human mind. One such artist is Andy
Boylett, whose iconic creations have gained him well deserved respect and popularity among the public and other creatives alike.

Here he is creating what later became the mesmerising centrepiece of the gallery. Aptly named the “Tree Of Life”, this beautiful sculpture took Andy over 7 months to complete.

It took many hands and many hours of work to finish the project, but it was all worth it in the end…

On Saturday 29th August 2020, Cornerstone Arts proudly opened its doors to guests and celebrated the grand opening with a variety of family friendly attractions including art exhibitions, craft stalls, and beverage stands.
Guests who took part in the tombola also helped to raise money for Cornerstone Arts’ so that they can in turn continue to give back to the community they love.
As a final message and a true testament to their passion, we’ll leave you with what is, in their own words, the reason why Cornerstone Arts are here today:
“Love of Darlington. Love of Community. Love of friends and strangers alike. Love of collaboration. Love of creativity. Love. Love over fear. Love over ignorance. Love over hate. Love over anger.
Cornerstone Arts is built out of love. Love is why we do it.”

Forrest Gate - 1940s Weaving Machine Gets a Glasgow Revamp!

This weaving machine is a William Ramsden – Dobby machine. It was made in the 1940s and its new owner Jonny MacKinnon hasn’t been able to reassemble it until now.  It has resided in his garage in bits.

Jonny has taken a space at Forrest Gate in Uddingston, near Glasgow. Working with EP Spaces (Edinburgh Printmakers) in Scotland, he is studying for a degree in fashion at Glasgow University.

During lock down all workshops at the University were closed and he has had to rely on online learning, which is difficult with such a hands-on degree.

He is delighted to have been offered this space as not only can he reassemble this lovely old machine and put it back into use, but he can also gather around him all the items he requires to work with  for his fashion degree.

Edinburgh Printmakers is a centre for printmaking and the visual arts in Fountainbridge. It has a large light-filled printmaking studio, digital studio, darkroom, classes, two galleries, a shop selling original prints and handmade products, hire spaces for meetings, events or learning activities, a cafe, a courtyard and community garden.

Jonny is planning to run weaving workshops once he has finished his degree, and the space at Forrest Gate gives him the ability to  work with other weaving equipment and tutor those wishing to learn the art.

Cardiff Vineyard are a Christian church who long to see the city of Cardiff restored and individual lives transformed. Every week, the multi-site church has three Sunday services and they also have a mid-week venue where their office and administration functions are housed. 

As part of Cardiff Vineyard, The Restore Ministry run a project called Storehouse, which focuses on social action and injustice. In 2010, Storehouse began; providing individuals and families essential items for their otherwise empty homes.

Storehouse helps anyone in real need of furniture. The group are frequently the last chance for individuals and families in desperate situations without any other means of support.  

The Restore Ministry receive referrals from many agencies in and around Cardiff. Support is offered entirely free, and the group rely on generous donations of sofas, beds, dining tables and chairs, fridge, freezers, armchairs and microwaves.  Their volunteers offer free collection and delivery within 10 miles of Cardiff.

It wasn’t long before they needed more storage space.

In association with Hammond Associates, Community Spaces and the Landlord, NewRiver Retail Plc, a large retail unit within the Valegate Retail Business Park was just what Storehouse were looking for to store their furniture donations.  The Unit has also become an important hub to distribute food parcels during the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic.

Natalie2 - Open Access Exhibition, Walsall

During February 2016 Natalie² exhibited in empty commercial property procured by Hammond Associates. The retail property based in The Old Square Shopping Centre featured an Open Gallery where Natalie² presented their Open Access exhibition. The mixed media installation used dismantled technology, carefully selected threaded books, photography and interview extracts to explore the ongoing issues surrounding digital inequality. The work aimed to unplug the silence about who is able to access digital technology and who is represented through social media platforms. The pieces were inspired by the closure of local public libraries and the reduction of library services, such as those of Birmingham’s new city centre library, where the question of accessibility is forcibly highlighted.

The interviews were taken from participants that were either volunteers or service users of SIFA Fireside in Digbeth, Birmingham – a charity that tackles homelessness and alcohol misuse.
Natalie² was a multimedia, visual arts initiative led by Dr Natalie Shona Hart and Dr Natalie Linda Jones. Having met while studying in 2011, they were immediately struck by the cross-over between both their arts-based practice, theoretical research and ambition to expose the (almost) unspoken inequalities now growing ever-wider, in regards to the social gap.
Their work is driven by their mutual determination to probe issues of social inequality, and to highlight the ‘lost narratives’ of everyday, ordinary, life in which the effects of this can be seen. Integrating participation is also, therefore, a crucial aspect of their practice.

Old BHS store transformed in Sutton Coldfield

Hammond Associates along with the Birmingham office of Commercial Property Agents CBRE have worked together with the owners of a former BHS Department Store in the Gracechurch Shopping Centre in Sutton Coldfield to enable the store to be used in the nationwide scheme which utilises empty commercial space for artistic use.

The 50,000 sq ft (4,700 sq metre) unit has been prepared and curated by Gavin Lawley and his art group, Direct Art Action, partners of East Street Arts, the leading Arts Charity promoting the scheme with over 100 premises under management at any one time.

Direct Art Action, a local group with local members, hold themed events, exhibitions, craft fairs, workshops and live performances.

The scheme is funded by the Centre out of the savings on the costs associated with maintaining void units and, of course, they benefit from the many additional visitors it brings to the site.

A clear case of everyone’s a winner.