As we enter the new year it’s a great opportunity to look back at one of the success stories from our Creative Industry Finance programme.

Village Press specialise in self-published zines from local and international artists. As well as a curated selection of contemporary art, design and photography books, monographs, journals and magazines, they aim to celebrate print and champion emerging artistic talent through exhibitions and collaboration with like-minded projects. We catch up with Benjamin Holmes from Village Press and hear his thoughts about the business and how the Creative Industry Finance scheme has helped them.

“Village Press is me and Joe Torr. When we first started up we had no idea what we were doing, we basically just shared the work and figured it out as we went along. Joe went to Leeds College of Art. I actually studied Computing at University. Art was always something I was passionate about, particularly photography and design. I met Joe through a mutual friend and we basically just decided to give it a go. We always talked about how, although there’s a great deal of creative talent in North, there are very little opportunities for emerging artists to gain exposure and develop their practice. Which is why so many move to London. We wanted to create a platform to provide exposure and inspiration for artists, and help raise the profile of independent art in the North. We started out hosting stalls at zine fairs and festivals and eventually opened a permanent shop in December last year.

Village is still very much a work in progress. We’ve got several plans and ideas that we haven’t been able to put into action due to financial restraints. We applied for the programme because we wanted the freedom to explore these other avenues and hopefully develop Village into something that’s going to last. We’re planning on launching a coffee bar in the store to encourage people to spend longer in the store browsing and checking out the exhibitions. We’re currently developing our online store to help us reach a wider market. Our main aim is to move into publishing and commissioning work ourselves, as well as hosting more events such as workshops and artist talks.

I suppose the proudest moment so far is when we finally opened the shop. It was a nightmare dealing with contracts and solicitors to get the space sorted. Then once we were in there we did all the work ourselves with the help of our friend Andy Kier (Curiosity Allotment), who built the majority of the fixtures. The whole time we were just thinking we’d taken on way too much work and we’d never get it finished. We had a launch party and the turnout was amazing. It was great to see how many people were responding to what we were doing. That reaffirmed that we’d started something worthwhile and gave us a lot of confidence in the project.

The main challenge has been getting the word out as we have zero budget for promotion. We’ve been getting a really positive response so far from people we admire, so we can now put this funding into action to build on that.

As well as the funding from Creative Industry Finance, we’ve been offered support and guidance, particularly on the business and financial side of things. We want to operate more effectively and professionally as a business so we can focus on the stuff that’s important to us. Hopefully in ten years’ time we’ll have a decent catalogue of books and zines published by us and a decent calendar of events we’ve organised. Mainly we plan to be an integral part of the Leeds creative community and the wider Northern arts scene.”

See more case studies like this on the Creative Industry Finance website.