My name is Rhys, a first time dad blogging about my adventures and experiences of being a parent. [email protected]

Forgotten Colwyn Bay department store to become art gallery

Rob Bebbington, founder of ink. Gallery, came up with the idea for ink. Gallery after feeling inspired by the sense of community in the world of street art.

An artist from Llandudno Junction is opening a contemporary gallery in Colwyn Bay aimed at breaking down barriers in the art world and reinvigorating North Wales’s cultural scene by incorporating the world of NFTs and the Metaverse.

Rob Bebbington, 31, came up with the idea for ink. Gallery after feeling inspired by the sense of community in the world of street art.

“I’d come from a fine art education but I loved the street art community, its diversity and its welcoming spirit and I wanted to bring that to North Wales. I felt like there was a need for new ideas and artistic expression and I wanted to add some more colour to the beautiful Welsh mountains”, he said.

Ink. Gallery will showcase well-known contemporary artists alongside new, up-and-coming and local artists, in keeping with its aim of diversifying the art world.

Rob said: “It’s all about giving artists a chance, without needing to know the right people. Artists should be celebrated for their work and their creativity encouraged, and that’s what we want to do with ink. Gallery”.

Featuring in the gallery’s first exhibition, set to open in February, is Kitsune Jolene, a street artist whose mural on a wall in Belfast, Northern Ireland, is in the running for a worldwide street art award with Street Art Cities.

Another artist, Lobster Robin, boasts over 16,000 Instagram followers and has painted murals across Europe, including in Kosovo, Belgium and Holland. Alongside them will be Mumptown, a graphic artist from North Wales, whose designs have been used in a recent campaign for US sports footwear giant, New Balance.

Along with co-founder and fellow artist Luke Dalton, Rob Bebbington is working towards ink. Gallery’s first exhibition thanks to two Start Up Loans from the British Business Bank totalling £30,000, which the pair received in December 2022.

The loans have helped facilitate renovations of the Longmans Building, the 1930s former department store which had been empty for years, where ink. Gallery will now be housed.

As well as a gallery space, ink. Gallery will play host to a permanent coffee shop, film screenings, live music performances, an art supply shop and workshops all open to the local Colwyn Bay community.

Rob has plans for the launch of an ink. Gallery podcast to help further promote the artists displaying their work at the gallery and eventually hopes to create a digital version of the gallery in Facebook’s forthcoming Metaverse, where people can buy original artworks, artworks in print or in a digital form as a non-fungible token, known as an NFT.

NFTs are a growing space that can provide an alternative means for artists to make money from their work.

The British Business Bank Start Up Loans programme provides government backed loans of up to £25,000 per individual, up to a maximum of £100,000 per business, facilitated through delivery partners in Wales like Business in Focus based in Bridgend. In addition to finance, successful applicants receive 12 months of free mentoring and advice.

The Start Up Loans programme has delivered more than 4,400 individual loans to entrepreneurs in Wales over the past ten years, worth over £44.5m. In September 2022, the British Business Bank announced it is expanding the programme to include new businesses that have been trading for up to three years, as well as introducing a new second loan option for businesses that have been trading for up to five years.

“The loan has been invaluable in helping us get the gallery ready for launch, as well as taking the risk element out of starting a new business in a challenging economic landscape. But the support I received as part of the Start Up Loans programme really made the difference. I was assigned a mentor who helped me build out a really thorough business plan and I still email them now for advice. We wouldn’t be where we are today without that support”, Rob said.

Jessica Phillips, Senior Manager for Wales at British Business Bank, said: “It may feel like a challenging time to be starting a business and investors are risk-averse. But that’s exactly why our Start Up Loans programme exists: to help entrepreneurs like Rob and Luke, who want to make a positive difference in the communities they’re based in, take that first step.

“Ink. Gallery is all about pushing boundaries and creating a welcoming and accessible space for artists and visitors alike. I wish Rob and Luke all the best for their first exhibition and exciting future plans.”