A selling space for artists, crafters and designers” has opened in the social enterprise incubation hub (SEIH) in Enniskillen’s Nugent’s Entry.

Four local artists have embarked on a social enterprise business start-up called ‘Collage Collective’.

Over the next six months they hope to feature 20 to 25 artists in the retail space, offering retail space for a one-off membership fee of £25, followed by a maximum of £45 per month charge for display space. As well as stand-alone floor space, Collage Collective will offer shelf space for artists with smaller items at a reduced monthly cost.

The SEIH initiative is one of OFMDFM’s ‘Delivering Social Change’ signature programmes, which aims to tackle dereliction and community eyesores. The Executive has granted £4 million for 10 hubs across Northern Ireland. It hopes that they will help create local employment by encouraging social enterprise business start-up. The initiative is led by the Department for Social Development (DSD), in partnership with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI).

The Western hub includes Enniskillen and Strabane and is run by Omagh Enterprise and consists of hot-desking and advice facilities in the Clinton Centre and the retail space in Nugent’s Entry.

The enterprising artists are Genevieve Murphy (a designer and painter who runs children’s art workshops); Kiera McCluskey (an ‘up-cycler’ who restores old furniture); Talie Mau (a graphic designer and visual artist) and Louise Hardman (a hand-loom weaver).

Louise explains: “There is a nucleus of creative people in the Fermanagh area that we are keen to expand.” She heard of the business opportunity through her husband, Wayne. “I had a chat with Jill Stronge from Omagh Enterprise and we said that we would like to open a selling space for artists, crafters and designers in the Spring.” She praised Omagh Enterprise for being “very helpful and friendly.” The group have ambitions to export their wares into the Republic of Ireland and hope to have generated enough revenue in their six month stint in Nugent’s Entry to “go our own way.” “Collage Collective will be located in a large, modern, two story shop in Nugents Entry a few yards off Enniskillen’s very busy High Street. The ground floor retail space will display around 25 stand-alone showcase opportunities in a modern facility.

“We are looking for innovation, diversity and marketable items,” Louise tells The Impartial Reporter.

“There’s ample space on the first floor which will offer rooms for rent for individuals, groups and craft workshops,” she adds.

A DETI spokeswoman told The Impartial Reporter that the concept of a SEIH is “a space where potential social economy entrepreneurs can locate themselves in order to access: potential shop front retail space; hot-desking facilities; conference/meeting rooms; training suites; general workspace; and areas (depending on the business sector) from where social economy businesses could operate on a ‘test-trading’ basis.” She added: “This SEIH project is designed to tackle vacancy and community eyesores and the lack of employment by encouraging social enterprise business start up within local communities. The SEIH project will focus on: improving the streetscape by reducing street-level vacancy; creating employment opportunities within the social economy sector; and promoting the social economy in disadvantaged areas.”