AN arts venue in a converted supermarket is getting ready to open to the public.

Cornerstone Arts took over the former Marks and Spencers building in Northgate, Darlington at the beginning of the year with hopes of opening it as an arts centre.

It had planned to have it fully open by May, when the Darlington Arts Festival usually takes place, but had to put its plans on hold because of the coronavirus.

But it is now preparing to show the public what it has done with the former department store and is putting on a programme of events over the bank holiday weekend.

Louise Maddison, who runs Cornerstone Arts, said: "Despite the lockdown and everything that has happened this year we have been working flat out to make this happen because we believe in this dream and, the importance of the arts in bringing the community together."

She added: "People have been gradually coming in and I think the passion for the place has been gradually building.

"As other businesses close in Darlington and as people are working at home, they having been using the arts to express themselves. Children and adults alike have been turning to the arts.

"Now, more than ever, we need to draw the community together in all kind of ways."

All three floors of the building, which was last used by Marks and Spencers in 2018, will be used by various groups and artists, including Darlo Radio, which has already started broadcasting out if it.

The Northern Echo:

The empty shop floor, pictured in March, shortly after being taken over by Cornerstone Arts

It will have multiple, flexible gallery spaces, a performance space, workshop area, meeting rooms and studios for artists to rent.

The former food hall, which will eventually be used to run workshops, is going to be an area where artists can display and sell their work until classes can be run safely.

Over the bank holiday weekend, artists will be showcasing their work, including the Northern Echo’s cartoonist John Longstaff, illustrator Brian Lee, mother and daughter artists Mary and Merlyn Griffiths and sculptor Andy Boylett.

Derby photographer Chris Olley will also be exhibiting 92 photographic images of football stadiums which were taken as he toured the country on his vintage bike.

The Northern Echo:

One of the first installations in the gallery space

There will be a series of events such as SG Percussion, a local drum maker, who will be hosting a drumming workshop suitable for all ages and levels of experience.

Cornerstone Arts will also be screening, The Curator, a short film produced by the Darlington-based film company called Broken Scar Productions and starring Derek Griffiths.

Ms Maddison said: "The building is looking really great now. It's the final big push to make it ready to present to the world.

"I can't wait to show people in and show the public what we have done with it.

"Hopefully over the weekend we will be able to showcase the best of Darlington.

"It should be really exciting. I'm looking forward to it because we've had so many volunteers coming in and helping. It should make it happen."

She added: "I think there's going to be a lot of curiosity."

It is open between 10am and 6pm from Saturday.