ARTISTS have bemoaned the loss of an arts and crafts shop and gallery in the town centre, which has been forced to close due to competition from national chains and the internet.

Inkspot Arts and Crafts, in Edgeware Road, which opened in 2004, used to run an annual art competition and monthly exhibitions of local artists’ work. However it closed in August, leading to redundancy for one full-time and three part-time employees.

Inkspot Arts and Crafts Ltd, owned by Mary Davies, is still selling specialist arts and crafts supplies on its website and its remaining branch in Cardiff, but Swindon artists say the loss of the local branch will hit the community hard.

Annie Aiguier, formerly the store’s part-time manager, who was also involved in promotion and marketing for the branch, said Mrs Davies did everything she could to keep it open, but eventually she was forced to close.

Annie, who has been in the art business since 1973, said: “It’s very sad and a lot of our customers are very sad. I would think it’s a pretty big impact on the art community because we did specialise, especially in fine art with more expensive brushes and paints which you wouldn’t get in big places.

“I think when it was first opened there was no Hobbycraft and there was no The Range, and also internet buying was not so prominent. And in those eight years, internet buying has taken hold of things.”

Artist Toni Robinson, of Purton-based art firm No Added Sugar, said: “It’s a real shame because there’s another big store in Cheney Manor, Frameworks, that closed down a couple of years ago so I think Inkspot was the only decent supplier around. I didn’t know it had closed down, it’s a bit of a shock.

“We did go down there and buy things as well and tried to support it. It gave up-and-coming artists and young artists the opportunity to exhibit and they did competitions there as well. And that’s a real shame.”

Painter and sculptor, Gordon Dickinson, also of No Added Sugar, said: “It’s a shame because that’s the only place that did that sort of thing, the gallery side of things.

“I recall winning a prize in their once, I used to enter their art competitions every now and again.”

And Ken White, of Old Town, who was for many years the personal artist for Virgin boss Richard Branson, said: “It’s sad really. I think it was very good for the local people to have somewhere where they could show their work. It’s always sad when somewhere like that disappears.”

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