Empty Shop

150,000 Visitors,

3000 Artists, 900 Events,



TESTT Space is a new visual arts venue in Durham city which informs the TESTT project in the form of action research.

TESTT Space is a visual arts venue in Durham city established in 2016. The building is a former office space, previously vacant for over 10 years. Founded as part of our TESTT R&D programme the space operates as a site for action research as we seek to embed a visual arts culture in Durham.

Phase 1 incorporated artists studios, 3 gallery spaces, community workshop & darkroom facilities and a black box space facilitating performance and digital work.

Phase 2 is now in effect and focuses on the development and embedding of the studio culture into Durham city.

Find TESTT Space
Floor 2,
25 North Road,

What’s on?
The building is open to the public via the arts event it periodically hosts. To find out about events join our mailing list:



Empty Shop CIC is a non profit arts organisation in the North East of England and based in Durham City. We formed in 2008 with the idea to provide a much needed and accessible platform for artists of all levels and backgrounds to produce exhibit and engage with art. As the organisation has grown we have developed into well rounded permanent fixture in the North East art scene.

Today Empty Shop still provides those opportunities and resources that were so few and important back then but our reach now also expands into a whole cross section of areas and expertise.

Empty Shop was founded by Carlo Viglianisi and Nick Malyan in 2008 and chooses to be completely unfunded and fully independent.

Where is Empty Shop?
Our Head Quarters, Empty Shop HQ, is in Durham city centre, however we also utilise other venues and public spaces temporarily to provide accessible, temporary galleries and site specific events.

  • – If you would like to find out about using an Empty Shop email us on thefolks@emptyshop.org
  • – If you would like to collaborate with us get in touch – click here
  • – If you are the owner of an unused building and would like to hear about the benefits of the Empty Shop Model contact thefolks@emptyshop.org

The folks behind Empty Shop

Nick & CarloCarlo Viglianisi is an artist and photographer who worked freelance for 7 years prior to Empty Shop. He has managed Empty Shop HQ in Durham city since 2010. Initially an artist studios and gallery space the venue is now a cross-platform arts centre. Carlo has also project managed Empty Shop’s recent site specific work including The Alligator Club (BRASS 2015), Contained (Shambala Festival) and Hot Potato Records. He was also awarded the title of Young British Cartoonist of the Year in 2006.

Nick Malyan is a North East based project manager with a decades experience working with organisations including Artichoke, New Writing North, Sage Gateshead and the Lindisfarne Gospels Durham partnership. Nick also works independently as a writer, curator and facilitator contributing to projects as part of Cardiff Contemporary, The Newbridge Project, Northern Stage, &-Model Gallery and Futuresonic festival (among others).

Empty Shop HQ

**Please note, HQ.V2 will come to an end in June and we are no longer taking bookings. We will continue to occupy the building and will take time out to carefully consider what V.3 looks like. You can read more about that here: https://bit.ly/2IPLqqw **

Situated in the heart of Durham City, Empty Shop HQ is a fully licensed cultural hub and performance focused venue.

HQ sketch

Empty Shop HQ was established in 2010 as a permanent home for the organisation. Previously unused for a decade, this beautiful, old building forms the centrepiece of our placemaking agenda. Originally housing artist’s studios and exhibition space HQ V.1 rapidly evolved into a hub for the creative community and in late 2012 acquired the relevant licenses to formally become a multi-disciplinary arts venue. HQ V.2 now plays host to a diverse and constantly evolving programme of music, theatre, spoken word, talks and lectures.

To find out what’s on view the calendar or sign up for our regular newsletter

To programme an event or book space with HQ click here or contact hq@emptyshop.org

Empty Shop HQ illustration by Matt O’Brien


Use the Venue



What is Empty Shop?
Empty Shop CIC is a non profit arts organisation based in Durham City. We specialise in placemaking and the provision of accessible platforms for artists and practitioners of all levels and backgrounds to create, share and promote their work.

Our main objectives are art, regeneration and collaboration. Founded in 2008, we are a registered Community Interest Company and therefore a non-profit organisation.

Why are you called ‘Empty Shop’?
Initially the main focus of the organisation was using empty shops, buildings and unused spaces to create galleries and venues. What started out as a “does what it says on the tin” name has now become a brand rather than the purely descriptive term of it’s origins.

Are you part of the ‘art in empty shops schemes’ that are popping up all over the country?
No, the organisation is completely independent and isn’t linked to any national initiatives or formal networks.

Are you part of a ‘pop up shop scheme’?
No. Although part of what we do is temporary in nature, we are completely independent from any pop up shop schemes – this is all us.

Are you funded?
Empty Shop doesn’t receive or apply for any core funding. We are completely self sufficient and sustainable at every level. Empty Shop exists independently and in it’s own right.

So, what exactly do you do?
Empty Shop is an increasingly inter-disciplinary organisation. We “do” placemaking, exhibitions, events, gigs, residencies, film screenings, programming, producing and curating. Collaboration is fundamental to everything we do.

Will it cost me anything to use one of your spaces?
Empty Shop will only ever charge a fee appropriate to the costs we incur in operating a venue.

Each space we take on has different overheads and project budgets associated with it; a small space that we’re using for one week will be different to an entire building for which we occupy for a period of months or years. With this in mind the charge for hiring one of our spaces can vary, In the past fees have varied from as little as £7 to as much as £150 a day.

Drop us an email if you have a particular project, or particular space, in mind.

How does Empty Shop work?
Empty shop works through hard work, dedication and a genuine interest in what we are doing. We aim to provide the community we serve with creative resources and opportunities, whilst creating an alternative cultural offer in the region.

I have an empty shop/building/space,  would it benefit me to let you use it?
Yes, there are some great reasons, including commercial and financial incentives, to allow our organisation to use your unused space. If you want to talk to us about this please email thefolks@emptyshop.org and we will be in touch.

Can Empty Shop help me with an idea?
Very possibly! Collaboration is at the heart of everything we do and we are a really open organisation that loves to work with other people. Drop us an email with your idea and we’ll see if it’s something we can help with.


Get in touch

If you would like to get in touch, drop us an email or a message via Facebook / Twitter.
Contact Info


35c Framwellgate Bridge, Durham, DH1 4SJ