The Boat Shed Pop Up

This summer, for 16 weeks, the old maritime museum in Exeter will spring into life with the The Boat Shed Pop Up, which will transform two derelict warehouses on Exeter’s quayside into a new creative venue for the city.

Thanks in part to raising £30,605 of a £25,000 target, from 469 supporters in 28 days, including a £12,500 match from Arts Council England, the pop-up will fill the warehouses with theatre, visual art, live music, comedy, cocktails, goats milk ice-cream, and a mini golf course inspired by the stories and heritage of Exeter - and designed by local artist Fi Russell.

We spoke to Kelly Johnson, one of the people behind the campaign, about their crowdfunding experience.

Why did you decide to Crowdfund?

Part of the reason we’re doing The Boat Shed Pop Up is to test if people actually want it to happen. Do people want a new creative space in this part of Exeter? Are people excited about lots of theatre companies and comedians coming to this city? Is a mini golf course in a theatre a crazy idea or a good one?  

The Crowdfund campaign was the first test of our ideas. Thankfully the response indicated that people did indeed want these things to happen.

What do the funds raised mean for your project?  

The project couldn’t go ahead without these funds. They’ve enabled us to create the Pop Up this summer and, in so doing, develop our plans for the much bigger Boat Shed project which will see four derelict warehouses transform into a theatre, craft market and studio spaces for creative companies.

How is crowdfunding different from how you normally finance or fundraise for projects?

Crowdfunding is a completely different relationship. Normally you’re persuading a small number of people that something is a good idea and is a worthy investment. With crowdfunding, you open it up much more.

The more people buying into a project, pledging their support and believing in it, the more it becomes their project too. If it goes well, more people can genuinely say they were part of making it happen which for us, is really exciting.

What will you use the money for and what has happened since you hit your crowdfunding target?

The crowdfunder enabled us to open The Boat Shed Pop Up, transforming a derelict warehouse in Exeter into a new creative space for the city this summer.

In May and June we hosted a series of art exhibitions and workshops as well as a mini music festival. In July we built a theatre and presented almost 100 theatre and comedy shows and, as I write, we’re putting the finishing touches to our nine hole mini golf course which will be open every day until 2 September.

What would be your top tips for others considering crowdfunding?

You have to find new ways of keeping the momentum. If you keep going to the same people with the same message they’ll soon get tired of you.  

We asked our supporters to send us short video messages of why they supported the Boat Shed and we shared a new one each day. It kept the campaign fresh and gave us a wonderful insight into the appeal of our project and why it mattered to people in our community.

You received a £12,500 pledge from Arts Council England. How did you find the grant application process on Crowdfunder?

Extremely simple (which was huge relief).

Images by Ben Borley


Peter Baeck

Peter Baeck

Peter Baeck

Director of the Centre for Collective Intelligence Design

Peter leads work that explores how combining human and machine intelligence can develop innovative solutions to social challenges.

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