Experimental studio Ankle Deep marks a year in Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard

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Ankle Deep, a new experimental and experiential studio in Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard has been making waves in the city’s creative community, becoming a hub for local students, university faculty and industry professionals to learn and experiment with new and timeless creative practices.

Housed in the Old Pay Office, one of the earliest examples of a building in a naval dockyard, also one of the first fireproof buildings in Hampshire - Charles Dickens’ father, John Dickens, used to work here as a clerk, before moving to London in 1815. The charitable custodians of the building, Portsmouth Naval Base Property Trust (PNBPT), offered the space to Ankle Deep in September 2021, before opening in November 2021, and it has undergone quite the transformation since.

The range of creatives at Ankle Deep is broad, with illustrators, painters, sculptors, potters, writers, videographers, photographers – just to name a few – owning creative licence to express their ideas, while utilising materials and inspiration from the dockyard’s rich heritage.

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Since its inception, over 600 students, 25 staff and 18 businesses and practitioners have contributed to the studio’s first year.

Ankle Deep Picture by MA illustration student, Veronika AntlovaAnkle Deep Picture by MA illustration student, Veronika Antlova
Ankle Deep Picture by MA illustration student, Veronika Antlova

In that short time, Ankle Deep has raised over £400 for Portsmouth’s Foodbank with a pop-up sample sale working with Anglepoise Ltd, launched its own magazine, had a student nominated for three awards at London’s Graduate Fashion Week, and hosted Arts Council England for a dedicated visit. A film, by University of Portsmouth’s final year student, Henry Brenton, on the studio’s debut year is set to be published at the start of 2023. It will be available to view on Ankle Deep’s social media channels and website.

The project has been supported by PNBPT and its CEO, Hannah Prowse, since it began last year. Hannah said: ‘The dockyard has such a rich history, truly one of a kind, and to see it come to life through multiple forms of art and creativity has been a true joy for the Trust and no doubt the local community. Anything that encourages people – especially young people – to engage with their heritage is to be nurtured.

‘The trust is excited to continue its support of the studio into 2023 and beyond by providing Ankle Deep with a place to continue these great projects and helping to source materials and new sites.’

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The project was co-founded in September 2021 by architect, Deniz Beck, MD of Anglepoise Ltd, Simon Terry, and lecturer and creative consultant, Claire Sambrook.

Claire said: ‘The support we’ve had from PNBPT has been unwavering and has really allowed the project and all its beneficiaries to really flourish. It’s been an incredible year for Ankle Deep and we’re so proud of all the students, faculty and professionals who have contributed so far, but this is only just the start.

‘We’ve got many exciting plans to come that we can’t wait to share with everyone.’

Ankle Deep works with PNPBT and the Sustainable Conservation Trust to source empty sites and disused nautical items across the area for their creatives to use for exhibitions, photoshoots and anything in between.