Welcome to The Malthouse – a unique new space where York can chill.

The venue opens this Friday (8 November), offering food, drink, music, film, drama, workshops and more – aimed at all the family.

It’s amazingly affordable, it’s a completely new concept – and it’s just for residents.

The man behind The Malthouse, Joe Gardham of Social Vision, said it’s strictly not for tourists: “If anything, it’s anti-tourism. It’s our little enclave.”

A creative place to be
He has spent his savings on getting it up and running. And although it’s only temporary – running till March 2020 – Joe is planning on creating similar venues in other empty city buildings, under the brand Space Invaders.

Joe took us on a tour of the Malthouse, which is found in an old brewery building on The Crescent, behind the Everyman Cinema and next door to the Crescent Community Venue.

A place for all

The children’s workshop
This is a social space for York residents. And Joe is determined that it is welcoming to all. He said:

  • I was in care as a kid and I was adopted into a single-parent family. And my dad worked his socks off to raise three kids. We had nothing, absolutely nothing.

    I want to make sure this venue at all times is accessible to anybody.

Cups of tea will be free, he says. “I don’t understand, when it costs 5p to make a cup of tea, how anybody can get away with charging £2.

“And we’ll always have juice, water, fruit available for kids free of charge.”

Joe adds:

  • I’ve got this vision, if you’re a single parent with four kids, you can come down, you can have a hot drink, you and your kids can be entertained, and your kids can be watered and have a healthy snack free of charge.

Sundays will be an alcohol-free day. “We want people eating, being entertained and getting involved in stuff.

“We’re going to call it the Big Chill – so it’s a family zone – come down with your kids and there will be no alcohol on site.”

The food and drink

There’s a gin bar, plus beer and cocktails
The ground floor is given over to a selection of bars and places to sit and relax – all lit by twinkly lights.

Acaster Malbis brewer Ainsty Ales has taken the main bar. There’s also a cocktail bar “with a speakeasy feel” and a gin bar.

You’ll find the food trucks, including Xni Pec Tacos and Warrendale Wagyu, in the yard, next to a mountainous mural created by Art Of Protest Gallery.

Some of the team behind the Malthouse

And the food is set to be truly affordable, Joe says: “A bugbear of mine is paying £10 for a dish of street food. You can get a dish in a warm restaurant for that.”

So 80% of the food will be capped at £5. To make this work, the team are working with FareShare, the charity that works to ensure good fresh food that would otherwise be thrown out by supermarkets is redistributed.

The Art of Protest gallery has been involved in decorating the venue

A series of fridges will be stocked up with FareShare food every week for £70 – given the food traders free ingredients so they can keep their prices down.

Project manager Emily Deckers is in charge of this part of the Malthouse operation.

“We operated a pay as you feel café in York city centre last year for eight months and intercepted 2.8 tonnes of food during that time,” she said.

The shopping

Find and follow

From the ground floor, if you follow the octopus painted on the wall you’ll find yourself upstairs in multi-purpose space.

Every weekend, this is home to the Saturday Souk – an indoor market for York’s makers and independent traders.

There are 12 stalls booked in for the first Saturday (9 November), running from 9am-5pm.

Joe said: “It’s for local independent retailers on trestle tables selling what they make – kitchen table entrepreneurs, people who are making greetings cards, jam, whatever it might be.”

The entertainment

Some of the art on the walls
Entertainment is also being put on in the first floor space.

Pop Up Cinema Yorkshire will project weekly family films on to the wall. At other times it could host a DJ set, theatre performance, spoken word or dance.

Between Monday and Thursday the Malthouse isn’t open to the public. But during that time the space will be available free of charge for any local performance group who wants to use it.

The only condition is they put a performance on at the weekend.

There is also an art gallery, with five artists studios in smaller rooms behind.

For kids, there’s a workshop space for making and doing. And Joe wants to encourage young entrepreneurs.

So any child under 16 – with their parents’ permission – can come along with an idea for a micro business.

They will be given up to £50 for materials, to be paid back if their weekend-long enterprise is a success. But the young Alan Sugars will of course keep any profits.

The concept

How it used to be… Photograph: All You Need Is Love Photography
For three years Joe harboured an ambition to turn an empty York property into a creative community space. But he struggled to interest property developers.

“Every single door has been closed then finally I’ve managed to get North Star to say, yeah OK, have a go,” he said.

“They can see the vision, they believe in it, they like the idea of unlocking some of these properties in York which are not being used.”

North Star own the buildings and will, at some point, look to create flats, a hotel, or office space here.


But until they do, they’ve given it over to Joe and his team.

“Everybody in York who’s creative is crying out for space and there’s nothing for them. So I thought, let’s see what we can do.”

The future

The Malthouse will open on weekends for 10 weeks initially, then reopen in the New Year open for another 10 weeks till the end of March. And it will keep rolling until owners North Star are ready to take it back.

It has been created by a team of enthusiasts on a shoestring budget within a matter of weeks.

But the Space Invaders project is not stopping at the Malthouse. Joe already has his eye on two or three similar empty spaces.

“Everybody’s really motivated and excited. It’s been a huge effort, but the next building we take on won’t need as much work as this,” he said.

He added:

  • The social vision is completely unique. I don’t know anybody else who has the same values that we’re using to do this.

So get along at the weekend, eat, drink, shop, socialise or just chill out in the marvellous Malthouse.