Thinking of becoming a warm space?  

In our latest team guest blog Emma Leggott, one of our expert Poverty Proofing managers, brings together key insights and reflections to support organisations considering becoming a warm space.

There is a real interest from cultural organisations who are either thinking about or already have, turned their gallery spaces, exhibition rooms, cafes and music halls into Warm Spaces. This roundup from Children-North East shares some of what’s been happening in our region and some things to think about, using some of the key principles from Poverty Proofing©. 

‘A Warm Welcome’ Setting up a Warm Space in your Community offers a comprehensive guide commissioned by Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis, covering everything from suitability of venue, access, transport and health & safety. It goes into great detail and even provides a handy risk assessment template at the end! Gateshead Council have also done a lot of work in this area and have quickly acted, turning two of their most prestigious cultural venues into Warm Spaces.

Providing a Warm Welcome 

Aside from all the practical stuff, we loved the reflection that welcoming people into your space is vital to ensuring that those who need it most feel able to use it. We couldn’t agree more.   

In accessing cultural venues, we know that those on the lowest incomes face the greatest number of ‘hurdles’. We also know attendances are lower as a result (The Warwick Commission, 2015). We must hold in our minds eye therefore and understand – when thinking about warm hubs – that deeply held perceptions of prejudice and class inequality are not all of a sudden going to dissipate because there’s a cold snap and a cost-of-living crisis. 

Whilst the concept of Warm Spaces is still so new, how they are perceived by people living in poverty is not yet widely known or understood. There is an argument, however, that the set-up is not dissimilar to foodbanks. Despite recent surges in demand for foodbanks there is still a stigma surrounding them and associated feelings of shame, guilt and pride can often prevent people from getting help when they need it most. 

Poverty Proofing© 

From a Poverty Proofing© perspective, no matter how well intentioned or well-meaning an action, if it identifies, excludes, treats differently or makes assumptions about those whose income or resources are lower than others it is likely to miss the point and may even cause further stigmatisation.  

Therefore, making someone feel welcome, is as important as the intervention itself. Putting the heating on, opening up a venue, doing a risk assessment; this is the straightforward part. The art of great ‘Hostmanship’ is making ‘someone feel the best they can’. It is where the skill and thought comes in and – from a commercial perspective – the input that is most likely to see the greatest impact for your time, effort and investment.  

Cultural Venues as Warm Spaces: The Exciting Part 

What brings us great joy here at Children North East is that we know that the cultural sector is full of brilliantly creative, socially engaged artists, practitioners and free-lancers. Use your collections, your volunteers and your Front of House team to face this challenge head on in the most artistically, creative and culturally inspired way possible. 

Think about Language   

We heard CEO of Oasis Trust talking earlier this year about opening up doors in their schools and other settings but calling it a movie night or a family bingo evening, to avoid stigmatizing and othering language.  

What ingenious responses can you come up with that will help relate coming into your space to more exciting and universal activities than just warmth? 

Think about Value for Money  

Whatever you do, it must create value. Ask yourself, if I was a person or a family on a really low income would the overall benefit of coming to your space outweigh the overall cost of leaving the house? This could include direct costs such as transport and appropriate winter clothing or hidden costs such as missing home-life routines (leaving the dog, not being able to watch what you want on the telly), going somewhere alone, bad weather, arriving back to a cold house and so on. 

A Warm Welcome outlines six other areas to consider when thinking about Hostmanship in Warm Spaces: 

  • Serving (taking a genuine interest in someone else’s well-being)
  • Maintaining the big picture (having the right person to meet guests – sets the tone for the whole thing) 
  • Taking responsibility (being courageous to stand on the other persons side) 
  • Caring (letting people see the human in us) 
  • Knowing (about other cultures and being open no matter who they are)  
  • Dialogue (listening first and opening up to dialogue) 

Join the Conversation  

We hope this piece has provided some food for thought and whether you have already opened your doors as a Warm Space or are thinking about it join the debate! Tell us your ideas, your stories and share your learning on Twitter, tagging @ChildrenNE.

Learn more about Poverty Proofing©

For organisations wanting to take informed, effective action on creating inclusive cultural services and experiences, our Poverty Proofing© Cultural Organisations team can support teams to listen to the experiences of their visitors, communities, staff, volunteers and trustees on how poverty impacts them.


A Warm Welcome, Setting up a Warm Space in your Community, Warwickshire County Council, Martin Lewis Foundation. Online, available from a_warm_welcome_2022.pdf (