Film and music studios are included in a futuristic vision for a new creative quarter in Ilkeston – after a university project saw an army of up-and-coming architects collaborate with Erewash council.

The blockbuster plans were dreamt up by 90 students who were given an academic challenge that forms part of their architecture course.

They were tasked with producing concepts for how Ilkeston could be transformed with new investment – which is something the council is keen to see.

The students from Nottingham Trent University worked for three months on reimagining the area around Armstrong’s Mill – an imposing former Victorian factory that is now a retail hub.

Their intriguing plans show how a sculpture trail from the town centre would lead to a buzzing district for arts and innovation around Ilkeston Station.

The project saw them work closely with the borough council and the East Midlands arm of RIBA – the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Also heavily involved was the organisation Ilkeston Contemporary Arts, which is to showcase the students’ designs at its ILKON gallery on Heanor Road.

Mayor of Erewash Councillor Frank Phillips will officially open the exhibition on Thursday 21 March (5pm). The public will get chance to view the masterplan from 22 March until 6 April.

The brief to the architecture students was to focus on identity, flexibility, walkability and biodiversity. Inspiration came from books such as Soft City by urban design guru David Sim – famed for his Scandinavian-style approach to friendlier neighbourhoods.

The blueprint integrates new homes with space for artists and creative businesses.

Nottingham Trent University’s course leader said“The students really enjoyed tackling a realistic brief with input from planning policy officers and councillors.”

 The ILKON gallery is in what used to be a Methodist church. The contemporary arts hub was opened by Chris Williamson after he bought the building in 2022.

Chris – who helped found global architecture practice Weston Williamson + Partners – said the exhibition shows how Ilkeston could turned into a creative mecca.

 He said: “There’s so much talent in this area, yet we tend not to shout about it as much as we should.

“The UK’s university towns are doing quite well, but post-industrial towns like Ilkeston are struggling. The big industries have closed, but there are still brilliant people here.

 “Workshops and housing here are much cheaper than other local options, plus it’s a wonderful part of the world.

“It’s also well connected thanks to the Nottingham to Leeds/Sheffield train line. I’ve spent my career working on transport-oriented projects and Ilkeston has amazing creative potential.” Councillor Alex Breene, who is Erewash’s Lead Member for Town Centres, Regeneration and Planning, said:

“Chris is right about the wealth of talent we have in Ilkeston and across the rest of the borough.

“The Council was thrilled to work with Nottingham Trent University’s fantastic architecture students on this project – and the results are something that will really wow local people.”

The exhibition’s opening hours and more information can be found at: