Escape Art Centre


The Escape Art Centre launches in Tonbridge

Encompassing the arts in the widest sense, The Escape is an exciting new centre for the arts, housed in the Old Fire Station in the heart of historical Tonbridge. 

The name ‘Escape’ was inspired by the original hand cart and ladder that served the community for hundreds of years. The beautiful and important historical building is now enjoying a brand new lease of life as a unique art, theatre and music hub for Tonbridge and beyond. Owner Richard Collins has teamed up with internationally renowned Tonbridge sculptor Guy Portelli to create Escape Art Centre, a cultural art hub to showcase quality, inspirational and sometimes edgy artworks. We’ve heard on good authority it may even host a Picasso or two.

A diverse range of exhibitions is scheduled, each one carefully planned to re-invent what Escape has to offer in entertainment and education. In addition there will be a rotation of artists in residence, plus a café and wine bar, all coming together to bring an inclusive, inspirational and creative meeting place to which people can escape. Members can look forward to exclusive early access to new exhibitions as well as member-only events.

Otto Schade creating street art for the Escape Art Centre

And if ever an Escape was needed, now is the time! The art is now flowing out of the building and into the street. With a new piece of street art that turns the building into a living entity, Otto Schade, a Chilean artist, put his stamp on the building in front of an enthralled crowd, while Bianca Nicholas, who represented the United Kingdom in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2015, performed a live set inside the building. This project has come together over the lock down period and has been a voyage of discovery for all parties involved. “We can’t believe we are in Tonbridge” was the comment made by most visitors to the centre, this could have easily been a New York show and vibe.

Matt Smalls, ‘Jeremy’

Matt Small’s portraits take centre stage and fit the space so well with textures and colours set in front of graphite colour walls. Matt is getting some great coverage at the moment with his portraits of the English football team sponsored by the football association and on show in the official team hotel.

Featured in the main gallery room upstairs is Matt Hardman’s paintings, eerily beautiful portraits that can also be sinister, beautiful, disturbing and humorous at the same time. A moment captured between happiness and sadness, with a play on family relationships.

Matt Hardman, ‘Sing for Me’

Guy Portelli, the curator at the Escape, invited six artists to feature in the inaugural exhibition, IGNITE, featuring the paintings and sculptures of these thought-provoking and inspirational artists. The Ignite show is a collaboration with London based Gallery Different which has enabled a show of international significance and a great launch pad for the future.

The Escape Art Centre is on Castle Street in Tonbridge, Kent TN9 1BH. The coffee shop is open seven days a week with the wine bar in the evening once the restrictions allow. Entrance is free.

For more details visit or or follow on Instagram

opposite page from top:

Tonbridge Fire Station in days gone by;

Escape Art Centre 

interior, gallery space and bar;

The big red doors of 

Tonbridge Fire Station;

this page, top:

Matt Smalls, ‘Jeremy’;

above left:

Matt Hardman, 

‘Sing for Me’;



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