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From military smarts to creative arts – Keane bassist Jesse Quin transforms Bentwaters building

Keane bassist Jesse Quin has set up a new arts hub called Old Jet Lodge at Bentwaters Parks.

Keane bassist Jesse Quin has set up a new arts hub called Old Jet Lodge at Bentwaters Parks.

Archant

In days gone by, its halls and corridors bustled with uniformed airmen in charge of the US fleet of jets based at RAF Bentwaters.

But the missions now being accomplished behind the doors of Building 567 could scarcely be more different.

Suffolk musician Jesse Quin arrived at the derelict site with a vision of building an arts hub from the ground up – and he had to stretch his imagination to visualise anything beyond the pest-ridden ruin he found himself in possession of.

Slowly but surely, the former Thomas Mills High School pupil, who gained fame as the bassist for Keane, has been transforming the site into a command post for creativity.

Named Old Jet – a nod to the building’s former purpose – it now contains 15 rooms for artists of all disciplines and an upstairs music studio. Next door stands an enormous rehearsal hangar, while a nearby unit stores equipment for bands including Mumford and Sons.

“When I first arrived, the windows were broken and animals had got inside,” said Jesse, who returned to Suffolk after years of living in London to settle in Woodbridge with his wife and two children. “The first nine or 10 months were spent ripping out suspended ceilings.

“It began as somewhere to store recording equipment. It was just me in here for a while but now it’s starting to fill up nicely.

“We’re trying to make it somewhere vibrant – a creative hub where people feel they can collaborate.

“We’ve been chipping away at the rooms – almost converting them to order. If someone comes and says ‘this room’s for me’, it’s all hands on deck. It’s a bit like a blank canvas.”

Old Jet is Jesse’s first venture into managing his own enterprise. He still performs – although not as frequently as when Keane last recorded and toured – recently contributing to King Charles’ new album, produced by Marcus Mumford. The Mumford and Sons frontman was also involved in recording a 2010 album with Jesse’s other band Mt. Desolation.

During the early stages of developing Old Jet, Jesse admits that he and business partner Will Simpson were forced to learn as they went along.

Some of the construction is creatively improvised – the communal kitchen counter-top was made of old crates from nearby fruit and vegetable producer, Three Musketeers.

Meanwhile, the upstairs office still maintains an American period style, with original dark wooden walls and a giant Stars and Stripes hanging in testament to the building’s past.

Old Jet currently has five resident artists, including one of the nation’s leading surf photographers. Most sign up for a six-month lease but have the option to stay longer.

Jesse said: “We’re desperately looking for working creatives – people who will go off to do a project and then come back. We really want the place buzzing. Some rooms are ideal for small companies or people who want to share a space.

“For artists who are self-employed, working from home comes with so many distractions – I wanted to create somewhere they could come and want to work. There’s something to be said about the slightly secretive nature of where we are.

“It’s great to be here in the country. I’d been back for two-and-a-half years and had only intended it as a temporary thing, but I soon realised how much I loved being back and wanted to stay.

“I’ve put a lot of money into this but we’re getting to a point where it’s evening out. It feels like it’s been worth the effort.”

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