Sugarhouse gets new makeover by former student


2019 graduate, Emma Turner, returns to paint a mural for Lancaster’s student nightclub.

Last week, Lancaster nightclub Sugarhouse – long ridiculed for its infamous grey exterior – got the makeover it deserves. Set designer and mural painter, Emma Turner, returned to the city to paint a mural wall on the outside of Sugar by the smoking area.

Emma Turner with her finished mural at Sugarhouse (@EmmaTurner_ScenicArt)

While at uni, Emma was a regular attendee of Sugarhouse, eventually joining the events crew to manage the lighting on Friday nights.

“It was weird to be back at my old club to paint the mural but also lovely to be back in the town,” she told SCAN. “I had a great three years there so it’s always lovely to get the chance to re-explore the town. I still have friends doing PHDs in Lancaster so, I’m hoping to make it back for a night out in sugar at some point!”

Emma was commissioned for the mural after getting in touch with her old events supervisor, Tom Wells, who sent her contact details to Sally, a current manager at Sugarhouse. Sally approached Emma about the exterior wall they had been wanting to redesign.

“Because I knew the venue, they were keen for me to use my own imagination which was great fun! I created a set of different designs to see what took their fancy and they were particularly keen on one design with a tropical flower effect.

“I took that design concept and developed it to include the neon-style overlays. They were really happy for me to then go ahead with that design and that’s the one that’s on the wall now. I always aim to give a variety when I’m first designing for a client. I’m a massive floral fan so my favourite was luckily the tropical design.”

There were a couple of designs that didn’t make the final cut, including a galaxy-themed plant design and a tie-dye geometric pattern.

Two initial designs (@EmmaTurner_ScenicArt)

“It took me a week to paint,” Emma told SCAN. “I had some trouble with the delightful Lancaster weather. It was a bit of a challenge to get all the layers down in the dry spots but after a bit of a stalled start, I managed to get it done in time which was great.

“I’m from Cumbria so I stayed with my parents at home and commuted down to Lancaster. My mum and dad came down on my last day to see the final piece and my mum helped me touch in the background blue which was so sweet of her. They’ve both helped me massively with my work over the years and I definitely wouldn’t be able to do half of the work I do without their enthusiasm and support. My family have always been my biggest fans.”

On her future paintings, Emma went on, “I haven’t done any other projects like this in Lancaster but I’m always on the lookout. I’m hoping to move more into the mural and signwriting work and I love the local business in Lancaster so it would be great to do more work up there.

“I love the style and culture of Lancaster so I’d like to create something that captured some of that beauty and highlighted the unique features of the town and its locals. Also, something that adds a splash of colour to a place.

“Lancaster is such an interesting city, historically. I think there’s huge potential for that to be explored through mural and installation work in the city. I don’t have anything specific in mind at the moment because my designs are usually based on the space where they’re going, so I design around the pre-existing architecture to make something that fits best with the space and the clients’ wishes.

Painting the mural on Sugarhouse (@EmmaTurner_ScenicArt)

“I’d love to take on a space on campus because I had such a great time there. Alternatively, The Storey in Lancaster would be a great space to do something in; I worked with them a lot putting on shows with LUTG while I was there.”

Sugarhouse will reopen after the Easter break on Wednesday 27th April, in time for Roses weekend, so you’ll have a chance to see Emma’s mural while you queue. You can also take a selfie in front of the painting and tag @EmmaTurner_ScenicArt on Instagram while you’re at it.

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