Proposal For 800 Artist Studios in London Ditched in Favor of Retail Space
More proof that artists are being squeezed out of London.
Southwark council has rejected a proposal to convert an abandoned multistory parking lot in London’s south borough of Peckham into 800 artists’ studios.
The proposal, dubbed the Bold Home project, was supported by several of the UK’s leading cultural figures including Tate Modern director Chris Dercon, and Serpentine Gallery co-directors Julia Peyton-Jones and Hans Ulrich Obrist.
Instead, the council accepted an alternate proposal from the property development firm Pop Community, who want to convert the facility into “multi-use event spaces, pop-up retail and cafe/bar.” The plans includes only 50 artists’ studios.
Bold Home is a collaboration between local arts organization Bold Tendencies, Peckham gallerist Hannah Barry, and Second Home, a cultural venue.
In an interview with The Guardian, Rohan Silva of Second Home criticized the council’s decision. “Artist studios in London are now critically endangered. The creative industries are one of the main drivers of growth and new jobs in London—if artist studios continue to be decimated in this way, all this will be at risk.”
He added, “Artists and creative startups have no trade union representation, and no voice whatsoever. That’s why they’re being squeezed out of the city, and we simply have to do something about it.”
Silva and Barry say their plans included £200,000 ($302,000) a year in rent paid to Southwark council. The 800 studios would have been available for only £100 ($100) a month. And they claim their proposal would have created 2,500 local jobs; compared with the 600 created by Pop Community’s plan.
Bold Tendencies, who have been hosting arts and music shows at the parking lot venue since 2006 have significantly contributed to the regeneration of Peckham. According to The Guardian, the venue has attracted over 900,000 visitors to the area, thanks in part to the popularity of Franks, the venue’s rooftop bar.
“London is eating itself,” says Tate Modern director Chris Dercon. “Initiatives such as these are increasingly becoming vital to keep London alive. Artists are capable of steering a city away of becoming a ghetto for purely financial gain […] Yet artists need spaces for living and working to lead a meaningful life in an otherwise meaningless city.”
Explaining their decision, Southwark Council said in a statement, “The plans submitted by Bold Home would have made it more into the style of an office block. The car park is a public space and we didn’t just want it to become just a closed artist commune.”
The project’s rejection follows another decision to award a similar contract to Pop Community in nearby Brixton which has been criticized as a business focused venture. And in 2014, a former biscuit factory in Bermondsey, south London, containing 400 artist studios was sold and converted into 800 condos.
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