Re­gen­er­a­tion is forcing us out, say an­gry artists

We’re be­ing herded about like cat­tle – which has dam­ag­ing im­pact, they say

The Wharf - - Wharf - Laura En­field

A rtists in east London say they feel like cat­tle, cor­ralled around the cap­i­tal at the whim of politi­cians and de­vel­op­ers. Fears for the cre­ative com­mu­nity were raised at a meet­ing in Hack­ney Wick to dis­cuss the im­pact of the Queen El­iz­a­beth Olympic Park re­gen­er­a­tion.

That is be­ing led by London Legacy Devel­op­ment Cor­po­ra­tion (LLDC), which says the project will bring 3,000 jobs, 1.5mil­lion ad­di­tional vis­i­tors and £2.8bil­lion of eco­nomic value to the area.

But artists say their com­mu­nity is in dan­ger of be­ing swept away by the tide of com­mer­cial devel­op­ment.

Ac­tivist Nima Tehranchi said: “There seems to be this as­sump­tion that the artis­tic herd will move on.

“But this area is a main artery of cre­atives feed­ing into London.

“We have seen it in Dal­ston and Shored­itch and now in Hack­ney Wick. If it is moved we will lose that vi­brancy.

“The prob­lem with treat­ing artists like cat­tle and say­ing ‘We will make you this pen to work from,’ is that it doesn’t ful­fil our needs.”

The round-ta­ble dis­cus­sion be­tween 20 artists and the London Assem­bly re­gen­er­a­tion com­mit­tee was told that last year Hack­ney Wick had one of the high­est con­cen­tra­tions of artists in Europe, with 600 stu­dios. But many are now be­ing pushed out.

In Septem­ber, Save Hack­ney Wick campaigners lost a high-pro­file bat­tle with LLDC and 100 stu­dios at Vit­to­ria Wharf will now be de­mol­ished to make space for a foot­bridge.

Cam­paign leader Nima said new stu­dios built in a neigh­bour­ing devel­op­ment were largely empty and LLDC lacked the will to un­der­stand the com­mu­nity’s needs.

He said:“What we cre­ated was grown or­gan­i­cally over years and can’t just be re­placed.”

The com­mit­tee is due to pub­lish a re­port in Fe­bru­ary into how cul­tureled re­gen­er­a­tion in London could help ex­pand the cap­i­tal’s artis­tic and cre­ative base, but also how it could threaten ex­ist­ing com­mu­ni­ties. Mem­bers met with artists at arts cen­tre Stour Space.

The fa­cil­ity was founded in a dis­used build­ing al­most a decade ago by Neil McDon­ald who had no idea it would one day be over­shad­owed by the Olympic Sta­dium and un­der threat from devel­op­ment.

He said the venue had flour­ished thanks to the strong com­mu­nity spirit.

“We could move some­where else,” he said. “But we have built this up over the last decade, at grass roots, with con­tri­bu­tions from the com­mu­nity and grants that prob­a­bly to­tal £8mil­lion.

“To pick up and move some­where else wouldn’t work.”

Artists said they felt their fu­ture was con­stantly un­der threat be­cause cul­tural venues were over­looked in plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tions.

Artist Lucinda Rogers said: “If you agree that va­ri­ety is good for the com­mu­nity then the plan­ners’ job is to cre­ate that va­ri­ety as much as they can.

“Un­for­tu­nately the plan here seems to be very nar­row and devel­op­ment fo­cussed.

“Back in their of­fices the plan­ners are chug­ging along their path, which for some rea­son doesn’t in­clude lis­ten­ing to what’s go­ing on.”

Another artist said sti­fling the cre­ative com­mu­nity to make way for com­mer­cial con­sump­tion akin to that in Strat­ford was a “death knell”.

Nima said: “What we pro­duce here – art, books, po­etry – lasts for decades. Gad­gets and clothes only last six months be­fore be­ing worth­less.”

Fol­low­ing the meet­ing com­mit­tee chair­man Navin Shah said Mayor Of London Sadiq Khan should look to artists in Hack­ney Wick as in­spi­ra­tion for how to pro­mote London’s cul­ture.

He added: “I agree the plan­ning regime needs to ad­dress this is­sue.

“When Lo­cal Ac­tion Plans are be­ing drawn up cul­tural fa­cil­i­ties like artist stu­dios need to fea­ture as part of the crit­i­cal pro­vi­sion and as part of the re­gen­er­a­tion.

“If that is done that safe­guards – as well as gives op­por­tu­ni­ties to pro­mote – cul­ture, be­cause you are de­mand­ing by law that pro­vi­sion is made.” Go to hack­ney­wick.org and stourspace.co.uk for more in­for­ma­tion about art in Hack­ney

We have seen it in Dal­ston and Shored­itch and now in Hack­ney Wick. If its moved we will lose that vi­brancy

Com­mit­tee chair­man Navin Shah, cen­tre, on a tour of Hack­ney Wick

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