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London council rejects affordable artist studio plan for Bold Tendencies carpark


Troubling news from London: The Southwark council has rejected plans by gallerist Hannah Barry and cultural venue Second Home to convert the Peckham car park known for hosting Bold Tendencies into 800 affordable artists studios. The council gave the contract instead to the more commercial Pop Community Ltd, who will build 50 artists’ studios alongside “multi-use event spaces, pop-up retail and cafe/bar.” That gentrification happened quick, especially considering mere years ago galleries like Arcadia Missa and Sunday Painter were considered neighborhood trailblazers.

A couple excerpts from the Guardian report are below. Full article here.

Southwark council has rejected plans that would have transformed a multistorey car park in south London into 800 affordable artists’ studios.

The council has instead opted for a rival proposal for the building in Peckham from a Mayfair-based property developer.

Some of the most influential cultural figures in the UK, including the directors of the Tate Modern and the Serpentine Gallery, backed the Bold Home project, which would have provided much-needed cheap studios for artists at a time when such spaces are dwindling.

Southwark council opted for Pop Community Ltd’s application, which will only offer 50 artists’ studios in alongside “multi-use event spaces, pop-up retail and cafe/bar”. The development is a partnership between Carl Turner Architects and multimillion property developers The Collective, a business which is likely to target “ambitious young professionals”.

Bold Home was a grassroots collaboration between Bold Tendencies – a cultural arts organisation operating from the south London car park and run by local gallery owner Hannah Barry – and Second Home, a cultural venue run by Rohan Silva and Sam Aldenton.

He and Barry were adamant that the community of Peckham would have benefited from their plans, which included paying Southwark council £200,000 a year in rent. Artists in residence would have had to pay just £100 in rent a month, and they claim the plans would have supported 2,500 local jobs – compared with the 600 generated by Pop Collective’s proposal.

The Collective, which won the bid, has also been criticised for a similar project nearby, Pop Brixton, which was described as a “community campus for local business”. Pop Brixton has enraged some locals at what they believe was a substantial change in direction of the project from its original horticultural roots to a more business focussed venture.

The Bold Home project also had the backing of some of the most notable cultural figures in the art world, including the co-directors of the Serpentine Gallery, Julia Peyton-Jones and Hans Ulrich Obrist; Tate Modern’s outgoing director, Chris Dercon, and Wentworth, a former professor of sculpture at the Royal College of Art. They all expressed concern about how artists were being driven out of both London and the UK as soaring property prices made the capital increasingly unaffordable.


Is the rejection of ‘Bold Home’ – a proposal for “800 affordable artists’ studios” in a Peckham multi-storey car park a tragedy for London and artists?

Artist studio provision and artists’ struggle to make a living in London has been a recurring discussion amongst younger and poorer artists for a good number of years now, but interestingly establishment figures have recently started to mutter their discomfort with the eroding support for artists in the city. Only a few weeks ago Frieze London hosted a discussion organised by senior ICA figures on the topic . Now Hannah Barry , Rohan Silva and Sam Aldenton have joined the debate.

Bold Home was supposed to provide 800 new studios for artists by converting a multi-storey car park in Peckham, however, Southwark council have decided to approve a rival proposal by Mayfair-based property developer The Collective who will be building a pop up retail space with cafes and “only 50 artist studios”. Granted this sounds like a really bad idea but was Bold Home going to be the saviour of London artists that today’s Guardian article paints it to be?

“Artists and creative start-ups 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” says Rohan Silva, former senior policy advisor to UK prime minister David Cameron, and the venture capitalist behind the neo-liberal paradise of blurred work and life boundaries – Second Home. Was this the person who could bring the artists to London the much needed support in question? We can only imagine what the child of Bold Tendencies and Second Home would have been like.

The Guardian article is also a great chance for art world elites to champion the cause of artists. “London is now cooling at the level of artistic production owing to a sharp decline in artists’ studio provision. Without spaces in which to work, artists can’t make things. They can’t test their ideas or evolve their practice,” commented Gregor Muir, director of the ICA, a gallery notorious (under his directorship) of poor labour conditions. The hypocrisy must be stark for the many young artists who make up his staff, paid less than a living wage on 0 hour contracts who struggle for their right to sick pay and their right to organise. For them like many other Londoners I imagine fair wages, fair contracts and fair rents would have been higher priority than more studios they can’t afford or don’t have time to be in.

It’s a shame that campaigns fought harder by people taking more risks to protect projects more important to artist and local communities haven’t had so much coverage in the national papers.