OPINION: Boris Johnson Calls For New Artists’ Studios And Cultural Spaces
Boris Johnson has called for new artists’ studios and cultural spaces. This important cultural plea comes as the London Mayor publishes guidance for councils, planners and developers on protecting arts venues - and with good reason - as artists continue to be priced out of the UK capital, as developers move in, stripping London of its cultural capitol in order to line their pockets; and in doing so, they sanitise and sterilise London's creative diversity, as artists are pushed out into the streets.
Shocking figures show that London is due to lose 3,500 artist studios in the next five years. This is a third of the capital’s creative workspaces. In light of this danger to our dwindling creative environments, Boris Johnson has called on developers to include cultural spaces and studios in regeneration schemes in the city.
A prime example of artists being forced out by developers is Hoxton's Cremer Street Studios; with residents having recently been told to sign a letter in support of tower block development. The group of over 130 artists in the block of studios threatened with demolition were given an ultimatum by their landlord: they were to support the planning application or leave, the Hackney Citizen reported at the time.
The community of artists were told by their studio provider to sign an agreement stating they will not oppose development plans for the site and subsequently their own studio complex. The property developers Regal Homes submitted a pre-planning application to demolish all existing buildings at the location to make way for a new development, including a 20-storey tower block. But it is feared that the development will effectively obliterate the artists community, leaving no space for the cultural community to remain intact, and subsequently robbing Hoxton of an important cultural collective.
Yet there are proven examples of how arts spaces have been successfully incorporated into residential developments such as Matchmakers Wharf in Hackney, east London, which includes 49 affordable artists’ studios.
Johnson's report also importantly provides information about existing planning regulations, including Section 106 agreements; this agreement obliges developers to offset any negative impacts of a development, and turning venues into assets of community value.
“As London continues to grow and prosper, there is a critical need to build more homes for Londoners, but this should not be at the expense of our culture and distinctiveness, which are hugely important for our economy,” Johnson stated.
The Mayor's report also highlights that tourists spend £13 billion in London every year, with eight out of ten visitors citing culture as a reason to visit. In fact the British Museum gets more visitors than the whole of Belgium. Now is the time for developers to be made to recognise the capital's cultural worth; and consider the long-term importance of artists studios and creative spaces: adding cultural and historical worth to London - over the short term gains of private investors in the next franchised coffee shop.
Words: Paul Black © Artlyst 2015.
Lead image: P C Robinson © Artlyst 2015.