A decent studio space is hard enough to acquire in London but now it seems it’s also hard to hold on to it. Artists at the Cremer Street Studios have recently been told to sign letter in support for the destruction of their own working environment, yes you read that correctly. The group of over 130 artists have been given an ultimatum by their landlord: they are to support the planning application for the redevelopment of their studios or leave.
The property developers Regal Homes has submitted a pre-planning application to demolish all existing buildings at the location to make way for a new development, which will include a 20-storey tower block. The artists have been 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.
Artlyst fears that the development will effectively obliterate this artists long-standing community. The Association for Cultural Advancement through Visual Art (ACAVA), the building’s studio providers has encouraged the studio tenants to sign a letter which states: “I confirm my full support for the proposed redevelopment of the property.” The letter goes on to state that the artists would not object to any planning application for the development, and that they would “leave immediately [when the] extension expires and notice to vacate is served.”
In exchange for the artists agreement, they will be allowed to stay until 30 November with an additional rolling extension of 30 days’ notice until the demolition of the property. Those artists who refuse to support the plan will apparently need to vacate the property in two months. The utter contempt with which these artist’s have been treated is a disgrace. Having seemingly been manipulated into a no-win situation, it’s reported that half of the artists have already signed the letter. Yet a Regal Homes spokesperson, when asked about the letter and its contents, stated that they were “unaware of any such letter.”
The redevelopment of the site without the acknowledgement of its cultural wealth is in fact yet another act of cultural vandalism akin to the recent seeming destruction of the iconic Eduardo Paolozzi mosaic arches at Tottenham Court Road station, by Transport for London. The Twentieth Century Society conservation group has called for a “Domesday Book” survey of post-war public art – perhaps there should also be a “Domesday Book” for important or historical locations of creativity, where artists work to add to the culture of the city, and the UK in general? Surely it’s time to recognise that undermining any creative community robs the surrounding area of its cultural wealth in favour of actual wealth, that of the developer and the site owner – and not necessarily the community at large.