Artists at the Cremer Street Studios have 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 have been given an ultimatum by their landlord: they are to support the planning application or leave, the Hackney Citizen has reported.
The large collection 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 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. It is feared that the development will effectively obliterate the artists community.
The Association for Cultural Advancement through Visual Art (ACAVA) who are 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. Speaking to the Hackney Citizen on the condition of anonymity, a Cremer Street Studios artist said approximately half of the artists have already signed the letter.
“Apparently some artists went to the planning meeting and made a bit of a fuss about the plans. That’s why they [the landlord] gave the notice so soon. They were concerned about us interfering with the plans for the development. It was pretty much a hostage situation. If you want to have any chance to stay then you have to sign this letter. And I think about half the artists signed it and half didn’t. They [the developers] will essentially have 60 letters from the artists saying how fabulous they think the development is.”
With the lack of London studios it is unlikely that many of the artists will be able to stay in the area, speaking to the Hackney Citizen Duncan Smith, Artistic Director of ACAVA which has provided the 90 studios for the past 12 years has stated: “The position for artists across London is reaching a critical point. While we don’t know how much longer we are going to be able to provide artists with studios at Cremer Street, we do know that it will eventually be redeveloped. Replacing it and the other rapidly disappearing artists’ studio buildings in Central London is increasingly difficult and the future of London as a global centre for the visual arts is threatened.”
Artist Brad Lochore, from conservation group OPEN Shoreditch, has expressed concerns regarding the proposals, stating: “I feel sorry for the artists, they have been put in a really difficult position. The developer can now show the council the letters of approval, which will greatly increase their chances of success.”
A Regal Homes spokesperson said to the Hackney Citizen that it hoped the development would offer a “range of flexible commercial units, with some in the category of affordable rent”. But when asked about the letter and its contents they stated that they were “unaware of any such letter”.