How can the studio respond to and serve communities most effectively?
Creative Land Trust’s portfolio currently consists of two very different properties. Both will open with working studios across 2022 and 2023, and we are working to develop fit out designs with partners including our studio provider tenants that will maximise accessibility to as far reaching an audience as possible, that’s both socially and physically.
Our Wallis Road site, commercial units part of a new residential development in the London Borough of Hackney, sits in Hackney Wick – recently known as the home to the densest concentration of artists and studios in the whole of Europe. It is also home to a long-standing and diverse community living in the surrounding residential estates.
Likewise, our Alice Billings House site in the London Borough of Newham sits at the edge of a high street left behind, following the recent development of the Olympic Park and its surroundings. Newham is home to London’s youngest and most diverse community. How then, can the studio respond to and serve these communities most effectively? We look to work with studio providers who can give opportunities to local people and look to ensure representation in the studios is reflective of the demographics in the locality.
The Bernie Grant Arts Centre in Tottenham does this already so well. With its theatre, multi-purpose studios, cinema, café and clustering of enterprise units, its key mission is to provide opportunity through workspace specifically for under-represented communities, those growing up in disadvantaged circumstances, and those without the connections to encourage, support and build career success. All this in one of London’s neighbourhoods undergoing some of the most enormous growth and change. At our Wallis Road site we will be looking to ensure tenant diversity through our leases with our studio provider tenants. We will do this by putting together agreed targets with key performance indicators that are realistic and fair, and these will be reported on annually, to measure our accuracy in meeting these targets together.
Creative Land Trust is committed to creating spaces that are genuinely inclusive. Affordability is key to ensuring accessibility is as far reaching as possible. We follow clear guidance on what level of rent is affordable, such as the Mayor of London’s Artists’ Workspace Data Note. However there may be prospective tenants who still are not able to access the spaces at those levels. With our studio provider tenants, we will look at ways to provide opportunities, for instance through annual residencies, subsidised studio space, grants and donations that will be sourced.
We also look to bring local people into the conversation with us every step of the way. Our project at Alice Billings House for instance will bring on a team to oversee the refurbishment of an early 20th Century Grade II listed building that currently sits on the At Risk Register. Public consultation will take place throughout, and the project team will provide shadowing and mentoring opportunities for local young people that has them input on a heritage refurbishment. We look to well-established local arts organisations like UD Music, Stratford Youth Zone and Newham Poetry Group who already support, programme and commission local artists, to create meaningful dialogue, the impact of which does what local audiences need it to.
Programming will look to reflect the needs and interests of the community. At Alice Billings House, funds provided from the Greater London Authority’s High Streets for All Challenge, looks for ways of reimagining the high street for the 21st Century. We are currently running an Open Call for local artists, makers, designers and other creatives to propose ideas for artistic interventions on the high street that represents the needs of local community voices in all its diversity and tells a story about the area’s creative spirit in recent years, today and prospectively looking to the future.
These spaces will soon be new creative clusters that to be successful need to benefit local communities. Listening to the needs of these communities and creating ways to input into the design of spaces is going to be key and an ongoing discussion. We are starting this conversation right away, ahead of the first tenants moving into their new studio.
About the author
Yves Blais, Operations Manager at Creative Land Trust
Yves Blais has worked on the project since its inception, as part of the start up team he delivered the initial multi-million pound funding from the three founding funders that helped establish the organisation. He also has experience in writing successful bids to trusts and foundations and public institutions in arts, culture and heritage, specifically focused on property, placemaking, and culture. This includes the acquisition of artworks into national museum collections around the UK. He has managed grant reporting across different projects in both arts and property.
Yves has experience advising and brokering opportunities in property for affordable workspace provision through his work at Outset Contemporary Art Fund and WorkWild. He is also a producer and curator having worked on public programmes across the UK, and is a trustee at art commissioning and production charity Forma, and a director with postgraduate art education programme TOMA.