Celebrating the launch of new cultural programme Alice Billings Connects

May 26, 2023

“This new workspace hub is set to become a creative driver for small and medium enterprises to operate and collaborate. It will also be a place to connect, relax and enjoy the publicly accessible project space and outdoor public realm

Creative Land Trust launches The Local Social Workbook, a new report offering valuable insights and practical guidance to stakeholders on partnering with the local community at Stratford’s High Street in East London and as a proposal for other town centres and high streets across the country. The report was produced by Office S&M Architects with partners Rosetta Arts and Khan Bonshek.

This coincides with the launch of Alice Billings Connects, a new cultural programme led by Hive Curates taking place along Stratford High Street to reinvigorate interest in the historic Alice Billing House in Newham, soon to be opened by Creative Land Trust as a creative workspace. Hive Curates will pilot a year-long programme aimed at making the arts more accessible through events that promote heritage, cultural traditions and well-being.

The two new initiatives aim to generate enthusiasm and gather support in the run-up to the launch of Alice Billing House, which is currently under renovation. The initiatives are supported by the Mayor of London’s High Streets for All Challenge through a grant to Creative Land Trust of £170,000. The Challenge was set up by the Mayor of London and supported by the London Economic Action Partnership (LEAP) to bring forward and co-design innovative high street recovery strategies in particular following the impact of Covid.

With further capital funds from Architectural Heritage Fund, London Borough of Newham’s Active Spaces Fund, Levelling Up Fund and Creative Land Trust, Alice Billing House will open its doors to the public in late 2023 and will provide 30 studios let at affordable rents to creatives in the visual, performance and digital arts, designers and craftspeople. In addition, there will be teaching areas. The building will continue to host events, residencies and wellbeing sessions.

This new workspace hub is set to become a creative driver for small and medium enterprises to operate and collaborate. It will also be a place to connect, relax and enjoy the publicly accessible project space and outdoor public realm, while promoting local artists and culture, and providing new opportunities for local residents. This is part of Creative Land Trust’s ongoing efforts to create more sites for affordable workspaces.

Yves Blais, Operations Manager at Creative Land Trust says: “We are delighted that The Local Social Workbook and Alice Billing Connects programme is now available, offering more opportunities for creativity for local people in Stratford in the run up to our new creative affordable workspace at Alice Billing House. We hope this will support inclusive culture led regeneration across Stratford High Street, adding to and amplifying Newham’s already diverse and vibrant creative community.”

Jules Pipe, Deputy Mayor for Planning, Regeneration and Skills says: “This is a great example of how we can promote arts and culture through a programme of events that benefit communities and local businesses whilst revitalising our high streets and town centres. Alice Billing House has stood empty for decades but will soon be returned to life as a vibrant new creative hub. This is just one of the great initiatives we’re supporting through the High Streets for All Challenge to build a better, greener and more prosperous London for everyone.”

Hugh McEwan, Co-Founder of Office S&M Architects says: “Our local team of Office S&M Architects, Rosetta Arts, and Khan Bonshek are proud to have compiled a thorough research document that highlights existing local organisations, and opportunities for them to be supported with additional funding, in order to deliver activations on Stratford High Street. This was developed from our lived understanding of the area, research directed by the Stratford Vision, and interviews with potential delivery partners. The future programming Hive Curates will deliver will help stitch Alice Billing House into the existing social fabric of Stratford.”

Mark Beattie, Co-Founder of Hive Curates says: “We’re launching our 12-month culture programme with “Balance”; an event which follows Mental Health Awareness week. We hope our activities starting on Thursday 25th May will bring people together, encouraging them to take a moment to pause and relax, only moments away from our busy high street. We’re excited to develop our monthly programme and the new Alice Billings Connects website is now live so keep checking on there for updates and forthcoming events.”

Notes to Editors

High Streets for All Challenge

The High Streets for All Challenge is an invitation to local partnerships to bring forward and co-design innovative high street recovery strategies and proposals. Projects it supports address common and local challenges and underpin the public re-imagining of high streets and town centres across London. Strategies support actions across an entire high street or focus on an innovative exemplar high street recovery project.

The projects deliver enhanced public spaces and exciting new uses for underused high street buildings in every London Borough, bringing together local authorities, community and business groups, cultural and third sector organisations, institutions and commercial enterprises to join forces and develop much-needed capacity to support high street and town centre renewal.

The Local Social Workbook

The Local Social Workbook was created by local partners including Office S&M Architects, Rosetta Arts and Khan Bonshek. It explores ways to activate the high street in Stratford through locally led activities in partnership with Newham based organisations and the funding opportunities that exist to resource them. It outlines a series of projects that can be delivered in the short, medium and long term to bring derelict and underused outdoor and indoor, public and private spaces on the high street back into use.

The document is designed to be used by local partners and the local authority to deliver social benefits with local partners, and it is designed to be replicable. It can be used as a methodology for delivering social benefits through high street activations in other town centres. For Stratford these activities look to keep culture as central in ensuring for a fairer and more prosperous place with wellbeing embedded for the long-term.

Read the full report here


Alice Billings Connects

Alice Billings Connects successfully launched with the first event series titled: Balance Art and Wellbeing for Mental Health Awareness Month. The launch event was well attended on 25th May, showcasing the captivating art installation titled “It’s Nice to Be Nice: Healing Garden” by artist Eve De Haan available until 4th June 2023. The event promoted mental wellness and highlighted the important connection between art, wellbeing, and community featuring Sense Collective and Kim Gichinga, followed by a weaving workshop throughout the afternoon; with a mesmerising dance performance by East London Dance to end the day.

The commitment of Alice Billings Connects to the local community extends far beyond the launch event. On 6th June, the organisation will celebrate pride at Applecart Arts, featuring the talented Lolo Brow. Throughout the Summer, Hive Curates will commission a film to be made in collaboration with US.MAN.DERE, a collective founded by Amos Mukombero and Kamila Szymkiewicz, born and raised in Newham. The film will celebrate the stories of local people and engage young people in filmmaking. A screening of the film produced will be unveiled in Autumn.

Visit Alice Billings Connects Website here

L-R: “It’s Nice to Be Nice: Healing Garden” by artist Eve De Haan; Kim Gichinga and East London Dance