TALK OF THE TOWN HALL   But they persisted….

TALK OF THE TOWN HALL But they persisted….

Patrick Kelly on the arts champions on local authorities who have made cultural revolutions happen

Julie Finch to run Compton Verney

Julie Finch to run Compton Verney

The new director of Compton Verney Art Gallery in Warwickshire is to be Julie Finch, currently the Cheltenham Trust’s CEO.

Thanet council plans museum handover

Thanet council plans museum handover

Campaigners are calling on Thanet District Council to halt its plans to sell Margate Museum, with more than 100 people have signed a petition to keep the heritage building, once a police station, in public hands.

DEA BIRKETT   Paris – where the show never closed

DEA BIRKETT Paris – where the show never closed

In the first of a series marking the 250th anniversary of the circus, Dea Birkett– the official Ringmaster of Circus250 – goes to Paris where circus is defying the gilets jaunes

Outdated systems blocking creativity growth - CIF

Outdated systems blocking creativity growth - CIF

Growth in the creative industries is being stymied by government and policy bodies working by out-dated definitions, according to a report published today by the Cultural Industries Federation (CIF).

Pitzhanger to re-open after £12m restoration

Pitzhanger to re-open after £12m restoration

Pitzhanger Manor, the dream country home created for himself and his family by Sir John Soane, in his time England’s most celebrated architect, is to reopen in March after major restoration.  

‘Purity’ of boys’ voices – it’s Garrett v Bach Choir

‘Purity’ of boys’ voices – it’s Garrett v Bach Choir

Opera soprano Lesley Garrett’s call for an end to male-only choirs has been rebuffed by the head of one of the leading ensembles in the world, the Bach Choir.

New CEO for FACT

New CEO for FACT

FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology) chooses Arts Catalyst's Nicola Triscott and new CEO

DEA BIRKETT Fifteen years ago, a museum visit changed my life

DEA BIRKETT Fifteen years ago, a museum visit changed my life

Last week we reported on the reopening of the V&A’s Cast Courts. Here, Dea Birkett recounts her own especial memory of them

Friends buy Burnley Empire for £1

Friends buy Burnley Empire for £1

The Victorian Burnley Empire has been saved by a friends group, days before it was due to go for auction.

Fitzwilliam’s gift of the Great Belzoni

Fitzwilliam’s gift of the Great Belzoni

The larger than life archaeologist, explorer and circus strong man known as the Great Belzoni is to adorn Cambridge’s Fitzwilliam Museum.

The smartphone Turner Prize

The smartphone Turner Prize

Charlotte Prodger has won this year’s Turner Prize for visual art with a 32-minute film shot on her smartphone.

Rogers to leave Birmingham REP

Rogers to leave Birmingham REP

Executive director steps down after 17 years

To all Dome-loving humans…

To all Dome-loving humans…

David Shrigley has created this limited edition print with proceeds from sales going towards the Build Brighton Dome community appeal.

How WWI enriched contemporary art

How WWI enriched contemporary art

More than 35m people, half the population, have engaged with the 14-18 NOW commemorations of the First World War, which has now ended after five years.

Ally Pally theatre reopens after 80 years

Ally Pally theatre reopens after 80 years

Alexandra Palace’s theatre and East Court reopened at the weekend after a £27m, three-year restoration project.

What's up in… Bristol

What's up in… Bristol

AI looks at what's coming up around the country – this week, the arts in Bristol. 

Bid to save Turner’s Thames view

Bid to save Turner’s Thames view

The government has mounted a campaign to save J M W Turner’s painting Walton Bridgesfor the nation by placing an export stop on it.

Victorian art world – recast by the V&A

Victorian art world – recast by the V&A

The Cast Courts at the V&A, two of the museum’s original 1850s galleries, have reopened after a seven year programme, restored and refurbished as they were 160 years ago.

Brexit: May's deal and the arts

Brexit: May's deal and the arts

The Prime Minister’s withdrawal agreement still leaves the arts and cultural industries in doubt about the future.

Rhian Harris takes over in Lakes

Rhian Harris takes over in Lakes

Rhian Harris, director of the V&A Museum of Childhood since 2008, is to be the new chief executive of Lakeland Arts.

What's Up In... Manchester & Salford

What's Up In... Manchester & Salford

In a new weekly feature AI looks at what's coming up around the country - starting with what's up in the arts in Manchester and Salford. 

Arts centre opens in Edinburgh observatory

Arts centre opens in Edinburgh observatory

A new contemporary arts centre, Collective, opens tomorrow, November 24, in one of Edinburgh’s most recognisable historic buildings.

All change at top of Oily Cart

All change at top of Oily Cart

Iconic children's theatre company Oily Cart has appointed Ellie Griffiths (right) as its new artistic director and Zoe Lally as its first executive director.

Wood Green’s Chelsea

In a North London suburb a municipal building is being turned into a hotel for artists

The large building almost opposite Wood Green Tube station is an unassuming four storey Art Deco pile identified on its face by five green plaster panels. The middle one declares “Northmet” -  The Northern Metropolitan Power Company – and the others explain “Lighting”, “Heating, “Cooking” and “Power”.  The ground floor frontage is clad in the same municipal green.

The modest appearance of 13-27 Station Road, Hornsey, is deceptive. Almost nothing is known about its history except that it was built in 1925 for Northmet, architect and builder unrecorded, and in 1963 it was taken over by Haringey Council to be its municipal offices until five years ago.

Yet it could be London’s version of Manhatten’s famous Chelsea Hotel, home at different times to the likes of Janis Joplin, Dylan Thomas, Sid Vicious and Brendan Behan.

In May, 13-27 will reopen as Green Rooms, devised and designed as an artists’ hotel with beds for as little as £18 a night. It will have a bar, a restaurant which will also be an incubator for young restaurateurs, a large foyer with a performance space, and a large top floor rehearsal/exhibition space that will also be available for locals to use. There will be some en suites for up to £60 a night and a couple of longer term ateliers with mezzanine workspaces.

Behind the project is Nick Hartwright (right), 39 and from Leystonstone, who is a social entrepreneur. He made his fortune designing and selling rugs through his The Mill Co Project, but since 2010 has put his ingenuity into taking unused buildings on short leases to create artists’ studios, mostly in London’s East End.

Green Rooms moves his social entrepreneurship into new territory.

“When creatives come to London to work in theatre and music there’s nowhere for them to stay, hang out with people of their own sort and have the kind of conversations that turn into projects” he says. “What there is is either really poor or very expensive.”

He began with his The Mill Co Project partner Claire Martin with a warehouse in Bethnal Green which they turned into a gallery space, then switched to studios – they now have eight sites. The notion of somewhere to work and maybe somewhere to stay has grown into “somewhere to stay, meet, rehearse and develop ideas” he says. “I took one look at this place which Haringey Council was looking for a new use for, and I knew I had the place”.

The Green Rooms project is almost a paradigm of modern cultural entrepreneurships, based on layers of partnerships. He has the building on a minimal long-term lease from the council which has also committed £40,000, and the support of the Greater London Assembly’s High Street Fund with £140,000.

Hartwright has put his own money in, and there’s investment from the entrepreneur Kurt Bredenbeck, founder of the now fashionable Hoxton Hotel, as well as from angels such as the ClearlySo impact investment firm whose modus is to deliver social or environmental impact as well as financial profit.

In fact, the hotel is being created for under £1m, Hartwright says, through using teams of specialists rather than a single contractor which has probably saved £2m. He also negotiated extremely favourable terms with the architects, SODA, the young West End partnership whose success with other projects allows them to charge only a modest fee with a social enterprise such as this; it’s the same with Hypnos who is designing the beds.

The existing building, fortunately, was built to high specifications, an early and uncomplicated steel box frame in which there are no asbestos complications. The council had covered the oak parquet floors and hung false ceilings over the plaster mouldings in the main rooms and mahogany roofed former warehouse spaces, and all this is being restored. But nothing had been thrown away – except for the cage lift – so the old banisters and brass window handles are being restored too, and some 1920s enamel hanging lamp shades with giant bulbs will also have a new life.

Although there are 22 double bedrooms, there also are two dormitories, one with 16 beds and the other with 18, and communal toilets for men and women. There are also twin beds for disabled artists who come with carers. “It’s basic but good accommodation, and people will be socialising in the shared areas most of the time” Hartwright says. “People are much more into sharing spaces now”.

The ground floor, once a showroom, will be a large foyer for reception including a bar and a restaurant which will double as a training school for young restaurateurs.

On the fourth level is Hartwright’s favourite space, once Northmet’s boardroom which had a bar at one end, and beneath the false ceiling his team found an exquisite engraved glass skylight which is being restored to be its centrepiece. “It’s when I saw this room I knew what we had to do” he says. It will also be available for use by local people.

Green Rooms has had no advertising and as yet has no general manager – a fine pedestal desk found in the basement is being restored ready for whoever is appointed – but already it is booked through May, June and July by word of mouth and contacts in, for instance, The Barbican Centre and the Royal Court Theatre. “It has to be somewhere creative people believe is for them, but where local people can feel comfortable meeting artists” Hartwright says.

“There’s a change in the way people are thinking about business and the arts, and at the same time a new way that young artists are thinking about their work that’s about what’s going on around them and how they inter-relate with other people” he says. “We can bring all that change together here.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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