I have been in this East London neighborhood for ages ever since I was a Film student. I moved little, and stayed within the same few blocks. When I first came here the area was made up of housing estates and small factories and workshops. No cafes, no restaurants, no galleries. I was not bothered about this lack because a) I didn’t have any money to spend anyway; b) I wanted cheap rent c) I like inner city urban environments and d) it was historic and interesting, full of nooks and crannies. Unexpected glories like the Geffrye museum and Albion Square, beautiful Haggerston park, the Regent’s Canal which can take you all the way to Paddington if you have the stamina.
Needless to say it has changed a lot over the years and the place is now thoroughly in the white heat of gentrification. In most respects this is really good: horrible blocks of flats are being replaced by new better housing for the people, and it’s nice to find a decent cafe.
But there is a loss, and it is personal. For the last 2 1/2 years I have had a studio on the ground floor of this housing block. I didn’t live here, we got it as a project space from the landlord, to use before it was knocked down. We did amazing things in this poky 1-room flat! A lot of exhibitions, film screenings, open studio weekends and more. We had artists from Spain – including the painter Daniel Cervera – as well as Romania by way of Paris, and a big book art show brought from Russia. The last show we curated was by 3 young London based Bulgarian artists, Krom Balgesky, Desi Tosheva and Teo Todorov. We screened the amazing super 8 feature Maldoror on 16mm, and has film makers Sally Potter and Dan Edelstyn visit and screen their films.
The buildings emptied and finally we were the only inhabitants. It was a cold spring and we could hear the rats rattling around in the walls of the empty rooms next to us. Finally, the landlord had to give us notice and the building was hoarded, covering all the murals that studio partner Nazir Tanbouli had done around the buildings.
This morning, I saw the demolition crew had arrived. I watched them knock the wall in and begin to demolish the studio.
I watched them throw all the junk out. Bits of old drawings (some of them big) and paintings, furniture, the bin – everything we didn’t take with us. We took most things, apart from a working old CRT TV that there was just no reason to keep.
Yes, I feel a bit sentimental. Usually when you move you really do move and you don’t see what happens to your old place. It’s just funny that my new studio is close to the old one so I was able to see the whole thing from the upper floor.
We also have a new exhibition space, the Yellow Wall – it’s a big wall in a nearby cafe we frequent. It means we get to mount the shows but we don’t have to open it ourselves. Things move on and move forward.