Friday, 24 July 2009

Do you have a project for an empty space in Tower Hamlets?

Since I wrote about "freecycling" empty high street shops, there's been a lot of activity - some of which is starting to bear fruit. Both online and at our monthly London meetups, the Space Makers Network has brought together people and organisations interested in both practical projects and longer-term thinking about the collaborative reuse of space.

Now, together with Elin Ng and Emily Miller (who's also running the Meanwhile Project), we're looking for proposals for empty shops and spaces around Tower Hamlets. We can't promise that we can match your idea to a space, but we do have a meeting with the local council in ten days time and they've asked us to come with practical proposals for specific projects.

If you're in or near Tower Hamlets and you have a potential project, you can complete an outline proposal using our online questionnaire - or come down to the Gallery Cafe in Bethnal Green between 6 and 7.30pm next Thursday and talk it over with us.

Projects need to be:

  • temporary - we're talking about making use of a space for weeks or months, not as a permanent base
  • capable of being put into action quickly - do you (and people you know) have the time to make your idea a reality in the very near future?

Apart from that, we're open to just about anything - not only art projects, but spaces for work and play, temporary businesses or museums, community projects of all kinds. If we're able to help you take your project further, we'll probably ask you to write up a fuller plan for it. For now, though, just give us a brief outline of what you'd like to do (and why) by completing the online questionnaire.

Once again, we won't be the ones making decisions about whether projects get spaces, but we will take your proposals to the council and do our best to get things happening.

2 comments:

William Shaw said...

Can I suggest getting in touch with Dan Thompson? He's been doing this stuff for a while from the south coast but as he was one of the earliest dealing with the empty-space agenda.

http://danthompson.co.uk/?tag=slack

Also I did this piece a while back in the New Statesman that mentions a few names:

http://www.newstatesman.com/business/2009/04/empty-shops-art-space-low

Dougald Hine said...

Hi William -

Thanks for the link - I hadn't seen your NS article. (For anyone else, here's a fixed link to it.)

I've been in contact with Dan for a while. It feels like there's a really strong community of people collaborating around this stuff nationally now. And there's a lot of experience to be shared. (I first got involved with these issues when I was living in Sheffield a few years ago. The Cultural Industries Quarter there is essentially the product of the same process of creative recycling of empty space in the slump of the early 1980s.)

What we really need, for the Tower Hamlets project, is to spread the word to as many people and organisations locally - something I'm working on today.

It's also important to get beyond the focus on this as a thing for artists. Helen Milner's swap shop project in Sheffield, which looks like it's about to get a large city centre space, is a great example of the many other uses for empty retail space besides as temporary art galleries.

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