A sense of place
Collage Arts responds to the Wood Green Area Action Plan
The completion of the Wood Green Area Action Plan is a unique opportunity to recommitment to the concept of the Cultural Quarter to create a real sense of place in the locality with a distinct and unique personality in a London that is becoming all too homogenised. We would encourage the Council to be bold, be creative but to retain the best of what they have.
As the Council seeks to develop the Wood Green Area Action Plan, it might be a good time to really focus on the qualities that Cultural Quarter offer. In many ways however as the team looks at these qualities of the Quarter, we suspect that it will be creativity, rather than culture that will show the way ahead.
Chocolate Factory 1 was the start of the Wood Green Cultural Quarter. Derelict since the mid-seventies, local artists with Collage Arts (Haringey Arts Council) squatted the building until the then owners, Moledene Group, agreed to lease one small unit to Collage Arts.
This led to the development of 70 studios in the building in partnership with Haringey Council who were responsible for sourcing Single Regeneration Budget (SRB) funding for the Heartlands development, which included Collage Arts studio provision in Chocolate Factory 1.
It became home to over 120 artists and creative companies creating over 800 jobs (GLA figures 2008) and increasing the inward investment in to the Wood Green Area by 30%. It led to the development of a further 100 studios in Chocolate Factories 1 & 2, with over 200 artists and business now based in The Wood Green Cultural Quarter.
The Chocolate Factories represent unique studio provision within London. Currently in Chocolate Factory, 80% of the artists and creative companies are local, 55% are women-led and 40% are BAME owned. The local community is a big partner in all provision from the building, with a large studio (Studio 28) available for hire at very affordable rates. local Community groups run workshops, fitness and wellbeing classes, after school provision, dance, music & theatre rehearsals from the space. It is the richness of this studio fabric that has attracted the interest of Big Issue Invest and caused Tiffany Outset Studiomakers to actively seek space for their artists in Collage Arts studios.
It is important to note that once Mountview Academy vacates the site in Haringey, a functioning studio theatre will be available for a variety of performing arts uses by Collage Arts. The current thinking is that grant support will be used to make create a better visitor experience for this venue and to develop both the theatre space and the gallery/restaurant/ informal performance venue. Central to the offer will be the provision of high quality vegan food and drink. We believe, given the other performing arts spaces in the locality, this re-invigorated performing arts space can meet the local need for performing arts activity.
Diversity is part of the DNA of the Cultural Quarter
Some significant charities are also based in the building for example, Pram Depot supporting single mothers, Collective 306 working with mental health service users, and very well-used after-school provision for young people. Collage Arts has been an active mid-wife and incubator to these and many other projects, providing blended rents to allow for start, flexible payment terms to support cash flow issues and hardship support to artists struggling with unprecedented external factors.
Collage Arts has also specifically sought to work with locally people of all ages, but with two specific focuses; women from BAME backgrounds and young people suffering from economic disadvantage or other forms of discrimination. This is not seen as an add-on – it is seen as part of the DNA of ensuring that Collage Arts work seeks to address the massive issues of under-representation in the creative and cultural sectors. It turns nascent creative talent first into recognised qualifications and second into livelihoods.
Many of these trainees will graduate to become tenants of Collage. It is this approach which has helped bring the Growth Fund investment into the borough last month. It is this approach that will continue to bring creative learning and enterprise opportunities to Wood Green.
Maintaining affordable studio spaces
The argument for keeping affordable studio spaces must form a central plank of the Area Action Plan. This will allow Wood Green to continue to benefit from the interchange between creative practitioners and an inherently creative local community. The arguments for retaining affordable artist’s studios similar to the arguments for the retention of affordable housing. Whilst we all see the fantastic potential for the development of Wood Green, we believe presence of artists should continue to give the area it unique feel and sense of place.
We would hope that through the development of the Area Action Plan, Haringey Council take on board how much investment the Council has made in to the Chocolate Factory building, how much investment Collage Arts has made over the last 23 years and actively seek to consolidate this relationship in the future.
There is a real danger that gentrification of Wood Green will lead to an area devoid of the diversity and socio-economic and social value that is central to the Collage offer. We believe this would a missed opportunity and we have faith in the council leadership’s ability to incorporate affordable studio provision into the long-term vision for the area.
Collage Arts is not a passive landlord it is an active part of the curation of creative and cultural enterprises that enrich the borough. Safeguarding space for artists is part of the story, Collage also has a vital contribution to an eco-system of interconnected activity in Wood Green that has impact locally, nationally and internationally.
We very much look forward to working to with the council to find different ways in which creative artists in the borough can be employed to support the development and implementation of the new Area Action Plan.