Redevelopment plans will leave Leytonstone artists without a studio, reports Judith Burnett
Thirty Leytonstone artists are set to be evicted from their studios to make way for a redevelopment scheme – during Waltham Forest’s year as London Borough of Culture.
The studios, based at Norlington Road Industrial Estate, are home to a wide range of creative people and organisations, including fine artist Willie Nash and the award-winning October! Collective.
Artists found out by accident that their landlord was planning to kick them out. Willie told the Echo: “The first I heard of it was when the council phoned up in January, wanting to arrange for some surveyors to call. They were surprised at my reaction, and apologetic, because they thought I knew about it.”
When Willie contacted the landlords, JMB Estates, “they said ‘you have to be out in November’ – it was blasé, as if they were coming round to paint the door”.
The council purchased part of the industrial estate in 2016 to support the expansion of the adjacent Norlington School for Boys, but JMB holds the lease on the affected studios up until November.
Councillor Simon Miller, cabinet member for economic growth and high streets, said: “JMB Estates is responsible for communication with the current tenants in these units.
“We are keen to support culture on every corner, especially during our year as London Borough of Culture. To help keep artists working in Waltham Forest we have re-purposed a number of our buildings to provide studios, including Central Parade and Wood Street Studios in Walthamstow, Switchboard Studios in Blackhorse Lane, and Market Parade in Bakers Arms.
“Our business and investment team has been in touch with the artists to discuss how we can help them to relocate and carry on their valuable work in Waltham Forest.””
The council has also confirmed that a private developer was interested in buying up the remaining studios on the industrial estate, as part of the area’s wider redevelopment.
Willie said: “There is an extreme shortage of affordable studio space in the borough, some accommodation is just too expensive, and we are being forced to look outside. We would like to stay in our local area.”
Award-winning visual artist Aleksandra Karpowicz said the October! Collective had met and formed in Leytonstone and they consider the area their home. She told the Echo: “We are on our way to Venice as the flagship act to launch the new Giudecca Art District. It is a turning point in our careers. But now we are worrying about where we will go.”
Isabella Steinsdotter, another artist with the group, is also concerned. She said: “East London is changing fast. People need somewhere to live but if other kinds of spaces are not provided artists will be pushed out.”
JMB Estates did not respond to requests for comment.