This time last year, Gnome House on Blackhorse Lane was a derelict and crumbling former factory. Since then it’s been transformed thanks to a partnership between local residents and building developers MacDonald Egan. Now Gnome House has been re-opened as a community space with a cafe, meeting room and a large multi-use space ideal for exhibitions, performances and workshops.
The Gnome House launch event on May 2nd was attended by almost 1000 people. There was food, drink, music, performances and a bouncy castle. “It was an amazing and energising day,” explains Anna Alcock, one of Gnome House’s four volunteer directors, “a tidal-wave of people arrived and created a wonderful atmosphere.”
Now things at Gnome House have settled into a new weekly routine. Numerous local groups and businesses have begun hiring the space for a wide range of different activities. As Chantelle Michaux, another volunteer Director explains, “Gnome House has rental rates for both businesses and community groups ensuring the space is accessible for all. Since we’ve opened Gnome House has hosted dance workshops for local children, a photography exhibition and a spoken-word performance by 160 young people. Already the quality and diversity of the creative activities that have taken place in Gnome House has been extraordinary.”
Supporting and enhancing Gnome House’s creative endeavours is flagship tenant Inky Cuttlefish Printmaking Studios run by Anna Alcock. Inky has been a lynchpin of the E17 art scene for many years and has a track record of outreach, community engagement and working with people with disabilities. Anna curated the ‘Sunshine Bright’ exhibition for E17 Art Trail which was seen by hundreds of people each weekend. “The high ceilings meant we could show very large pieces of work,” explained exhibiting artist Della Rees. “There is a state-of-the-art exhibition hanging system and I’m really excited to see how other artists will use the space in the future.”
The next step for Gnome House will be opening the cafe which is expected in late summer. “We’re hoping this will be run by a local start-up venture,” explains volunteer Director Martin Nash. “This fits with the Gnome House ethos of supporting local people and local businesses.”
In the coming months Gnome House will be hosting events during the Stow Festival (a music event) in September and there are plans for a beer festival before the end of the year. But throughout each week there are a growing number of community groups and businesses using the building for meetings, rehearsals and exhibitions.
“After all the planning and building,” continues Martin, “Gnome House is now up and running, and hosting the life-enhancing creative activities we always hoped it would.”
By Mark Burton
To find out more or to hire space in Gnome House: www.gnomehouse.org.uk [email protected]