Paint Your London, the month-long street art festival run by Wood Street Walls to raise awareness of the need for affordable artists studios, is well underway.
According to the Mayor of London’s 2014 Artist Workspace Study London is set to lose 3,500 creative workspaces by 2020, that equates to a third of the city’s creative space. This is largely down to a need to address the city’s housing crisis, rising rents and redevelopment of areas such as Hackney Wick, which were once seen as run down and unappealing areas.
The Waltham Cat interrupted some of the artists while they were working to find out more.
Artist and Walthamstow resident Mark McClure was painting striking pink and grey shapes on the pharmacy opposite the Bell pub on the junction of Forest Road and Chingford Road.
“It’s massively difficult for artists to find somewhere affordable,” he says. “I need to upsize but I can’t afford to do so. I thought about moving out of London myself, but that creates other difficulties. I’d need a car, and it’s expensive to travel to come back into London.
“Gentrification is to be expected but it narrows the possibility of a wider range of people living here. It makes you wonder who will be living here in the future.”
On West Avenue Road, graphic designer turned street artist Lilly Lou was decorating the bridge with fiery graphics.
“I’ve been here three and a half days. It wouldn’t have taken so long, but someone stole my paints yesterday,” she says.
“I just wanted to paint something people could relate to. I hope people like it.”
Lilly used to live in Hackney, but got priced out when the landlord decided to up the rents. Many of the artists she knows have had similar problems, or have no space at all in which to work.
Remi Rough is a street artist who resides in Peckham. He was painting an abstract at 145 Wood Street.
“The problem is, places like Peckham, Walthamstow and Shoreditch were safe havens for artists because of the low rent and the ability to set things up at grassroots level,” says Remi.
But then, property developers realise they can make money there, and rental prices start to rise astronomically.
“I’m not averse to people making money. Capitalism has its place. But, the arts have had enough cuts and it’s hard enough being an artist as it is, but I feel our illustrious government should try and make life just that little but easier.
“On a global scale, the art market is a massive industry, and if you’re not getting in at the base level with people coming from college, then you’re not going to have the Damien Hirsts or Tracey Emins, because nobody can afford to rent anywhere, or afford to create any art.”
Wood Street Walls founder Mark Clack said: “The perception is that street art can be seen to be connected to waves of gentrification in areas that have long gone under the radar. I think if people look harder, where others may use urban art as a purely commercial tool to generate revenue for large corporates to sell products, we are using it to promote how artists and creatives of all types can make an area unique.
“Our project is about creating affordable artist workspace which is sustainable when rates start to rise to protect the working environments of creatives that get pushed out, after they make an area desirable, and provides a service to the community by hosting free periodic workshops”.
A map and schedule of the festival can be found here.