Group discussion on art and gentrification in the Old Tidemill Garden, Reginald Road. Photo by Ruth Gilburt.

Deptford Art & Gentrification Walk (2018)

Deptford Art & Gentrification Walk

Saturday, 26 May 2018, 12:00 -19:00
Deptford Railway Station, Deptford High Street, London SE8 3NU
Many thanks to Paul Clayton for his assistance

[ARTCRAWL]#14 DeptfordA day of discussions on art and gentrification, with a tour of galleries, studios, community spaces and landmarks along the streets, waterways, green spaces and new developments in Deptford. We will meet artists, curators and activists to explore how they are resisting or overcoming the displacement of communities and the shrinking of public and creative spaces.

[ARTCRAWL]#14-Deptford-map
Click to download the map.

Come along and share your experiences, meet us at 12noon inside Deptford Rail Station or join us along the way. Scroll down for the itinerary and a map of the route. Maps will be available on the day in case you wonder off and want to meet us later on.

I came to London, I was very lucky, at a time when you could still squat in central London and survive here and have enough space to have a studio to work. But now, young artists coming to London – where would they even start? The rents are unbelievable. It’s frightening. (Grayson Perry)

Gentrification concerns artists because their living and work spaces as well as their exhibition, event and social spaces are under threat by redevelopment and rising property prices. Artists are constantly on the move as they become displaced from one up-and-coming area to the next. But they also bear the brunt of criticism, as harbingers of gentrification. In his 2013 BBC Reith Lectures artist Grayson Perry announced that artists are the “shock troops of gentrification”. On closer inspection however, this claim holds little water. A recent study shows that “arts industries generally do not play a significant role in gentrification and displacement” because art organisations tend to gravitate towards areas with pre-existing creative industries in already gentrified areas.

The Marxist geographer Neil Smith argues that gentrification is a calculated strategy in capital’s search for investment opportunities on the “frontier” between expensive neighbourhoods and the “disinvested slums… where opportunity is higher”. Developers take the long view, waiting for the right conditions to exploit the “rent gap”, or the difference between the current value of a property and its potential value through redevelopment. Gentrification takes place when the rent gap can yield maximum profit. Although Smith cites examples of artists being used as “vehicles” or “fronts” for gentrification and displacement, especially in Manhattan where “gentrification and art came hand in hand”, he argues that ultimately it is capital and not culture that drives the process.

In February 2018, Rózsa Farkas, founding director of Arcadia Missa announced that she is moving her gallery from Peckham to Soho in an act of resistance against the gentrification of the area where she grew up, adding “I’d like to encourage everyone to resist”. Short of moving away, how can artists resist the redevelopment of community, social, cultural and creative spaces that are crucial to their activities? Considering the involvement of artists and art spaces with processes of gentrification, how can artists navigate the terrain of available opportunities and what alternatives are there?

ITINERARY
12:00 Deptford Train Station Deptford High Street, London SE8 3NU

The meeting point is inside Deptford Rail Station. Bring a packed lunch for a picnic at the Old Tidemill Garden or get your lunch from the high street. There are excellent choices within close proximity to the station, including vegan curry from Hullabaloo, summer rolls from Viet Rest, sushi from M&D Japanese Takeaway, jollof rice from Tomi’s Kitchen , bagels from the Waiting Room or fish patties and summer fruit from the Jamaican food stalls on Douglas Way.

12:15 Deptford Market & The Albany Douglas Way, London SE8 4AG

Visit the Albany and Deptford Market on our way to the Old Tidemill Garden for a picnic lunch.

13:00 Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden Reginald Road, London SE8 4RS

Meet and talk with artists, activists and local residents about the campaign to rescue the Tidemill Garden from impending demolition, including artist Jacqueline Utley from the Save Achilles Area campaign, an artist from Crosswhatfields and Eponine and Nico who will tells us more about the garden and how to get involved.

13:30 Undercurrents Birds Nest, 32 Deptford Church Street, London SE8 4RZ

View the current exhibition and talk with artist and curator Karen Barnes who will take a group photo of us with Box on Wheels.

14:00 Art in Perpetuity Trust Harold Wharf, 6 Creekside, London SE8 4SA

View the exhibition m2(at)15 celebrating 15 years of m2 Gallery and talk with Ken Taylor and Ken Wilder. Join a tour of APT painting and sculpture studios with director Liz May and member artists.

15:30 Minesweeper Collective Ha’penny Hatch, Deptford Creek

Meet Camden McDonald to talk about the Minesweeper Collective, its history and future after the demise of the Minesweeper which hosted local art and community events for 14 years, and hear about new developments along the Creek.

16:30 St. Nicholas / Paynes Wharf

Heading north towards the river we will visit the site of the Royal Dockyard, passing by the church of St. Nicholas, Paynes’ Wharf, Master Shipwright’s Place and the Dog & Bell.

17:00 Enclave, 50 Resolution Way, Deptford SE8 4AL (for GPS use SE8 4NT)
18:00 Deptford Cinema 39 Deptford Broadway, London SE8 4PQ

Talk to members about community cinema, the award-winning programme, self-organisation and affordable housing. The tour coincides with Ken Russell Day screening Gothic (1986) and Altered States (1980) with speakers Stephen Volk and Dr Matt Melia, from 1pm-10pm.

18:30 Deptford X 9 Brookmill Road, London SE8 4HL

Visit Deptford X’s new headquarters and speak to Lucy Cowling about the grass-roots visual arts festival that takes place in public spaces throughout Deptford every year

19:00 Birds Nest 32 Deptford Church Street, London SE8 4RZ

We will end the tour by returning to the Bird’s Nest to see our group photo that Karen Barnes took with her mobile camera obscura early on in the afternoon.

Deptford Art & Gentrification Walk Pt. 2

Saturday, 29 September 2018, 13:00 -18:00
Deptford Railway Station, Deptford High Street, London SE8 3NU
Co-curated with Paul Clayton. Many thanks to D Vora for her assistance
Part of Deptford X (21-30 Sep) and Deptford Aint Avvinit (29-30 Sep)

[ARTCRAWL]#15 DeptfordHot on the heels of the Deptford Art & Gentrification Walk in May 2018 we will revisit the people, places, problems, questions and expand on the outcomes of that sweltering day.

Join us for an afternoon of discussions and encounters on the relationship between art and the process of gentrification that is currently sweeping through Deptford. We will visit community spaces, galleries, studios and landmarks on a walk along the streets, waterways, green spaces and new developments. We will meet local residents, artists, curators and activists to hear about their experiences and how they are resisting or overcoming the displacement of communities and the shrinking of public and creative spaces.

Do artists have a measure of responsibility in the process of gentrification and what can they do to resist the successive waves of change that inevitably lead to their own displacement? How can local residents regain some control over the rapid changes in their environment and the impact on their lives?

[ARTCRAWL]#15 Deptford MAP
Click to download the map.

We will address the controversial developments currently proposed or underway in Deptford and the responsibility artists have within the process of gentrification. How can artists resist the redevelopment of community, social, cultural and creative spaces that are crucial to their activities? How can artists evaluate the available opportunities and what alternatives are there?

Come along to share your own stories and contribute to the discussion. Meet us at 1pm inside Deptford Rail Station or join us along the way. For more information, the itinerary and a map of the route please visit the website. Maps will be available on the day in case you wonder off and want to meet us later on.

ITINERARY
13:00 Deptford Train Station Deptford High Street, London SE8 3NU

The meeting point is inside Deptford Railway Station.

13:15 Deptford Market & The Albany Douglas Way, London SE8 4AG

Visit the Albany and walk through Deptford Market. If you’d like to get some lunch there are excellent choices within close proximity to the station, including summer rolls from Viet Rest, sushi from M&D Japanese Takeaway, jollof rice from Tomi’s Kitchen , bagels from the Waiting Room or fish patties and summer fruit from the Jamaican food stalls on Douglas Way.

13:30 Deptford Cinema 39 Deptford Broadway, London SE8 4PQ

We will have a chat with members of Deptford Cinema about its award-winning programme, community cinema, self-organisation and affordable housing.

14:00 Open Forum Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden Reginald Road, London SE8 4RS

We will begin with a quick tour of the garden and return to the amphitheater for a discussion on the relationship between art and the process of gentrification currently underway in Deptford. We will hear about the Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign and the current occupation to protect the Tidemill Garden from impending demolition and how to get involved. We will hear from local residents, artists, curators and activists about how they experience the impact of gentrification and how they are resisting displacement and the shrinking of public and creative spaces. Come along to share your own perspective on the changes that are currently sweeping through Deptford. We will end the visit with some time to explore the garden and the exhibition Deptford Aint Avvinit.

15:30 1 Creekside / Goldsmiths MFA Studios, Church Street, London SE8 4RZ

We will visit the site at 1 Creekside and then double back to Goldsmiths MFA Studios to view Sue Lawes‘ work and have a chat with the artist about the proposed development at 1 Creekside.

16:00 Art Hub Gallery & Studios 5-9 Creekside, London SE8 4SA

We will view the exhibition On Time: Deptford X (PT II) and have a chat with artist Joan Molloy. Then go on a tour of Art Hub Studios with Adrian Morris-Thomas.

16:30 Paynes Wharf / House of Phoenix

Heading north towards the river we will view remains of the Royal Dockyard, passing by the church of St. Nicholas, the site of the former Deptford Power Station, Paynes Wharf, Master Shipwright’s Palace and Twinkle Park.

17:00 Gossamer Fog 186a Deptford High Street, London SE8 3PR

Visit the exhibition The Metallurgical Ouroboros and have a chat with director and artist Samuel Capps.

17:30 Mr. Steven Pippin / Olivia Guigue 158 Deptford High Street, London SE8 3PQ

This is a double studio visit in the former E. Barclay FSMC FACLP Optician on the high street. Mr. Pippin will present one of his major works titled Ω= 1, a machine that makes a pencil stand perfectly still on its tip. Olivia Guigue will introduce us to her project Tamesiology. A study of the geology of the Thames’ foreshore where, among native elements, synthetic and imported materials are becoming part of the ground. A collection of «Pseudo-Minerals» gathers plastic samples selected upon aesthetic criteria for their mimicry to minerals and rocks, while «Analogies» matches natural and man-made materials for their casual resemblance. These mimesis bring us to question the dichotomy natural/artificial by observing the dynamic of anthropic materials in nature, approaching the topic of environment from a different point of view: the one of matter.

18:00 Dog & Bell 116 Prince St, London SE8 3JD

In the first walk we held in May 2018, we kicked-off the discussion with an open forum in the Old Tidemill Wildlife Garden about its history, its impending demolition and the campaign to save it. We discussed the measure of responsibility that artists have in the process of gentrification and what alternatives there are to partnering with developers in pursuit of affordable space. To listen to a recording of the discussion and/or read a summary of the discussion please follow this link.

The Old Tidemill Garden was Deptford’s best kept secret, a wildlife oasis with more than 70 mature trees in the middle of Deptford, where the level of air pollution is six times higher than the limit recommended by the WHO. By handing the garden to property guardians, Lewisham Council withheld this public resource from the community. But now the secret it out! The Save Reginald Save Tidemill campaign is trying to raise awareness of the garden’s existence and encourage its use by members of the community in an effort to save it from demolition.

Contribution from Donal Ruane

The article No Man’s land by Eula Biss is a fascinating non-linear essay exploring the issue of gentrification in America. I offer it here as one possible way of looking at the thorny subject of gentrification. In the essay, Biss attempts to make sense of gentrification and our collective fear of those who are unlike us, in this case it is the predominantly poor blacks that tend to inhabit the inner city neighbourhoods that have been gentrified in America. If we substitute the working classes for blacks in the American model we could pretty much use this essay to look at gentrification in London (in the UK it is less about race exclusively and more about class in general).

In addition to Bliss’s own experiences with gentrification, she explores the concept in a more academic way—using research about violent crimes, fear, and race—but she begins with Little House on the Prairie. Yes, in an essay about gentrification, she begins with pioneers. She writes of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s childhood on the frontier, and of her own fascination with the book as a child. Then she writes:

The word pioneer betrays a disturbing willingness to repeat the worst mistake of the pioneers of the American West—the mistake of considering an inhabited place uninhabited. To imagine oneself as a pioneer in a place as densely populated, as Chicago is either to deny the existence of your neighbours or to cast them as natives who must be displaced. Either way, it is a hostile fantasy … this is our inheritance, those of us who imagine ourselves as pioneers.

In the original event Sophia organised in Deptford, which is now available online I used a similar analogy of the myth of the American West as a useful prism through which the process of gentrification could be viewed. While my model tends to concentrate more on the different stages of the colonization and commodification of working class neighbourhoods by developers … using the wild west analogy it starts with the mountain men, who are followed by the cattle barons, the pioneers, the railroads, the banks and developers etc. (Serge Leone’s Marxist western Once Upon a Time in the West is worth looking at to understand this idea). Biss is more concerned with how the pioneers view, interact with and eventually displace the indigenous population before they too are displaced. I hope this is food for thought.

Donal Ruane, 28 September 2018