Creative Places: DIY Space for London

By Benjamin-Harry Gladwin

Alice Strick runs ‘Arts Sisterhood UK’, where people who identify as female or non-binary can partake in DIY art therapy for the low donation price of £3 per session. “This is all I do now,” Alice says “before I taught art to children while I was going through therapy and I thought I’d amalgamate features of the two.” She attributes her success to DIY Space for London, who helped her promote her courses and gave her space to do it. now groups and universities all over the country are hiring her to do courses with their patrons. When she realised that she could quit her day job she remained loyal to the venue, “they helped me pursue what gave me joy- I want other people to have the same opportunities that I have.”

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With funding at an all time low since the millennium and figures suggesting that Brexit could strangle the arts in a devastating way, creative industries are having to become cautious in the way that they invest. This means that the opportunities for young and innovative people to break through into the scene are becoming scarce and even more competitive. In response to this new attitude, creative people have started setting up more and more of their own spaces to allow each other to experiment and exhibit their new radical ideas.

DIY Space for London is tucked away in Peckham in between an industrial estate and a set of tower blocks. You have to seek the venue out- but when you get here there is a glorious mix of creative people pursuing their passions part time and professionally. Who owns it? No one, the space which opened in 2015, is organised by volunteers in the community in an attempt to bring life to a neglected part of the south east London suburb. Profit is not the goal of the venue, meaning that all money they collect, from hiring the venue to rental of a table at their indoor markets (which start at £10), goes into keeping the space open for the months and years to come- in exchange creatives get exposure.

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Through markets, gigs, and venue hire, the space allows people from any background to try and grow their ideas and talents without taking a massive amount of financial burden. This allows communities to be built, with partnerships of creative people who wouldn’t have been able to meet otherwise. You will find jewellery makers, potters, artists, and even zine makers.

Subject Magazine, a youth oriented arts zine started by Ashley Carter, are regulars at these market style events. “We sell our zines for £5 each so it does cost us initially,” says Ashley “but we’re a new publication which relies on submissions; people need to be aware of us and put a face to us beyond our social media presence.” Ashley has also volunteered as a staff member in order to keep the space open and available to everyone, he doesn’t liken it to real work though, the community of creative people make it a welcoming place to participate.

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The venue seems to provide a place where people who previously had nothing can create their own spaces. Grace Crayniss and Emily Briselden-Waters are third year students at the Royal College of Art, when they arrived there wasn’t even an inkling of a feminist society, so they decided to make one. “We made a magazine called Syrup to go with it,” Grace says, “women were under represented in our uni’, the spaces around it and in the art platforms too – so we made our own.” This is representative of how the space compiles both passion projects and budding creative businesses in the making. Emily does note that “the space is massively underfunded and it might shut down if there isn’t more money put into it.”

This seems to be a running theme with these spaces; making things free, affordable, and accessible to everyone costs money, but if the people who use them are short on funds or just starting out it just isn’t there. DIY space for London may be ephemeral and become a distant memory in a few months, but what it provides for now is very special and could be the perfect place to start a venture.

Photos by Benjamin-Harry Gladwin

 

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