Opening up the many artistic studios found within Lambeth to the public, for one weekend each year, sounds like an idea that can only help to promote creativity within the borough. Instead, the artistic led venture has been hijacked by @lambeth_council for its own promotional purposes, leading to a division within the artistic community, not to mention a confused public.
I was looking forward to attending some of the events as part of Lambeth Open at the weekend. The original premise came from a collection of Lambeth artists, with the simple idea of showcasing their work by hosting an open studios weekend. The Lambeth Open name said it all.
But than along came Lambeth Council, ever keen to take the credit for the work and enthusiasm of others, and a rival Lambeth Wide Open scheme was set up. See what they have done there? Adding in the prefix of ‘wide’ isn’t the most artistic use of wordplay that you have ever come across, but then we are dealing with the artisitic talents of local politicians.
Such a comical approach to try and curry the artistic endorsement of the creative minds within the borough, sadly led to a not so amusing outcome. The Director of the rival Lambeth Council endorsed event also happens to be a landlord for some of the studios involved in the original idea. Artists were served eviction notices, unless they put their name behind the rival Lambeth Council sanctioned Lambeth Wide Open event.
But unlike Lambeth Council, the artists within the borough have principles. Twenty-six studios signed up for the independent event. Lambeth Council only managed to
bully gain the creative support of six studios.
And as for the art viewing public in the borough? Well, we were left with a highly confusing situation, with two rival open studio events being staged, both scheduled for the same weekend of the year. If we were living in a different age, then the use of the word ‘loony’ may even warrant a mention with regards to Lambeth Council once more.
Such has been the anger of the Council led attempt to hijack the local artistic community, a motion has been laid down for debate at the Environment and Community Safety Scrutiny Sub-Committee on 26th November, 7pm, at Room 8 of Lambeth Town Hall:
“Why was £4,500.00 of public money spent on Lambeth Wide Open which only duplicated in part an existing, much larger artists-led event, Lambeth Open, which cost the rate payers nothing?”
It’s a fair question, and one that deserves an honest answer from the Council. The New Labour led Lambeth Council seeks to control everything within the borough. When this involves the infrastructure of education, health and housing, then yes, you want your locally elected officials to be democratically accountable. But art is part of the superstructure, a domain that any Council should steer well clear of. I’ve seen photos of my local councillors and believe me, they are far from artistic.
I put my backing behind the art community led Lambeth Open event at the weekend, taking some time to support my local collective of artist at the lovely Stockwell Studios.
Stockwell has a very proud history of artists within our area, and so it was no surprise that Stockwell Studios decided to stick with the original artist led initiative. The Studios are housed in the grounds of the old Annie McCall Maternity Hospital along Jeffreys Road. It’s a grand old building, with corridors and spaces that are just perfect for displaying art.
The artists working within promote the studios as a community art space. Rather than just being a private gallery in which to create personal art, the work carried out is very community focussed, with many local groups invited in to explore their own interpretations of art.
On Saturday afternoon I found line drawings, traditional watercolours and an artist with a fascination for painting chairs. But the prize find for me was the amazing Stockwell Studios Garden.
The large outdoor area has been given an artistic makeover. A pond and a community mural, as well as a grand old tree house, very similar to what I found At the Treehouse Galleries over the summer, all add to a natural feeling that you don’t find around the mean streets of Sunny Stockwell.
I sat and chatted with some of the artists as they explained their work, and what they hoped to achieve from the open weekend. Becoming involved in a political battle with Lambeth Council wasn’t one of these objectives. But then that’s Lambeth Council for you – attempting to politicise and seek gain on every aspect of the lives of local people, even when it involves the most personal and subjective areas such as creating art.