Bow Arts moves into News International warehouse in heart of East London

By Edward Lowton | 15 June 2015

Bow Arts at former News International base aims to create new artistic community in the heart of East London

A photo of people in suits cutting a ribbon in front of a modern building
Bow Arts' CEO Marcel Baettig alongside Sir Nicholas Serota, Munira Mirza and other VIPs at the official opening of The Rum Factory in London© Ollie Hassop
In the Grade II-listed Pennington Street Studio - the former home of Rupert Murdoch's News International - creative learning and studio providers Bow Arts have created 79 new studios, offering affordable space to 90 artists in Wapping.

Speaking at the launch of the new facility, called The Rum Factory, Tate Director Sir Nicholas Serota congratulated the charity behind the redevelopment and urged the Arts Council, Greater London Authority and developers to work together to realise similar projects in the city centre.

Photo of an industrial building with white partitions
A view from the first floor© Ollie Hassop
“The kind of enterprise that Bow Arts represents is really crucial to the future of the creative arts," he said.

"What’s remarkable about Bow is the way they not only provide space for artists but also place artists in the community.

A five-year lease has been agreed, working in partnership with property developer St George to restore the Grade II-listed building.

Photo of a man in a suit giving a speech with a microphone
Sir Nicholas Serota makes a speech at the opening© Ollie Hassop
The new spaces are particularly important as a growing number of London artists’ studios have closed down due to rising rents and property redevelopment.

Serota also stressed the importance of giving artists the space to interact and form communities. "Artists right in the heart of the city make a difference to the city as a whole," he said. "Artists - especially young artists - need to be in conversation with each other.”

The studios use a distinctive open plan and are provided without doors. Many do not have ceilings.

Photo of a metal window and a brick wall
A view from the window showing the ongoing London Dock development by St George© Edward Lowton
The design aims to keep rental costs down and provide a space which encourages its users to interact.

Charlotte Ponti, working as LeChat Ponti, uses printmaking to create designs which she applies to bags and t-shirts.

She says she "initially felt self-conscious" about working in an open studio but feels that it is a positive step: “It’s good to be challenged - I think it will make me more confident about creating my art and at the end of the day everyone’s doing their own work.”

Photo of bags and pictures on a white wall
A selection of designs by LeChat Ponti© Edward Lowton
Wapping-based artist Steven Guy creates kinetic art, also called automata or kinetic sculpture, working with local schools and Wilton's Music Hall.

Although he plans to install a sliding partition to minimise the noise from his work, he is happy with the studios’ ambiance and was unconcerned by the simple appearance and rough finished concrete floors.

“One of the reasons why I particularly like this studio is that it’s got some pipe work and a huge RSJ supporting the ceiling – it’s visually interesting, it’s red and colourful and it has a slight industrial feel which suits me absolutely,” he added.

Photo of a woman standing in front of a brick wall and a white wall with a photograph
Julia Dennis, a mixed-media fine artist, was impressed by the space which allows "a different perspective" © Ollie Hassop
The studio opening anticipates Bow Open Studios 2015, to be held between June 19 and 20, featuring more than 150 artists and designers with pop-up bars, local street food, a designer-maker market and live music.

This year’s event will be curated by Shahidha Bari, a writer, critic and lecturer in Romanticism at Queen Mary University, London.

Artists looking for workspace can apply online at bowarts.org/studios/apply-studio.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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