Five years on from those naked red honey-covered men, poking around East London and what’s left of First Thursday…

Last Thursday, September First Thursday was five years on from the birth of Cultivate, we didn’t make a big noise about it, we’re too busy getting on with the next shows and events, but here’s a piece I wrote for the Organ page…

Vyner Street, Sept 2011

Vyner Street, Sept 2011

Five years on from that infamous September First Thursday with the naked honey covered red men, the messy punk band in the back of a truck, the opening of Cultivate in a space that 24 hours before had been a storage room for a junk shop and full of old beds and all kinds of diabolical rubbish (we picked up the keys in the afternoon, cleared it out and three hours later we had a First Thursday exhibition open and a group show hung on the walls of a new gallery. We’d put the word out and invited artists the night before, people turned up with art and drills, rolled up their sleeves and it all came together), it wasn’t the greatest art show ever, of course it wasn’t, but it was so exciting to just make it happen and to be part of something that was so alive, to be open and engaging and have hundreds (thousands?) of people coming in. The whole street was alive that night (and for the next two or three brilliantly busy years of First Thursdays until the developers started to really bite). A street alive with people, art, laughter, engagement, galleries and art spaces up and down Vyner Street – fifteen or twenty or so galleries, spaces and such on that first night, people traveling from miles around to be part of it, First Thursday and the East End was alive, not just Vyner Street, all over the East End – Redchurch Street, along the Hackney Road, up at Whitechapel, spaces here and there, spaces seemingly everywhere, just take a walk and find a show, no need for a map or an app, oh look there’s another. There really was a whole load of energy, attitude and exciting art, where did it all go?

Cultivate, Vyner Street...

Cultivate, Vyner Street…

Fast forward five years and oh how things have declined, there’s still art shows here and there in East London, it is still worth exploring, sometimes the art is exciting, but now the openings and events exist in (mostly uninviting) isolation. First Thursday, if it does actually still exist in terms of anything other that an unenthusiastic website, is little more than a show here, a show somewhere over there twenty minutes away and the sad truth is the first Thursday evening of the month is pretty much just like any other Thursday night. Art shows still happen but they happen in isolation now and First Thursday is no more significant that the second, third of fourth Thursday of the month, shows are mostly hidden in unclear venues, art is mostly aloof and unwelcoming, exhibitions hidden behind closed doors and meaningless artschool-induced show statements.

arty_bollocksWe’re desperate for some art on this First Thursday of September, the start of Autumn, the start of the supposed art season, we really want art to engage with us tonight, we’re actively out there trying to find it. The official First Thursday website isn’t promising that much, nothing really jumps out and as usual several of the shows we know to be happening aren’t listened (getting past official apathy and getting your show listed officially was always at best very very frustrating),

The exploring starts at New Art Projects, Fred Mann’s gallery just behind Broadway Market down by…. For the rest of the piece, our adventures around East London last Thursday and more head over to Cultivate’s sister blog Organ for the full nine yards, a bag load of on the rest of the article and the galleries we got to



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