These days, as you probably know, Cultivate in nomadic, you might say homeless, in some ways we kind of like it like that, we like popping up in different places and spaces, we like the excitement of different buildings, different streets, we might one day put down roots again but for now, while we look for that new home, we kind of like the way things are rolling. True, finding spaces, temporary or permanent is getting tougher and tougher what with the plague of property developers and third part money grabbers like the highly destructive Appear Here lot and their ridiculously unrealistic rent hikes on empty shops or gallery spaces. Not here to rant and rave today though, today, as we work up to the next month-long Cultivate Columbia Road takeover and three shows at East London’s Shipton Street Gallery, we;re just taking a moment to looks at some of the places and space we have Cultivated in or at…
Ten places that Cultivate has called home…
1: That condemned Hackney factory warehouse by London Fields – there was a brass plaque on wall telling how the factory had been opened by the then Labour prime minister Jim Callahan at the end of the 70’s, there’s a fancy new build tower on the site now where the like of us can’t afford to even ask how much the rent is. When we did the Play show there back in June 2015 in what a shell of a factory or warehouse still alive with the marks and the scars of whatever had happened in there during the thirty odd years that people worked in the building. We managed to cut through the red tape and get hold of the big empty space for a long weekend just before it all came down, we filled it with installation, performance, painting, with a hint of street art both inside and out, just over 50 artists coming together to make it all happen, a short sharp show and a whole load of artistic energy and cross-pollinating, a whole load of artist-led positivity. Hundreds, probably a couple of thousand came along to the Friday night opening and the throughout the weekend, it felt like something rather special, it was pretty much ignored by most of the art media of course, it came and went rather quickly, probably forgotten by most people now but it did feel like something rather special at the time, still does actually It felt like a proper piece of artistic defiance, artists really coming together and doing it ourselves in a way artists are doing less and less, maybe ir was even some kind of last stand in an East London that wasn’t going to be ours for much longer.
2: Vyner Street – From September 2011and that 22 Hours show until the We’ll Be Back in Five Minutes show in September 2014 on that beautiful corner smack bang in the middle of fifteen or so galleries and art spaces was our rather defiant East London home on the borders of Hackney and Bethnal Green. Not everyone liked us being there, we do remember someone from the rather aloof rather boring Cell Space gallery muttering about “the wrong type of gallery” in an interview, it might have been Gavin Turk doing the muttering actually. We defiantly ran the space, the door ever wide open whatever the weather, shows on every single week of the year without fail, When Emma and I took it on in 2011 we signed the agreement 22 hours before a First Thursday, we put the call out that Wednesday night, a sma;; group of about a dozen or so artists came together to empty out all the old furniture, the bits of machines, the broken beds and together we put on a show/ We opened on September First Thursday in 2011 something like five minutes late for that very first of many shows, we called it “22 Hours” for that was how long we had to make it happen, it felt great/ Vyner Street was wonderful for a couple of years, it had been before we were there, we were lucky to catch it, by 2014 it was in serious decline, the developers were pushing people out, we had two weeks notice when our end came but for a time it was glorious and yes, eve nif we do say so ourselves, we put on some great shows – group shows, solo shows, shows that has people queueing up the street, we connected with locals, with the taxi mechanics, the school kids and the people meeting them, the locals who had so many tales to tell about te area in the 50’s and 60’s, we made some great friends. We showed some excellent art eve nif we d osay so ourselves, we watched artists come and go, future street art names making their first gallery moves, exciting contemporary painters, some who went on, some that should have done, who was that brilliant painter who was far more interested in playing football? Not every show was brilliant, we made mistakes, of course we did, but on the whole I think we could say we got a lot of it right and being right in the middle of Vyner Street on a First Thursday was rather special. We could write a whole book about the Vyner Street period, the other galleries, the things we saw, that naked red man covered in honey, that Riot Grrrl flavoured Yeastie Girls show Emma put on, that My Dog Sighs show that people started lining up for before lunch time, the tales of the people who came in, the people from the other galleries who wouldn’t come in, the ones who did, the street that no one would fight for, for three or so years it was brilliant…
3: Coate Studios – that one-off show at Coate Studios, also on the borders of Hackney and Bethnal Green back in 2017 – a big group show called Interact that we managed to put on during the weekend that Coate was in transition and changing hands, the studios had just closed and it was about to be refurbished and converted to become yet another of those hot desk rent by the day spaces that have sucked up so much of East London. We were (and still are) always on the lookout for spaces to do things, we heard a whisper that the building was going to be empty for just one weekend and we managed to negotiate a deal that allowed us to rent the big space. As always, a group of artists came together, we shared the cost of the rent together and made something happen. Interact was a damn good show, some exciting new artists (new to Cultivate) a real mixture of art and artists, painters, installation, performance, new artists next to familiar Cultivate names – new blood was (and is) always important, so was cross-pollenation and keeping it out of convenient little boxes. People were (and are) always asking what kind of gallery Cultivate is, we never have answered that question.. There was a lot of behind the scenes stress involved in that Interact show, the building owners were hard work, there was compromise involved in terms of having the door open and they did get rather freaked out by some of the performance but we did have Amy Kingsmill in the building alongside Marnie Scarlet and there was a big crowd sitting outside on the street or making use of the Seebright Arms next door, it did kind of draw attention to things, it was rather eventful….
4: Under that Railway Bridge in Hackney – we did things in big old factory warehouses, in formal gallery spaces and sometimes we did things out in the open under railway bridges or car parks. We put on a show one Sunday afternoon under a railway bridge in Hackney, we told people it was going to happen we didn’t say where, we announced that we would announce the “venue” on-line 43 minutes before it “opened”, paintings were hung on the walls under the railway bridge, it happened, it went on for a couple of hours before too much attention brought along officialdom and it all came to an end. We need to do more of that kind of thing
5: The Stinging Netil at Netil Market – the seeds of Cultivate were germinated on a Sunday back in June 2011, back then East London’s Netil Market was a far more friendly place, the local rastas who run the very friendly bike repair space hadn’t been forced out back then, there was a big old Routemaster bus doubling as a library and a welcoming coffee shop, this was way before the gentrification and the fancy food huts replaced the locals and junk stalls and the artists sitting about in the broken old chairs, Hackney was a different place then, the market stalls were different, the people were different, it was an engaging place. We managed to take over the whole of the market for an all day Sunday event (it didn’t open on Sundays, it was a Saturday thing), the Stinging Netil Art Fair lasted all day, we had something like two dozen stalls, we had groups of artists on each one, we had a music stage with an all day programme of bands and performers, we kind of got away with it all without too much trouble, it was a million miles from the unfriendly overpriced gentrified unwelcoming place Netil Market is these days. We had marching bands, Miss Roberts performed, so did Lilies From Mars, we had painters, live art, art collectives, textile designers, punk rock spirit, we had a great day, it really was where Cultivate started. We tried to do something again with Netil Market last year but the place and people are both a million miles away from the almost anarchic community spirit that existed there back then eight years and almost a lifetime ago. Went there last week, it made us feel a little sad, I miss Hackney even though I still live and work here
5: In that brilliant Edwardian dress shop on the Hackney Road – Before the Appear Here stranglehold made most shop spaces inaccessible as well as unaffordable we managed to put on a show in a working Victorian/Edwardian flavoured dress shop full of tailors, dress makers, for a long-weekend we hung art in amongst the fabric and the sewing machines and the wall-hangings, paintings hung throughout the shop and the basement for one excellent weekend.
6: Columbia Road – We rather like that small gallery space on Shipton Street, you find it at the Hackney end of Columbia Road Flower Market and all that that involves on a Sunday, we like that the gallery is part of a 50’s looking housing estate )or is it 30’s?), we love that it still has the feel of the small greengrocers shop it once was, that the people from the estate come in, of course it would be great if it was still a local shop but at least it hasn’t become just another flat. I don’t know how many shows we’ve done in there now? A dozen or so? Great space on a Sunday when the flower market it on but even better on the market-free days when the locals are out and about
7: As part of the Art Car Boot Fair in Brick Lane, on the seafront at Hastings, we;ve been to Margate a couple of times, that time in a car park at the Liverpool Biennial, the Triennial at Folkstone, at the opening of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in East London, this year it was Kings Cross for a second time. I think we were first invited to take part as Cultivate six years ago, Emma and I have introduced artists like Alo, Skeleton Cardboard, Quiet British Accent, Julia Maddison and quite a few more, we love being part of the unique thing that is the Art Car Boot Fair…
8: As part of the Apple Cart festival in a rainstorm at Victoria Park, East London, in fact we’ve done a number of things in and around Victoria Park under the Cultivate banner, the Dog shows with All Dogs Matter were fun, it is important that we don’t just stick to formal art galleries and white walled spaces.
9: A Fete Worse Than Death – Now that was a good one, a celebration of the late Joshua Compston on the 20th anniversary of that legendary East London Hanging Picnic show, a whole street taken over and a whole load of artists and galleries coming together in the summer of 2014 to celebrate the life of a real pioneer
10: Fount, in a railway arch by London Fields where Fount Nursery is – we’ve had two or three shows in the railway arch by London Fields now, the first one was a group show called Reveal that happened in the first week of January 2016, The Fount people invited us, the arch was empty for a week, we put on a show, it went well, we went back two or three times, solo shows, group shows, there’s something good about doing things in London railway arches, London’s primitive cave system (as the ever excellent writer Iain Sinclair described them), there’s something about the rumble of trains overhead, the sense of things that have gone on in the spaces
There’s been other things, other places, the on-line shows are part of what we do of course, those shows at BSMT Space when they were still in that basement by that Dalston crossroads and Ridley Road Market , that time with Deadcuts at Ritter-Zamet gallery in Whitechapel, those Harvist shows in that West London basement that were also part of the start of it (and that one in Kensal Green Cemetery), That Daffodils show in that yard on Mare Street in Hackney, that time in the yard at Resonance FM over in Borough. We like popping up in places, we like Cultivating in different spaces, sometimes it needs to be written down, sometimes we need to remind ourselves (as well as others) of some of those things we could so easily forget. (SW – October 2019)