After lying vacant for many years, the old fire station buildings located just off the Broadway in Stratford will be transformed into studio space for artists and creatives. London’s Creative Land Trust has been awarded a long term lease to convert the site, and a funding award of up to £250,000 from Newham Council’s Active Spaces programme.
The old fire station (named Alice Billings House in the 1980s after a local Victorian Sanitary Inspector) was built 1905-6 to provide accommodation for firemen of the West Ham Fire Brigade. The large site includes two brick built blocks of firemen’s accommodation, with a courtyard in between. The north block incorporates a tower for rescue practice and drying fire hoses. The fire station closed in 1964 and the listed north block was added to Historic England’s At Risk Register in 2019.
The Architectural Heritage Fund awarded London’s Creative Land Trust a Project Viability Grant in March 2021 to develop their vision to bring the site into use as workspace for a community of artists, makers and designers. The grant enabled them to work with architects and heritage consultants Purcell to undertake a condition survey and develop and cost proposed plans. Creative Land Trust was set up in 2019 with launch support from the Mayor of London, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Arts Council England and Outset Contemporary Art Fund to provide long term and affordable space for artists and creatives.
Following a competitive bidding process, the Trust has now been awarded a contract and Newham Council Active Spaces grant towards converting the building into 30 studios; to be let at affordable rents to creatives in the visual, performance and digital arts, designers and craftspeople. In addition, there will be teaching areas and a community café. When open, the building will also host exhibitions and events, residencies and wellbeing sessions.
Active Spaces was set up by Newham Council’s Regeneration Team in February 2021. It’s a pilot programme which grants seed funding for the refurbishment of vacant buildings in Stratford and neighbouring areas by organisations which have proven that they are aligned with the Council’s community wealth building principles.
The Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz, said: “A dynamic cultural offer is going to play a huge role in Newham’s recovery from the pandemic. The reinvention of Alice Billings House as a cultural hub is symbolic of the exciting artistic future which the borough can look forward to…It’s been an extremely challenging time for the arts and creative industries, so I’m delighted that our innovative Active Spaces programme is helping to breathe new life into the sector here in Newham. This investment, alongside our work on the development of high streets which deliver essentials for health and happy communities shows our Towards a Better Newham Covid-19 recovery strategy in action.”
Catherine Webster and Alexandra Notay, Co-chairs of Creative Land Trust said: “We are delighted that the Creative Land Trust can play such a major role in the reinvention of this beautiful, Grade II listed building, bringing 30 more affordable studios under the Creative Land Trust’s stewardship to Newham, an exciting and blossoming borough for the arts. It is also further proof that long term studio provision and cultural activation can be achieved not only in new build spaces, as per our recent acquisition from Telford Homes in Hackney Wick, but also in historical buildings.”
Gavin Richards, Programme Manager, Architectural Heritage Fund said:
“Artists and other creatives have so often been the saviours of otherwise unloved and overlooked historic buildings. The Creative Land Trust’s plans will be an excellent fit for Alice Billings House, which is on the ‘Heritage at Risk’ register. The Architectural Heritage Fund was able to provide seed funding through our Transforming Places through Heritage programme, which aims to bring life back to historic buildings on high streets and town centres. Our grant enabled the Trust to test out the viability of its proposals so it is wonderful that this has led to Newham Council investing in the project following a highly competitive bidding round.”
1) The Architectural Heritage Fund is a registered charity, working since 1976 to promote the conservation and sustainable re-use of historic buildings for the benefit of communities across the UK, particularly in economically disadvantaged areas. We are the only specialist heritage social investor in the UK. We provide advice, development grants and loans.
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