A film and community art space in Bethnal Green at risk of losing its home celebrated a ‘huge victory’ after Tower Hamlets Council upheld its legal status as an Asset of Community Value (ACV).
No.w.here, an artist-run space founded in 2004 that runs workshops, discussion groups, screenings and exhibitions, moved to secure ACV status last September after lease negotiations for its home at 316–318 Bethnal Green Road stalled.
Two appeals to Tower Hamlets Council to overturn the ACV status subsequently failed, with the latest announced on 4 December.
The ACV status means that No.w.here, which houses film-making equipment unavailable anywhere else in the UK, now has the opportunity to buy the building should the landlord proceed with its plans to sell.
And if No.w.here does request to make a bid, the landlord must wait until the end of a six month ‘moratorium period’.
Karen Mirza, who founded No.w.here with fellow artist Brad Butler, said that she respects the landlord’s right to sell the building but that “you can’t just throw someone out of a building as and when you choose to profit from it”.
However, Mirza added: “The ruling only gives the right to be considered as one of the bids, it doesn’t give us much power and it doesn’t give us much time to raise capital to make a bid.
“But what it does do is make the buyer recognise that we actually exist, which was not happening before because the landlord was trying to sell with vacant possession.”
James Holcombe is a filmmaker and head of lab and education at No.w.here. He showed me some of the bespoke equipment at No.w.here, including hulking machines for processing film by hand.
“There are some countries, such as Spain, where this kind of equipment doesn’t exist anymore and there are no spaces like this,” he said.
“People fly over for a couple of days, use the equipment and fly back with a suitcase full of film. If you’re interested in chemical film this is your space, but it’s more than just film, it’s a community project, as we have language classes, events and symposia.”
According to Mirza the type of heavy, industrial equipment used at No.w.here is ideally suited to their current warehouse premises, and moving would undo more than ten years’ work of establishing a community of artists.
“We house industrial technology that goes back to the mid to late Sixties, and some of our machines weigh ten tonnes.
“The type of industrial spaces that are there for this type of resource have become fewer and fewer as they’ve been turned in to residential.
“We’re fighting not only for own rights but for the kinds of spaces that should exist within city centres. Urban spaces shouldn’t just about domestic lifestyles.”
A petition on Change.org, which has gathered more than 1,000 signatories, seeks to lobby the landlord into renewing the lease of the artist-run space, which is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation.