home sweet home


The Victorian building in which I have lived for the past 4 years was a textile factory before it was converted into living units. The individual flats, of which there are around 60, are called "live/work units" - and as well as being homes they are also used as a base from which to run a business. A great deal of my neighbours are artists, designers, photographers, musicians or actors and use their units as studios, offices or rehearsal spaces as well as living spaces. The spaces are perfect for creative types, with their exposed brick walls, metal girders, huge industrial windows and double height ceilings...


We have a whole little creative community in our building, but it has taken me a good while to actually get involved. I used to live in a flat on the third floor, and I barely knew my neighbours. I could hear the ones above me (you don't want to know) and one guy a few doors down when he played the Doctor Who theme very loudly on his synthesizers every Sunday morning, but other than that it was nothing but a little nod to people as we passed in the corridor. I now live on the second floor (in a flat that spans two levels no less) and really feel like part of the community: I go for breakfast sometimes with my immediate neighbour, am friendly with the guys living in the unit opposite him and chat with the girls who live down the end of the corridor whenever I see them. It's a completely different atmosphere on this side of the building - when someone new moves in we visit them with biscuits. That would never have happened in my old corridor.

A couple of nights ago we had a little community breakthrough - a meeting had been arranged between some members of our building and our ward councillor in order to discuss some issues we had about our local area. We trooped up to the third floor, to our designated meeting unit, where we were warmly welcomed with cups of tea and coffee, masses of biscuits (some homemade) and a very pretty little black cat.


There were about 12 of us representing the building and two chaps from the council. Our main point of focus was the proposed rejuvenation of the local area. Along our road there are lots of disused and neglected factory buildings, which are currently being used (without planning permission and despite breaking safety regulations) as (kind-of) places of worship. The landlord of the properties has recently gone bust and we discovered that the buildings are now the property of the Irish Government, bizarrely. The 13 "churches" apparently have temporary contracts of some sort, though these are unlikely to be renewed. When they have left a developer needs to be found who can purchase the enormous lot. If only I had that kind of money!

At present the neighbourhood is not terribly agreeable - there is often rubbish everywhere, problems with fly-tipping, a high crime rate, drugs, gangs and prostitution. People don't take pride in their properties, the surrounding buildings, the streets or the local businesses. While we do have problems, the location is actually very good - less than 10 minutes walk from the nearest tube station, close to lots of bus routes (one of which stops right outside my favourite art supplies shop, woo!) and also near lots of local independent shops and supermarkets. For creative types who work from (or have ambitions to work from) home, everything we need is right outside our door, and more besides.

However, for the people in the building who receive visits from clients or prospective customers, the necessary route taken to get here cannot give a good impression: on their way they would most likely see overflowing bins, decrepit buildings and smashed-in windows. I know that if I was attending a viewing or a meeting in an area like ours, having not been there before, I would certainly be a little uncomfortable making my way to the studios. And what kind of impression would you get of the people who were based in the building after that journey? In reality, our building is calm, easy-going, bright and harmonious, and is like a little haven among the decaying blocks, but by the time you'd reached it, after seeing everything surrounding it, I don't know if I would feel particularly relaxed working in such a rough area... Saying that, a great deal of people may feel that it was gritty and somewhat adventurous to live somewhere so spirited and that it is, in fact, the perfect area for an artists collective! So much to think about, so many observations to be made about society and culture, so many interesting sights, smells and experiences: perfect!


The council's plans for the area include more housing, shops, and most excitingly, the possibility of more studio/art spaces. It would be such a boost to the local area if more artists were attracted here, not only would the area financially benefit, but culturally too. Creative types would bring their own customers to the area, help it develop into somewhere wonderful to live, make the entire area thrive, and would hopefully make people take pride in their neighbourhood. If you think how similar developments have helped areas like Hackney and Dalston, it becomes immediately obvious that this is the best way forward for our little corner of London.

I can't wait to see what plans the council comes up with over the new few months - it's a very exciting time!

10 hellos:

Claire said...

Exciting indeed! I'd love to live in a building like yours.

Cxx

Vixie said...

Plus our councillor is really nice and he seems really enthusiastic about the whole project, which is awesome :)

Liv Kit @ Simply Sunshine and Daisys said...

Love it! The way it sounds is amazing! I love the studio. I sent an email.. Did you get it?

fingersandtoes said...

I did wonder about all of those weird church-like places...

Vixie said...

Hey Liv, yeah I did - wanna do a souvenir swap? Maybe I'll do a post about it....

None of them are "proper" churches - they're bizarre healing/miracle type places and they often have very, very loud 24 hour-long services!

Liv Kit @ Simply Sunshine and Daisys said...

I would love to! ... I was in London once and it rained so much we did all kinds of sight seeing yet we were not able to do a lot of souvenir shopping :( it made me sad! email me with some deets simplysunshineanddaisys.livkit@gmail.com

Siobhan said...

That sounds really exciting. I think you do get used to the area, but it can be quite intimidating - also am glad you know your neighbours - that is really lovely.

Vixie said...

Hopefully when we get to know each other a bit better we can all hold an exhibition or something together - that would really be awesome!

Murmur Fremo said...

Sounds lovely and scary at the same time! Wish we had more of those old Victorian buildings here. I do have to ask though - what is 'fly-tipping'? Us yanks don't have that phrase here!

Vixie said...

It is a little odd, yeah - but I'm moving soon, so I'll have a whole new community to get used to in a months time! Oh, and fly-tipping just means dumping large waste items illegally. Hope you're well x

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