Should the Depot complex be turned into an arts trust with studios, galleries and classes for the public?

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Do you want to be involved?

Be at the birth of something new and innovative which will be a legacy for Clapton and Hackney for years to come - be in at the foundation of this Cultural Hub! 

Find out more about the

Launched on Oct 4th, CAT is now a reality. Now the work starts fulfilling the trusts aims.

 Our new website will be up soon with lots of info but in the meantime... your support by signing the petition for the arts trust below

If you can help or want to be involved, in the first instance please contact me at or contact councillor Ian Rathbone at

For more background info:

...and keep an eye out for the official new C.A.T. website, coming soon

but please don't leave before signing the petition below...

Follow the logo design process:

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Wouldn't it be great?

That is, to make the depot the home to an "ARTS & CRAFTS Trust".
The idea being to renovate/restore and refurbish as needed for the use of local artists and craftsmen, including the current residents, with art galleries as well as Trust run studio workshops open to the public (resident & visiting artists to take the classes).

We also hope to offer educational & vocational visits to schools - classes can experience small scale & bespoke manufacturing in progress and take part in practical exercises.

There would be a fairly substantial number of new permanent jobs created in addition to those already present.
The trust would also be able to consider offering a range of educational and work related courses, as well as supporting and enable apprenticeships.

(That includes the craft based and allied manufacturing businesses. Those businesses not allied could still stay as tenants of the trust. see my personal thought below). 

(available to download on Flickr: TRAM DEPOT LEAFLET)

The online PETITION reads:
"I would like to strongly support the idea of turning the Old Tram Depot at 38-40 Upper Clapton Road over to an Arts & Crafts Trust or Foundation.
It is in line with "Sustainable Communities Act 2007 and would be the jewel in the crown of an Area Action Plan for Clapton (when we get it - promised since 2005).
The Depot deserves to be saved on heritage grounds as well as on cultural and economic grounds - the artists generate wealth from their works which are in demand all over the world.
Please do whatever is necessary to
make The Old Tram Depot Arts Trust a reality". 


"I was happy to sign
       the petition,
I think it is a really
                 visionary idea"
                                 says Diane Abbott MP

Turning the Depot over to an Arts Trust
is also supported
by our Leabridge ward councillors:

Linda Kelly
Ian Rathbone
Deniz Oguzkanli

as well as
The Hackney Society.

If you are one of the 1,300 plus people who objected to the planned re-development of the Depot please do put your name to this as well.

The spaces offered by the depot are obviously ideal as so many of the current occupants are

in one of the art based or allied creative industries: metalwork, sculpture, graphics, fine art, music, art galleries etc.
The Depot is crying out to become an art center with an art project, an artist run gallery and project space plus the Tram Depot Gallery on top of the metal working forge, sculptors, graphic artist and the bespoke sculptural furniture maker and more.

Some of the Tram Depot's interiors:

 These shots above and more by Chris Mills

(I did enhance and crop some myself - David White)

Here are some shots from last year and before, still applicable today:

ABOVE - Just some of the musicians, artists, sculptors & metalworkers
with a piece or two of thier work

Clapton needs the Old Tram Depot as a Centre for the Arts and small scale manufacturing, creating even more jobs.
Support the "Clapton Arts Trust".

Local community and depot residents say
 "an Arts Trust would be perfect".

If you do think it's a great idea,
please click on the poll at the top of this page
or leave a comment at the bottom of the post
and don't forget to complete the petition


There's a lot more about the Clapton Tram Depot
in fact about 3 years of local residents fighting planning applications to have the site re-developed.

...but please don't leave without
clicking the poll at the top of this page
(or leaving a comment)
unless you're going the petition page of course.

Thank you! 

How we plan to do it

The Lottery is offering suitable grants of well over £5mill - the size needed to both purchase property of this type and for running costs.

There are other large grants available for both the purchase of building/their restoration and wages for staff/running costs a
nd an Old Tram Depot Arts Trust could apply for funds on both heritage and community art grounds. 

Recently a Tram Depot in Kingsland Road attracted funding from the Arts Council & other funders

to tranform it for the performings arts and dance

We can do the same for fine art, craft and bespoke manufacturing!

Retain the Clapton Tram Depot's original structure, keep it a primarily artists and art galleries and end years of continued objections to the depot's re-development.

The depot is rare in that it retains a numer of original features and shows the changes the tram system went through in its different phases of buildings.

It is part of our working heritage and should be recognized as such - a "heritage asset".

An arts trust is the obvious "best answer".

See the creation of the visual
identity/logo/letterhead/signage for the trust
from the first pencil sketches

The transformation of the Depot into a charitable foundation and centre for the arts would be in line with "Sustainable communities" and could be one of the centre pieces of the new "Area Action Plan for Clapton" and be the subject of one of the "Vision for Clapton" planning policy documents, proposed in addition to longer term AAP:

                         Safeguarding Clapton's Heritage                       

Arguably the best way to safeguard our old buildings including the OLD TRAM DEPOT
is with an
There is also the new 
"Vision for Clapton"

which was envisanged as being in lieu of a full Area Action Plan but being a series of policy documents rather than a full area plan, could be in addition to an AAP and protect some buildings in a matter of months (rather than the possible years for the completion of an AAP)

In fact an OLD TRAM DEPOT ARTS TRUST would be the
"Jewel in the crown"
of the new

make sure you
sign the petition
for an
Area Action Plan!

click on this:




The Area Action Plan would protect the Depot but would take some time and protection is needed now.

Even the proposed new "Vision" for Clapton planning policy documents will take some months:

But there is the possibility of the Depot being included in a new conservation area in the relatively short term.

This is one possible way to protect the depot in the  shorter term:
A proposal:

To designate the section of Upper Clapton Road between Lea Bridge Road and 131 Upper Clapton Road a Conservation Area.
There are a number of significant buildings along its length in addition to the (1) The Tram Depot, including

2. Beecholme Estate

Designed by Frederick Gibberd - the first post war "mixed development" housing scheme in Hackney, involving a mixture of houses and flats with the taller blocks having five storeys and containing one-bedroom and bedsit accommodation. (Beecholme Estate is featured in Volume 15 of Hackney History). Beecholme Estate was also the site of Beecholme House, the family home of Maj. John André (d. 1780), who was executed as a British spy in the American War of Independence.

3.  25-35 Upper Clapton Road - the buildings at the rear of the shops date from mid 19th century

4.  Clapton Station
Built 1872. Liverpool street bound platform has remained essentially unchanged and booking hall is original, although altered internally. Walter Osborne, head porter at Clapton station at the beginning of twentieth century, challenged the legality of the compulsory trade union political levy, which resulted in the House of Lords issuing the Osborne Judgement of 1909 declaring the practice unlawful. The station was a favourite of John Betjeman.

5. Hornsey Chambers
Nineteenth century working class "model dwellings" adjacent to station.

6.Ickburgh Estate - 1950s buildings of no particular interest, but site of former residences of historian Benjamin Clarke and women's suffrage campaigners Elizabeth and Mark Wilks

7. 51 - 63 Upper Clapton RoadAttractive terrace of nineteenth century residences set back from the road

8. Upper Clapton Road Shopping Parade - east side from betting shop to Mount Pleasant LaneLate nineteenth century parade of shops, still retaining characteristic decorative elements.

9. Upper Clapton Road shopping parade- west side from Northwold Road to 131 Upper Clapton Road - possibly the most historic section of the road as there are a number of locally listed buildings along this stretch, i.e. 83, 85, 95 and 97. Archive photo of 83 and 85 Upper Clapton Rd:

Hackney Council can designate a Conservation Area very quickly where an area is threatened and if there is enough public pressure (the new Hackney Wick Conservation Area is a case in point).

As well as the threat to the Tram Depot, a developer has now pulled down no 87 Upper Clapton Road without authorisation so there are good grounds for making such a case.

From the Hackney Society

If restored and ingeniously converted, the former tramway buildings could provide both historic and contemporary architectural interest in an area that has been deprived of any clear master planning or quality new development in recent years.

During the last 50 years many historic buildings in this area have been demolished and replaced with insensitive development.

The site houses the only remaining active group of artists and designers left in north-east Hackney.

Artists and creative industries are important to the economy of the area as well as creating an interesting and diverse community.
The existing tram sheds are a successful example of reuse and provides Hackney with essential light industrial units for artists, craftspeople, manufacturers and mechanics. The tram sheds are run down, but with refurbishment provide ideal workshops for manufacturing.

This site is perfect for what Invest in Hackney says makes Hackney unique:

“Hackney has a long tradition of manufacturing, but as in other areas of the country, this has seen a decline over the years. This has, however, left Hackney with an interesting legacy of old industrial property. These empty spaces have been taken on by creative and design businesses, and from this a new High Value Manufacturing sector has developed. This sector of the manufacturing industry often sees the whole production process from design and development, through manufacture and on to the point of sale, housed under one roof. The products of this industry are often hand crafted and one-off pieces, with the value of the finished product arising as much from the design as the function. This is particularly true of sub sectors such as furniture, fashion and jewellery production, which have all developed into prominent industries in Hackney’s economy. The growth in this sector has also added to the borough’s particular retail offer, and complements the artistic and creative industries that also flourish in the borough.”

We would like to see a development that retains the U-shaped range, colonnades granite setts and some of the double-height spaces of the existing industrial buildings.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Some personal thoughts

My personal thoughts...
The jaguar showroom would make the ideal reception and huge gallery once the partition walls are down and the full length of the depot with the collonade of cast iron pillars and huge ceiling beams are revealed. 
(I believe the Jaguar people are leaving anyway, but will double check and get back to you here)
The original tram lines for the horse drawn trams are still there running the full length and would be a great feature (just blocked in with perspex so you can still see them without tripping up.
The huge skylights (some blacked in, some boarded over) all over the "U" depot in the main depot, the studios on top, the "factory" end and the row of tram shed workshops could all be fully reinstated and updated with gas filled double glazing.
The current art and small craft and manufacturing residents and businesses could all stay. There are only a couple of businesses that would not fit in well and I believe they are happy to leave anyway, having expected this third planning application for re-development to go through. I know at least one non-art resident would like to leave and is only there because it's relatively cheap and convenient and would actually prefer a modern warehouse - unlike the artists, who really do need what is rapidly becoming the unique spaces the depot offers. Other warehousing will most definitely not be suitable for them.

However, I'm sure both the funders and the trust would be happy to keep established businesses as tenants as long as at least 80% of the depot is art allied. The remaining 20% would give the trust a regular income.
As it happens, the garage, being at the end of the sheds, could easily have it's own entrance, with minor alterations.

The final decision would be up to the trust membership - as that is likely to be made of the very people campaigning and supporting the idea - I think the likehood is that any business now there that is employing people, can go on paying rent and wants to stay would be welcomed by the trust.
However, in the main, it's the artists and galleries that really do want and need to stay - and they're the very residents we want to see stay as well - what could be better?
There is enough studio space (and current warehouse space) to equip the "Trust" with, in effect a small art college, with sculpture (wood and stone & clay) rooms, a painting & drawing studio as well as areas within the main gallery that could be used for less messy art and craft pursuits.
Many of the current residents could help pay for their rent by taking classes and where possible use their own studios, thereby increasing the space avaiable for classes.
Wouldn't it be great learning from practicing artists and sculptors?
As it happens, I know the answer is most definitely yes from personal experience.
The depot is structurally sound as well. Last year one of the residents took a few interested people through the whole site, from Upper Clapton Road to Prout Road and around the corner to Casimir Road (it's all tram depot) wich a local architect who has an interest in historic buildings.
It needs a lot of refurbishing with even the cobblestones needing taking up, their foundation renewing and then being re-laid, but it's for the most part just superficial.
It does need bringing up to todays insulation and energy standards and that would probably be the biggest single expense or close to it, unless a full scale "restoration" rather than "refurbishment" was undertaken.

It could all be done with relatively minor actual new building work or alteration or there could be new divisions of the larger spaces.
But it is all easily "do-able".
We just have do it!

shot taken from Prout Road