Abandoned and Appropriated Homes: The live-work spaces of artists in East London

Imogen Racz, Heidi Saarinen, Imogen Racz (Editor), Jill Journeaux (Editor)

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Chapter 12
Imogen Racz and Heidi Saarinen

This chapter will explore the way in which artists moved into the East End of London from the late 1970s through the 1990s, creating communities that were sustainable and dynamic, and how living and working there were fundamental to their art. It will concentrate on an area between Victoria Park and London Fields, where there were several blocks of studios leased through SPACE Studios, where some roads of houses were leased through Acme Studios, and where there were also many squats. It was an area of dereliction, but this proved to be ideal for artists.
The artists and communities of Beck Road, Ellingfort Road and London Lane will form the focus of this chapter. The proximity to each other and the broader artists’ communities created a wide network of ideas and practices. There were artists, designers, architects, dancers, performers and many other people working in related disciplines. The cross-fertilization of ideas that this engendered meant that art became influenced by, and started to grow in, new directions, taking on board international perspectives.
How, where, and why art is produced are fundamental to the outcome. At the start of any creative activity there will be experimentation – with materials and ideas, and through collaborations and discussions with others. The spaces available and the surrounding areas also impact on the ideas, the processes and therefore the consequent outcomes.

Many artist studios discussed in this chapter were situated in houses and therefore not large. Being within domestic homes meant there was restricted access, which affected what could be made. All the houses were due for demolition, although this changed, so were exempt from planning restrictions, could be altered at will, and, especially in the squats, spaces were shared and interconnected. However, although the general perception was that these streets and buildings were a blight, not only were the artists making and exhibiting, but they were living there, creating communities, and over time they had families including children and pets.
This chapter will discuss the origins of this quiet revolution, how artists moved into the area and made it their home, and how their everyday lives impacted on their artwork. It will concentrate on this small area, consider how the community supported itself, how the neighbourhood and living conditions fed into the work, and how it became part of a much larger international art scene. Included will be discussions of work by Mikey Cuddihy, Helen Chadwick, Langlands and Bell, and Tom Hunter.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Artist at Home
Subtitle of host publicationStudios, Practices and Identities
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781350379022
ISBN (Print)9781350379015
Publication statusPublished - 11 Jan 2024


  • artists
  • artists home
  • Hackney
  • London Fields
  • Tom Hunter
  • East London 1980s-1990s
  • artist squats


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