Save Harkers Studio

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Our Aims

1. To see Harkers Studio retain its purpose as a building serving the production of theatre and creativity, as a modern co-working space suitable for the needs of a 21st century Arts sector, practitioners and the local community.

2. To raise awareness about the pressures and lack of basic affordable space to fulfill our jobs as technical backstage theatre professionals and for freelance artists across the Arts sector.

3. To raise awareness about the general marginalization of the Arts, and the effect it is having across the capital for those who live and/or work frequently within London.

4. Sign Our Petition!


Background

Harkers Studio is a purpose built, Grade II listed Victorian scene painting room which has been situated off the Walworth Road in Southwark for 110 years. It was built by Joseph Harker who made his name producing work for Henry Irving at the Lyceum, and whose name was immortalised in Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’. You may know the building better as Flints Theatrical Chandlers.

The building is unusual in that, while there used to be a lot of such spaces, very few survive. And, when they do, none of them are still in use as scene painting rooms – apart from Harkers.

The way that these spaces were built means that they provide excellent conditions for large-scale painting: a glazed roof means diffuse light all-year round, and the vast space, designed specifically to accommodate backdrops for major West End theatres, allows flexibility of scale. These kinds of conditions are unrivalled in London.

This unique building is one of a dying breed of scenery painting studios in London, as well as an important part of Southwark’s local history. It is currently home to a local business that serves both the theatrical industry and wider artistic community.  

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The Problem

Southwark Council has approved planning permission to develop the building into flats and office space. While we are certainly supportive of forward-thinking change, we believe that the creation of unaffordable flats is detrimental to both the existing Walworth Road community and the heritage of the building itself. 

We are not alone in thinking this: the Walworth Society, the Victorian SocietyTheatres Trust, and the British Archaeological Association are all in agreement. The GLA has also stated:

The importance of “retaining some Low Threshold Enterprise Space because it is very difficult to re-provide such spaces…councils are encouraged to explore Article 4 directions to gain exemptions from permitted development change of use to residential.”

...in its report: "Regeneration Guide 2 – Creating Open Workspace.”

We do not believe that this has explored thoroughly in this case. On a broader scale, such proposals are reflective of the marginalisation of the Arts in the capital.

London’s landscape being taken over by luxury accommodation. As a result of this change of use formerly occupied by industrial building/workspaces, we are finding that artists and creative industries in all fields are being marginalized and unwillingly pushed further and further out of the city.

It is vital that we act now.

The great man himself in action


The Potential

And what potential! 

We would like to do this by bringing local and theatrical communities together, providing facilities for artist, makers & designers in backstage theatre and across the creative industries. Creating workshops space and activities for professionals and local groups, continuing the tradition and vitality of theatrical life in this part of the city.

By celebrating, utilising and developing Southwark’s theatrical heritage, we believe that such endeavours enrich the urban fabric, working with the Council’s plans, rather than against them.

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Joseph Harker, along with his family and colleagues, signed this wall when the studio opened


What Can You Do?

We are working on this. Unfortunately, since planning permission was granted in December 2016, we are too late to appeal.

Despite the building’s Grade II listing, the ad hoc nature of scenic practise has resulted in very few people knowing about its history and integral role in the development of British theatre, thus the heritage value of this building has been significantly overlooked.

But you can help! Here’s how:

1. Sign our petition

2. Use the building. Save Harkers Studio is running a pilot co-working space scheme for artists to use the unrivalled space on the first floor.

3. Visit the building. Again, Save Harkers Studio welcome visitors, the curious, and the interested!

4. #saveharkersstudio / @saveharkersstudio. Any time you post/tweet/Insta anything to do with scenic artistry, please tag us. The more we can come together as a united industry, the stronger we will be.

5. Like/Follow Us on Facebook here.

If you think you can help further, or if you would like any more info, please contact us: saveharkersstudio@gmail.com

Where are we?

The address is: 39 Queen's Row, London SE17 2PX

You can catch the 68 or 176 from Waterloo – or the 40, 68, 176 or 468 from Elephant & Castle station - and get off at Westmoreland Road. Or it’s a 15 min walk from Kennington station. 

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Who Are We?

The Core Team consists of three informed and engaged individuals:

Grit Eckert is a practising scenic artist, Southwark resident and PhD student, researching the historical development of scenic artistic practise. 

Louise Calf is a buildings conservationist, actress and step-great-great-great granddaughter of Joseph Harker.

Sadeysa Greenaway-Bailey is a practising scenic artist, props-maker and designer, all too aware of the pressures on the profession today.

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