Here is a statement from David Mayer, emeritus professor of drama at Manchester University, regarding Harkers Studio:
As a theatre historian concerned to preserve the legacy and artefacts of the Victorian stage, I recognise the historic and cultural importance of Joseph Harker’s scenic studio at 39 Queens Row, Walworth. There’s no other surviving building like it, and it must be preserved as a rare national industrial site.
Harker’s 1905 scenic studio, even from the outside, declares its identity: tall doors, so large that they rise for two floors, confirm that gigantic scenic pieces passed from Harker’s workshop onto long-bodied wagons drawn by three in-line teams of horses from narrow Queens Row onto the Walworth Road toward the West End and its leading theatres, Sir Herbert Beerbohm-Tree’s His Majesty’s in the Haymarket, Sir Henry Irving’s Lyceum in Covent Garden.
Inside, the building’s unique purpose is even more apparent: vertically mobile paint-frames which, sinking into and rising from a cleverly-engineered floor-well (which managed to stay dry despite London’s disastrously high water-table), allowed scenic artists to raise and lower flats and drops and to paint the furthest margins of these scenic pieces without having to stand on ladders. Additionally, a large studio floor, illuminated by a vast glass skylight, provided work space for the construction of three-dimensional “built” pieces.
From this nondescript building, Joseph Harker, realising his own designs for stage sets or executing designs by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema for Beerbohm-Tree’s Nero, supplied the West end stage and the UK’s touring theatre companies. Where Harker was once one of a number of noted Victorian scenic artists, the workplaces of the others – the Grieve family, Walter Hann, Hawes Craven – have disappeared. The Harker studio is a unique survivor. Its preservation is in the national interest.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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:
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: email@example.com
Where are we?
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.
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.
*Update - November*
This month, November 2017, Plane Hell/HACAN South East are asking for your help:
Heathrow is consulting on the principle of flight paths early next year.
- We want to remind Heathrow just how critical the situation is, particularly in S, SE & SW London - but we want to hear from anyone affected by flights to Heathrow.
- We need to get an accurate number of planes going over SE London but will also log results from other areas too to reflect the wider picture
- It will give an idea of any changes there have been since HACAN did counts in 2004, 2009 and 2011.
How you can help
- choose your area/s, your date/s and your time/s
- count the number of overhead and nearby planes
- spend one hour in the morning
- and one hour in the afternoon after 3pm
Send your totals, one for the morning and one for the afternoon (2 separate totals), along with the place, date and times to firstname.lastname@example.org
The results will be analysed by HACAN who will be creating publicity round the findings.
Earlier this week one of our members counted 48 planes between 5.58 - 6.58am and the following morning 16 planes between 4.33 - 5am. This has been happening from September 2016 onwards. Heathrow and Government need to know.
Looking forward to hearing from you - thank you for your help.
*Update - October*
HACAN SE Launches!
The inaugural meeting of HACAN SE took place at Kennington Park Community Centre on Tuesday 26 September 2017.
Over 50 people from across SE London attended including Toby Eckersley of the Walworth Society, Caroline Pidgeon - vice chair of the GLA Transport Committee, Tracy Beresford of the Southwark Green Party and Harriet Harman MP for Camberwell represented by her Parliamentary Assistant Rachel Smethers who sent a note the following day.
If they have whetted your appetite you can read the Chair of HACAN John Stewart's thoughts by clicking here.
If you want to join this growing band of active residents who are fed up with the blight of aircraft noise then get in touch!
There will be another meeting of HACAN SE towards the end of October.
You can make contact by email: email@example.com.
*Update - July*
We were joined by Chair of HACAN John Stewart and Keith Prince AM, current Chair of the GLA Transport Committee. The presentation was timed to ask CAA, in the lead up to their flightpath proposals for City Airport, to take into consideration all people and all areas of London who will be affected by their recommendations.
The CAA entered into the spirit of the event with a picture of the cake accompanying this tweet:
Mr Prince extended an invitation to Campaigners to meet him at City Hall in September. He has promised to take our concerns regarding dedicated flightpaths, as well as other plane-related issues, and how they affect residents of East and South East London to Mayor of London Rt Hon Sadiq Khan.
Also in September we look forward to reconvening meetings with HACAN and HACAN East and forming a South East London chapter of the lobbying organisation.
Meanwhile, the latest CAA consultation is open for responses to aviation noise impacts. We urge you to respond and can promise it will take no more than 5 minutes. Click here to make your voice heard.
You can also Click here to view HACAN's video interviews - as residents across London and the South East speak up about their experiences.
Plane Hell: Too Early, Too Late, Too Noisy, Too Low… Too Many!
Anyone living under a flight path will tell you one thing: it’s plane hell. For residents of Camberwell and other parts of South London it’s fast becoming a nightmare.
The Plane Hell campaign was born in response to local residents noticing an increase in the number of planes flying over a particular area of Camberwell, almost without a break, and starting as early as 4.30am.
The main issue for Southwark is noise from overflying aircraft on approach to land at Heathrow and London City Airports.
To get an idea about what it’s like to experience ongoing disruption as a result of plane noise then click here for the thoughts of local resident Bridget Bell.
Why not relive the noise disturbance faced by many of London's residents by plugging in your headphones and watching the video?
- Enable residents to achieve at least 7 hours sleep, the minimum recommended by WHO (World Health Organisation) for good health, and ban all flights between 11pm - 6am (better still 7am).
- Ensure any remaining night routes avoid populated areas to mitigate the impact of aircraft noise.
- Keep aircraft higher for longer by utilising Continuous Descent Approaches which reduce noise because they require less engine thrust and keep planes above 6000 feet.
- Stop aircraft concentrating over residential areas.
- Stop the impact on mental and physical health caused by aircraft noise and aircraft pollution flying low over residential areas and keep planes above 6000 feet.
- aircraft noise reduction must be a factor for all flights under 6000 feet.
A plane flying low over Bethwin Road
What Can You Do?
Some responses collected so far:
- "It is an injustice to have so many planes flying over such densely populated areas. It's a blight on the lives of many people across London."
- "I live under the flight path it starts at 04:30 and goes on until around 22:00 80 planes an hour. It's intolerable so we are moving."
- "I'm signing because since the last 10 years the noise of the planes above my garden it's becoming increasingly unbearable! You cannot even have a conversation on the phone!"
- "Partner woken at 4am by a plane so low he thought it was crashing- pretty sure they've been getting lower and lower over the years I have lived in SE5! Great to see Camberwell coming together to do something about this!"
Follow the Campaign on Social Media
Other Campaign Groups
HACAN is a campaign group made up of local residents who are opposed to Heathrow expansion and want to reduce the amount of night flights over the skies of London and the South East.
HACAN East is a residents’ group set up in 2011 to represent the views of people affected by both noise and pollution from London City Airport. A number of areas are also impacted by Heathrow flights.
Write to your MP
Individuals, countrywide, have been encouraged to write to their MPs to underline the negative impact night flights and lack of respite from daytime flights have on the health and welfare of their constituents, with the added effect on the environment.
You can download a template letter here – please feel free to make any changes or add your own text.
To find out who your local MP is click here.
Please take the opportunity to tell the CAA what you think they need to do to tackle aircraft noise in our area. Below we have provided a link to the online consultation you can complete (it takes 2 minutes). But if you’re in a rush, click here to download a template that you can use.
By email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Aviation Noise Impacts Consultation
Civil Aviation Authority
45-59 Kingsway, London WC2B 6TE
A plane flying low over John Ruskin Street
Campaigners are currently looking to gather as much evidence as possible to strengthen their case. This includes encouraging those who live under flight paths, and experience the adverse effects of plane noise, to record a diary of all of the incidents in which they are disturbed.
Get in touch
If you are experiencing issues with planes flying overhead then please do get in touch and offer your support to the campaign.
A visual representation of aircraft movement linked to Heathrow - Green represent arrivals resulting from westerlywinds (30% of the time), Red represent easterly (70% of the time).