AN INFLUX of creative people and organisations has seen Waltham Forest established alongside gentrified Hackney as a magnet for artists.

Relatively cheap property and studio space has attracted artists and designers into Walthamstow, Leytonstone and Leyton over the last few years as rents in Hackney have rocketed.

Estate agents have hailed the influence of community events including the E17 and Leytonstone Art Trails in establishing the area's reputation as a new creative hub with a flourishing artistic community.

Once home to influential designer William Morris and iconic director Alfred Hitchcock, Turner Prize winning artist Grayson Perry also has a studio in the borough.

And artists say it is a natural place for creative people to work.

Printmaker Spike Gascoigne chose Walthamstow over Hackney when he moved three years ago and has turned part of his house into a studio, which he shares with three others.

The 29-year-old, of Lynworth Road, said: "I couldn't afford the prices in Hackney so I looked here and fell in love with the place.

"I love the diversity here and it's not got any of the pretentiousness Hackney has. I was shocked to find so many artists, it's perfect, and the art trail means you get to work together."

Laura Kerry, 35, who organised the trail, now in its eighth year, said: "It's created a real buzz and demonstrates what Walthamstow has to offer. We can't take full credit but what we wanted to do is create an infrastructure that enables artists to communicate with each other."

The strong artistc community is also beginning to have a knock-on effect, with new spaces for artists to exhibit their work.

Beautiful Interiors in Orford Road, Walthamstow has turned half of her homeware shop into a gallery selling locals' paintings.

And a community gallery, the Stone Space, has been established in part of the Leytonstone library building to show work produced locally.

Exhibition organiser Trudie Stephenson, 46, has worked with the likes of Tracy Emin, but has moved from Hampstead to Walthamstow to be part of the burgeoning art scene. Her business, The Art Insider, aims to help artists gain success.

"We want to make this hub grow more. It's exciting because we're at the beginnning of something. You can see the potential," she said.

Flash Bristow, 36, whose photographs of manhole covers are currently on show at the Stone Space hailed the artistic "rennaissance" in the area.

She said: "The gallery's brought in decent artists from all over the place and made people outside the area start looking at Leytonstone to see what we've got.

"Particularly here there's an artistic renaissance. The gallery is a real focus and brings diverse people together.

She also hailed the impact of the 491 gallery, which was created in a squat in Grove Green Road but is set to close after being bought by developers.

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