491 Gallery in Leytonstone looks set to be demolished and replaced by flats

East London and West Essex Guardian Series: LEYTONSTONE: Community art space under threat LEYTONSTONE: Community art space under threat

SQUATTERS who transformed an industrial building into a valuable community space are facing eviction.


The 491 Gallery in Grove Green Road, Leytonstone, has been bought by private developers who are believed to be planning to build flats on the site.


A petition has been started by gallery supporters who hope to persuade the new owners to retain the community space, which is free to access for artists, musicians and community groups.


The 10 people who call the building home have been served notice to leave and told there are plans to demolish the structure and build a three-storey housing block.


Benjamin David, 34, who claims to have moved into the squat 10 years ago said the facility has a strong political ideology free of money and greed and a long-standing connection with the community.


He added: “We are the centre heartbeat of art and culture in Leytonstone.
“In a time of massive cuts, the centre is open to everyone.


“This is my life. I can’t see beyond it. People either live in or just come in for an event.


“They get involved in important things in life, such as creativity and happiness.”


James Moriarty, 37, is the 491’s resident gardener and has transformed the building’s large back yard, once filled with rubble and skips, into a garden with hundreds of species of plants.


Children are often taken on tours of the space and people can get advice on how to transform urban gardens into a haven.


Mr Moriarty said: “The art and garden project is essential for the local community. It is the only place in the area to use for music and other art projects.


“Most artists are very poor. I hope the local council and other officials will realise how important this place is.


“Another derelict site would be ideal for us to relocate.”


The Guardian was unable to contact the new owners at the time of going to press.

Comments (11)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

11:42am Thu 26 Jul 12

jef costello says...

Ah, the dark flipside of gentrification. 491 have made immeasurable contributions to the community of Leytonstone, typified by Mr Moriarty's work in the garden. For decades nobody wanted to know Leytonstone, and now it's popped up on the developers and speculators radar 'proper' locals like 491 are going to find themselves squeezed out. It's criminal.
Ah, the dark flipside of gentrification. 491 have made immeasurable contributions to the community of Leytonstone, typified by Mr Moriarty's work in the garden. For decades nobody wanted to know Leytonstone, and now it's popped up on the developers and speculators radar 'proper' locals like 491 are going to find themselves squeezed out. It's criminal. jef costello
  • Score: 0

12:30pm Thu 26 Jul 12

get-callaghan says...

I think Jef has hit the nail on the head. The 491 should hop over the border and join the land of #awesomestow
I think Jef has hit the nail on the head. The 491 should hop over the border and join the land of #awesomestow get-callaghan
  • Score: 0

2:08pm Thu 26 Jul 12

mdj says...

Just for curiosity, who did the developers buy the building from? Who has been letting this space sit commercially 'idle' (though usefully to the community) for so long? Were the occupants ever offered a chance to buy over that period?
Just for curiosity, who did the developers buy the building from? Who has been letting this space sit commercially 'idle' (though usefully to the community) for so long? Were the occupants ever offered a chance to buy over that period? mdj
  • Score: 0

10:01am Fri 27 Jul 12

Hex, E11 says...

mdj, it belonged to Transport for London. There's a Wikipedia article about the 491 with a history of it.

For anyone interested, the petition mentioned in the article is at http://www.ipetition
s.com/petition/save-
the-491-gallery/ and has garnered over eight hundred signatures so far.
mdj, it belonged to Transport for London. There's a Wikipedia article about the 491 with a history of it. For anyone interested, the petition mentioned in the article is at http://www.ipetition s.com/petition/save- the-491-gallery/ and has garnered over eight hundred signatures so far. Hex, E11
  • Score: 0

11:41am Fri 27 Jul 12

mdj says...

Thanks, Hex; did TfL ever give the 491 a chance to buy? It's strange that they hung on to it so long, since it served no possible transport purpose once the road was opened.
Thanks, Hex; did TfL ever give the 491 a chance to buy? It's strange that they hung on to it so long, since it served no possible transport purpose once the road was opened. mdj
  • Score: 0

11:54am Fri 27 Jul 12

jef costello says...

mdj - TFL have a property portfolio like any other business, and like any business they hold onto their stock until it's worth selling. Even if it takes decades.
mdj - TFL have a property portfolio like any other business, and like any business they hold onto their stock until it's worth selling. Even if it takes decades. jef costello
  • Score: 0

12:37pm Fri 27 Jul 12

mdj says...

True enough: did 491 ever ask to buy? Most of the surplus houses along the route of the road were sold off to their occupants years ago.
True enough: did 491 ever ask to buy? Most of the surplus houses along the route of the road were sold off to their occupants years ago. mdj
  • Score: 0

1:27pm Fri 27 Jul 12

Hex, E11 says...

Sadly, I don't think buying property is really in the budget for most squatters!

TfL put the building up for sale recently without, as far as I'm aware, informing the Gallery residents, following a period of offering the original owners or tenants a chance to buy it back at current market value per the Crichel Down Rules. Although they appear to have done that by announcing their intent to sell on a page buried in their corporate website (the 21st century equivalent of "on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard'"...): http://www.tfl.gov.u
k/assets/downloads/b
usinessandpartners/g
rove-green-road-adve
rt.pdf

If you're curious as to why the block with the 491 was left over from the construction of the A12, this discussion in the House of Commons in 1989 will be of interest:
http://hansard.millb
anksystems.com/commo
ns/1989/may/15/city-
of-london-various-po
wers-bill-by#column_
95
Sadly, I don't think buying property is really in the budget for most squatters! TfL put the building up for sale recently without, as far as I'm aware, informing the Gallery residents, following a period of offering the original owners or tenants a chance to buy it back at current market value per the Crichel Down Rules. Although they appear to have done that by announcing their intent to sell on a page buried in their corporate website (the 21st century equivalent of "on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of the Leopard'"...): http://www.tfl.gov.u k/assets/downloads/b usinessandpartners/g rove-green-road-adve rt.pdf If you're curious as to why the block with the 491 was left over from the construction of the A12, this discussion in the House of Commons in 1989 will be of interest: http://hansard.millb anksystems.com/commo ns/1989/may/15/city- of-london-various-po wers-bill-by#column_ 95 Hex, E11
  • Score: 0

11:20am Sat 28 Jul 12

mdj says...

Interesting, hex: thanks. I don't think Harry Cohen would have done too well on Just a Minute!
Strange to reflect that all those years when he was thumping the drum for the working classes of Leyton he was really living in Colchester, and nobody noticed.
Without underestimating the difficulties of cash, organisation and willpower, I've spent my life repairing huge grand buildings that were paid for by the pennies of the poor. A lot of poor = a lot of pennies, in the long run.
Churches, of course, start out with implicit agreement about the task to be achieved: but would there be scope for some sort of community fund people could contribute spare change to, so that when an opportunity came up for some social benefit, money was ready and waiting? Something a little like BiD, but involving everyone? In the past one might have hoped that such a body would be the Council, but not in the present economic and democratic climate.
Interesting, hex: thanks. I don't think Harry Cohen would have done too well on Just a Minute! Strange to reflect that all those years when he was thumping the drum for the working classes of Leyton he was really living in Colchester, and nobody noticed. Without underestimating the difficulties of cash, organisation and willpower, I've spent my life repairing huge grand buildings that were paid for by the pennies of the poor. A lot of poor = a lot of pennies, in the long run. Churches, of course, start out with implicit agreement about the task to be achieved: but would there be scope for some sort of community fund people could contribute spare change to, so that when an opportunity came up for some social benefit, money was ready and waiting? Something a little like BiD, but involving everyone? In the past one might have hoped that such a body would be the Council, but not in the present economic and democratic climate. mdj
  • Score: 0

7:08pm Mon 30 Jul 12

KWyatt-Lown says...

An excellent concept mdj and one I’m sure a lot of us would sign up to. However, regardless of where the funding might be sourced, an overarching body would still need to be in place to manage the process and ensure it’s populated with enough individuals with sufficient of an entrepreneurial streak to be able to sustain the venture and not let it go to the wall as soon as the seed corn capital is used up.

See my postings elsewhere in an article that carried the ever-optimistic Guardian headline “Hopes that the defunct Regal Cinema in Highams Park could be brought back into use to regenerate Hale End Road have been dashed”.

The borough has no money so if we can’t make these projects work ourselves I’m afraid it’s our loss.
An excellent concept mdj and one I’m sure a lot of us would sign up to. However, regardless of where the funding might be sourced, an overarching body would still need to be in place to manage the process and ensure it’s populated with enough individuals with sufficient of an entrepreneurial streak to be able to sustain the venture and not let it go to the wall as soon as the seed corn capital is used up. See my postings elsewhere in an article that carried the ever-optimistic Guardian headline “Hopes that the defunct Regal Cinema in Highams Park could be brought back into use to regenerate Hale End Road have been dashed”. The borough has no money so if we can’t make these projects work ourselves I’m afraid it’s our loss. KWyatt-Lown
  • Score: 0

11:42pm Mon 30 Jul 12

mdj says...

'The borough has no money'
The Council, I presume you mean? A year or more ago, some local suit was singing the blues in these pages about how LBWF had no money thanks to the wicked cuts; I found it took no more than a minute to identify £40 million they'd lost, wasted, thwarted, stolen or simply failed to collect over the previous few years. That's without notes or inside info, simply recalling articles in this paper. The true figure is probably double, but the only people locally who know the true figure should be in jail, and they're not about to tell.
Given this regime of abject incompetence, lack of vision,and more than a whiff of sleaze, the only funding to be trusted is the freely given cash of local people.
One idea I had was a local lottery, to keep the millions of cash that leaves this borough in betting to be spent within its boundaries.If we had a dog track, it could be based on that somehow.Or a football team, but will we still have one in three years time?
But a voluntary 50p a week from each taxpayer would pile up very usefully also.
Let's not depress ourselves by saying that there's no money. No money, 20 minutes from the heart of the world's financial capital? It just shows how inured we have become to the - not accidental - stagnation around us that we see it as normal.
'The borough has no money' The Council, I presume you mean? A year or more ago, some local suit was singing the blues in these pages about how LBWF had no money thanks to the wicked cuts; I found it took no more than a minute to identify £40 million they'd lost, wasted, thwarted, stolen or simply failed to collect over the previous few years. That's without notes or inside info, simply recalling articles in this paper. The true figure is probably double, but the only people locally who know the true figure should be in jail, and they're not about to tell. Given this regime of abject incompetence, lack of vision,and more than a whiff of sleaze, the only funding to be trusted is the freely given cash of local people. One idea I had was a local lottery, to keep the millions of cash that leaves this borough in betting to be spent within its boundaries.If we had a dog track, it could be based on that somehow.Or a football team, but will we still have one in three years time? But a voluntary 50p a week from each taxpayer would pile up very usefully also. Let's not depress ourselves by saying that there's no money. No money, 20 minutes from the heart of the world's financial capital? It just shows how inured we have become to the - not accidental - stagnation around us that we see it as normal. mdj
  • Score: 0

Comments are closed on this article.

click2find

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree