Lucianna Whittle tells us of the fight to save Studio 106
Hi Lucianna, Studio 106 has taken part in AOH for many years. Can you tell us a little about the studio and how important it is to its group of resident artists?
Studio 106 is a thriving workspace tucked away deep in Poet’s Corner in Hove. The 300sq metre converted factory is home to a variety of small entrepreneurial businesses and creative practitioners such as international award-winning artists, designers, photographers, animators, printmakers and cartoonists. Many of us regularly exhibit in the art galleries of London and major international cities; are broadcast on national television, in cinemas worldwide and seen nightly in theatres in the West End and on Broadway. We feel that the studio is a defining element of the Poet’s Corner community and in fact, many of us live in the adjoining roads. The studio runs regular workshops for local adults and children and is a major participant in the Artists Open House and annual Brighton Festival.
At the height of the pandemic, you nearly lost the studio – can you tell us how this happened?
It was discovered by chance that a developer had put in a planning application to convert the studio and gallery into a complex of 7-14 flats. Having already lost significant artists’ studio space in Hove recently (Red Herring Studio was demolished alongside Westow’s Soft Play Centre resulting in 104 new flats), it was with a sense of dread that we felt Studio 106 could potentially go the same way. However, as a community of artists who are fiercely committed to our studio and to each other, we chose to investigate the planning application fully, with the help of local architects and legal advisors. That was when we discovered a series of misleading claims peppered throughout the application, ultimately triggering a campaign to save the studio!
How did you carry out the fight?
Pulling together as much information as we could, we produced a flyer which was dropped through hundreds of letterboxes in the neighbourhood and posted on all the local online noticeboards. The response was truly overwhelming – hundreds of people logged on to the council’s planning forum to speak out on behalf of saving the studio and to log their objections. There was a strong feeling that the developers had snuck in a cynical bid, hoping to capitalise on the political neglect that resulted from the unprecedented attention given to the pandemic. As well as the obvious impact on local schooling and health provision, it became apparent that there was a real sense of what would be lost to Hove, should the studio be replaced with housing.
Studio space seems to be rapidly disappearing across Brighton and Hove. Why do you think it is important to the community and the city more generally that yours and other studios are preserved?
Brighton and Hove prides itself on being an artistic community, which is evident all year round in the many exhibitions, gigs, events and performances throughout the city, culminating in the thriving Brighton Festival, Brighton Festival Fringe and AOH festival. The very identity of Brighton and Hove is built on the ripple effects of being a place so welcoming of culture and diversity – a city that epitomises creative thinking and relating, born of its artistic foundations. It’s very simple: if you lose the studios, you lose the artists and the whole feeling of this wonderful city will quickly change.
Untitled 2021 – James Cowland
What do you feel are the main outcomes of your successful campaign?
Artists need unusual and specific working conditions, which just aren’t widely available. It is a requirement to have lots of space, light, dialogue with other artists and the facility to essentially make a mess! So much was at stake that the main outcome was retaining our ability to do what we do. But the other really beautiful outcome was the relationship-building with our neighbours in Poet’s Corner. This really is a story of a local community coming together with one voice to raise their appreciation and devotion to upholding the artistic paradigm that underpins the cultural heart of this city.
Tell us a bit about your studio 106 Open House this year and what you feel is important both about the studio and the AOH festival?
The Studio 106 Artist Open House will this year be a celebration of the space that is so integral to developing our practices and nurturing our artistic journeys to bring the best of exhibitions to the community and beyond. We really want to say a big thank you to everyone who helped to save Studio 106 and give every visitor a big welcome and an exhibition to inspire and uplift!
Testament (Violetta) – Lucianna Whittle
Is there anything else you would like to tell us?
It feels really important to acknowledge that this year the festival is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Clearly, the thirst for art is as powerful as it ever was, perhaps more so since all of the lockdowns. We would encourage any curious new visitors to pop in and spend some time in our gorgeous gallery, as well as nosing about in our individual workspaces. This is a venue with so much diversity of work, it is well worth a visit. We look forward to welcoming you!
Visit our website: www.studio106.co.uk
There is a virtual tour of Studio 106 on Google Maps.