Ilford, as in all of the UK, has endured deep budget cuts in public services over the past ten years. In order to be an attractive place to invest in and work, the UK has seen top-rate taxes lowered in favour of a stripped down public sector. This means it's easier to be wealthy and it's harder to be not-wealthy. The idea perhaps is to encourage people who need the most help to help themselves. For some, this is possible. Commercial enterprise is one of the best ways to help oneself in any society, as we have control over our own business and methods. It is in my opinion that although it's good to encourage enterprise, it cannot be done without a great big safety-net in place. Nearly all fail the first time.
So what has this got to do with art? There was once a library in Ilford's Town Hall. This Grade II listed building has remarkable design features and stands unique among this vibrant town. It was closed down, which was unfortunate for the local librarians and visitors, however the space was opened up for something new. What happened was probably the best thing that could have been done with the opportunity. Instead of another row of offices or a mini-mart, Ilford now has an art gallery with affordable studios for creatives of all types.
Hopefully the rents from the studio space and the sales of any art sold will all contribute towards providing the local public with a free and available space to enjoy culture. HAT Projects took the contract for regeneration and were able to retain all of the unique period design. The building has also been equipped with a new entrance and an art-deco domed roof.
Architect and artist Sahra Hersi grew up in Ilford. It was only natural then to commission her to produce a display for the grand opening. Her illustration, which depicts her childhood memories of the location, stands proudly at the new entranceway to welcome all the new visitors and passers by. Regular commissions will take place which intend to support the local talent in the Redbridge area. Ilford being a cultural capital of this location arguably has a responsibility to maintain a level of cultural relevance for its citizens.
With regular workshops and events to keep a momentum going, and an annual reshape determined by the artists given the paintbrush, the Space Ilford Art Gallery will become a suitable and welcome replacement to the library. Cash for this project was awarded by The Mayor Of London as part of a scheme to invest in the capital called the Good Growth Fund, which has a budget of £70m.
Via Ilford Recorder