“Factory” Farming: Making Use of London’s vacant spaces during the recession

Convener(s): Josh Neicho

Participants: Michelle Reader, Katherina Radera, Gary Campbell, Robert Cook, Francis Barking, Derek Shiel, Ellan Parry, Lucy Wilkinson, Sarah Grange, Jo Crowley, Lottie Leedham, Abigail Hiester, Chris Wootton, Kate Golledge, Heather Taylor, Margaret Cox

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:


Discussion inspired by architecture critic Rowan Moore’s piece on “slack space” appearing in London as commercial/industrial property falls vacant in the downturn – e.g. Woolworth’s stories – and the possibility of theatre companies using it for productions, in the fashion of Tim Carroll’s The Factory.


Examples: Shunt (in Bethnal Green pre under the London Bridge arches).

Fallujah at Truman Brewery in 2007.

Trying to use the Farmilo building (sp?) near Old Street but owners not interested.

ALTERNATIVE ARTS (run by Maggie Philbean?) took over shops in the early 90s for art exhibitions, they would have know-how on such a project.


SATAN’S GROTTO take over empty shops

Promenade productions lend themselves to vacant spaces – eg the National Theatre/HighTide’s Stovepipe

Peckham – Area 10

Play already produced in London, transferred to an art gallery in St Nicholas Temple Bar, Ireland (promenade production)

Comparison with New York, done to death use of vacant spaces in the past 3-4 decades. Is London’s time to do this still to come?


Danger of owners of spaces wanting particular kind of theatre.

Ideal – free artistic choice, not trying to do certain themes of theatre.

Need a dynamic person to lead, negotiate with businesses/adminstrators/councils


ACTION: Josh is to contact Rowan Moore & Architecture Foundation, Tim Carroll and others, e.g. Charlie Wood/Ed Bartlem of the Underbelly for advice and interest. Emails to be sent round to all participants and other interested D&D people in the next few days.