491 Gallery


491 Gallery in the Financial Times

4th November 2012

Supporters speak out for community art space

Financial Times
4th November 2012
By Claire Jones, Economics reporter

A commercial building in east London that has housed squatters for the past 12 years has played a vital role in the cultural life of the local community, according to its supporters.

The 491 Gallery in Leytonstone, previously a derelict factory and storage space, has regularly hosted exhibitions, film screenings, gigs, and life drawing and exercise classes, which local people can attend for free.

“It’s a really well-run community organisation. And it gives something unique to the local area,” said Charlotte Ballard, who has lived in Leytonstone for the past year. “The residents are very welcoming, and I haven’t seen any evidence of violence, or antisocial behaviour.”

Isobel Payne, who lives in nearby Leyton, said: “There’s just so much going on there. It’s a beautifully decorated space and it’s constantly changing.”

Emily Lines, an artist from Leytonstone who used the building for her first exhibition, said: “They were the only ones who were prepared to let me have a solo show. I can’t think of anyone who would have given me that opportunity besides them at that time.”

Gee, a resident of the 491 Gallery who also campaigns for derelict buildings to be reused in a more intelligent way, says squats in disused commercial property often help burgeoning art scenes to flourish. “You kill off underground entertainment if you kill off squatting. Who else is going to give people the space to juggle chainsaws?”

The 491 Gallery is set to close in the new year to make way for residential apartments. But the developers who bought the land, previously owned by Transport for London, have met resistance from members of the local community and have yet to secure planning permission.

“In Hackney there’s loads going on. Here in Leytonstone we just have that one place and it looks like it’s closing. It’s tragic,” said Ms Payne. “For young people round here, it’s one of the few places we’re proud of.”

Wild Note Arts

18th September 2012

We're proud to announce that we've formed a not-for-profit organisation, Wild Note Arts.

Several of the 491 community members have formed a limited company to enable us to approach organisations and apply for funding and future premises, so that we can continue with and improve upon the good work of our community over the last decade.

The Wild Note website will be coming soon, but in the meantime please have a look at our page on Facebook for update on what we're up to.

491 Gallery in the Waltham Forest Guardian

26th July 2012

LEYTONSTONE: Community art space under threat

Waltham Forest Guardian
26th July 2012
By Figen Gunes

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.