Hackney residents shape arts initiative

An empty shop on Hackney s Regent Estate has been transformed into a performance and visual arts centre, which draws on its surroundings to influence its programme of exhibitions, events and workshops.

Workshop44 is run by Rolemop, a UK based contemporary live arts and audio visual production company with a passion for telling stories in new and exciting ways. The group of experienced practitioners draw on a wide range of disciplines and styles, which adapt and collaborate for the creation of inventive new works. Its home at 44 Marlborough Avenue E8, provides a base for rehearsals and development of new art projects as well as acting as a space to host performances, exhibitions and workshops.

The company s ever-changing programme centres around engagement with the local community who inform what it delivers through a steering committee of local people who have helped to develop the use and programming of the space. Its regular pop-up events involve local artists, and resident community groups are using the shop to run initiatives such as Spots of Time, a new social enterprise which makes it easy for people to do fun, inspiring and bite-size activities to benefit people in their community.

The venture is one of a series of projects supported by Hackney Council s Art in Empty Spaces (AIES) initiative, designed to transform empty properties or spaces into something useful and meaningful for Hackney’s residents and visitors.

Kerri McLean, director of Rolemop, said: "Our space is fantastic. The large glass-fronted shop has invited plenty of interest from the neighbourhood, with local residents of all ages popping in to learn more about what we re up to. This constant stream of interactions with the community has allowed us to talk about what we do and explain how they can get involved. We want to learn more about the people, their lives, and how they feel about their environment and we use this to develop a practical arts programme that will involve, educate and benefit the community in which we work."

Cllr Guy Nicholson, Hackney Council Cabinet Member for Regeneration and the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, said: "The Art in Empty Spaces initiative is continuing to achieve its aim of generating sustainable, creative businesses, which engage with the local community. We now have eight successful AIES projects in the borough, with three Future Job Funds positions now secured alongside a number of volunteering positions. The two-way communication promoted through Workshop44 exists to benefit and educate both the company and residents of the area within a relaxed environment. This non-threatening practice of providing arts-led, locally informed initiatives has delivered a new learning ground, which the local community can properly feel part of."

Spring will see the introduction of BLC Hackney at Workshop44, a community-led workshop for unemployed people offering help tackling job interviews through innovative, interactive exercises to engage participants and develop practical skills. Voices Through the Estate, an audio archive project to explore the heritage, history and landscape of Hackney Regent Estate through residents oral accounts, stories and memories will also launch this summer.

Workshop44 is looking for volunteers and local creatives to help support its community arts space, those interested should email For more info on up and coming events, exhibitions and workshops at Workshop44, visit: For more information about Art in Empty Spaces, visit:

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