London Mayor launches groundbreaking Creative Land Trust

A new independent Trust has been launched to protect and increase affordable artist workspace following the decline in artist studios in the capital.

Speaking today at Bloomberg’s European headquarters, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, outlined how the new Creative Land Trust will help tackle the problem of rising rents in the capital by providing artists and creatives with affordable workspace. The organisation has been created with support from Arts Council England, Bloomberg Philanthropies and Outset Contemporary Art Fund.

The Creative Land Trust is an independent organisation that will provide financing for affordable workspace providers to buy buildings and will purchase its own property to be used as permanent workspaces for artists in London.

It aims to secure 1,000 affordable workspaces in its first five years, helping artists to flourish and helping to maintain London’s status as an international cultural capital.

Retaining the creative community in London is central to the city’s success, with the creative industries contributing £47bn per year to the economy and accounting for one in six jobs in London. However, a shortage of affordable workspaces, rising rents and the insecurity of short-term leases threaten the future of the capital’s creative workforce and artist community.

Recent figures reveal that the decline in the number of artists’ workspaces in the capital has shown signs of stabilising. However, more work must urgently be done to protect affordable spaces and to create new studios across the city. Demand is also incredibly high with recent research showing 95 per cent occupancy and nearly 14,000 places on waiting lists across 27 studio providers.

The Mayor has pledged £4m to the Trust, with £2m from Arts Council England. Bloomberg Philanthropies have also come on board to fund the Trust, extending their commitment to empowering artists and local communities through innovative, city-led cultural programmes. This initial seed funding launches the independent organisation, with Outset Contemporary Art Fund bringing together public and private partners, and experienced workspace providers to deliver permanent secure workspace.

The Trust will work to secure investment to increase affordable workspaces in the city by bringing together local authorities, developers and the creative industries. The returns generated by providing financing will be reinvested into the Trust.

The Creative Land Trust is calling on developers to provide the Trust with funding or suitable buildings for affordable workspace. Local authorities are also being invited to work with the Trust to safeguard local affordable workspace for artists and creatives to use. Outset Contemporary Art Fund, the international charity pioneering arts philanthropy with funding solutions, brings together the initial funding from public and private partners with a call for future investment.

This approach has been inspired by a similar model in San Francisco, where a ‘Community Arts Stabilization Trust’ (CAST) has established an approach to safeguard creative communities in the face of rising rents. The Creative Land Trust has appointed an Interim Director, Sara Turnbull, who will bring over a decade’s worth of experience in theatre, events and delivering sustainable community and built-environment projects. Sara will lead the Trust during the period when the trustees are appointed.

The launch of the Trust is the latest in a series of groundbreaking policies from the Mayor to protect and grow London’s creative economy. These include launching London’s first Creative Enterprise Zones, which will boost local jobs in the creative sector, and publishing the most pro-culture draft London Plan, which will protect culture and heritage across the capital, from pubs and music venues to dance studios.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Creativity and innovation are at the heart of London’s success – they are what draws people from all over the world to visit, live and work in our city. This innovative new fund will protect London’s artists from the pressure of unstable leases and rising rents and ensure that the next generation of creatives are given the support and space they need to flourish. I’ve been clear that London is open for business and creativity, and protecting our creative sector will help the capital remain a creative and forward-looking city for the future.”

Sir Nichola Serota, Chair, Arts Council England, said: “Our country’s cities are creative powerhouses, but with success comes the threat of talent being priced out. If the UK is going to maintain its position as a world leader in creative industries, artists need to be able to find long term workspace where they can experiment, innovate, and produce.  ACE is proud to be working together with the Mayor of London, Outset Contemporary Art Fund and Bloomberg to develop an idea that could transform the lives of creative individuals whose presence brings vitality to our cities. We and the Creative Land Trust would welcome the chance to work with other cities across the country where similar challenges threaten creativity.”

Jemma Read, Global Head of Bloomberg Philanthropy and Engagement, said: “Cities thrive when they can attract and retain creative talent, so affordable space for artists must be a priority. The Creative Land Trust is an innovative public-private partnership to help stabilise a sector that is vital to the future dynamism of London. We are so pleased to support this important new initiative in the UK.”

Candida Gertler OBE, Director, Outset Contemporary Art Fund: “Affordable workspace is essential for artists and creatives to develop their ideas. At Outset, we have invested in and prioritised the needs of artists for 15 years. Artists’ studios are far more than just physical places of work; they are centres of creative exchange, education and mentoring, and serve as socio-economic hubs with their own supply chains and communities. Thus artists and creatives are the original social entrepreneurs. By bringing together the real-estate, arts and public sectors to find a permanent solution for affordable creative workspace in London based on a solid business model, the Creative Land Trust marks an exciting and crucial step forwa

Antony Gormley said: “Studios are to artists what laboratories are to scientists, music rooms are to musicians and factories are to industrialists – without them cultural production simply cannot be pursued. If London is to survive as a creative capital, if the art schools that produced three generations of ground-breaking artists’ work are going to continue as places of innovation then we have to provide housing and sustainable working spaces for artists at all stages of their careers. Those artists best placed to maintain a vibrant cultural life in this city are now seeking working spaces and opportunities in Berlin, Athens, Barcelona and Brussels as well as leaving for Margate, Rye, Whitstable, Hastings, Bristol and Brighton. We must do what we can to stem this receding tide of talent and potential. It used to be normal to see art students walking down Kings Road, Charing Cross Road or High Holborn carrying half-finished pieces of sculpture, their latest fashion creations or large portfolios of drawings. The artistic life of the city was in the city and explored and expressed there. We need that sense of the continuity of creative life to be expressed in the streets and spaces of our city. The Creative Land Trust can begin to help us find it once more.”

Juliet Can and Neil McDonald, Directors, Stour Space, said: “Studio providers such as Stour Space are at the heart of the creative economy, providing civic spaces for artist to experiment and grow while also regenerating and diversifying the communities around them. The decrease in affordable studios and lack of security on buildings has led to social and economic uncertainty leading to displacement of artists and fragile communities.  The London wide Creative Land Trust is a vital initiative to support the legalities, financing and politics of acquiring assets, enabling the studio providers like us to become more sustainable and do what we do best: retaining creativity, culture and communities in London and creating long standing social impact.”

Anna Harding, CEO, SPACE, said: “This is an exciting development which we hope will further build on SPACE’s 50 years providing much-needed space for artists working in the capital.”

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