Plans dashed for Banksy gallery Foundry's squatters

By Andy Dangerfield
BBC News, London

  • Published

Pete Doherty read poetry there, Kate Nash performed there and in the basement stood a six-metre high Banksy mural.

"If it's not squatted in by someone who wants to save it, it will be squatted in by someone who wants to destroy it," said 36-year-old Sidney.

The squatter is a member of the group Foundry For The People who hope to save The Foundry - the gallery and bar at the centre of east London's art scene - from demolition.

Hackney council approved plans for developers Park Plaza to replace it with an 18-room art-themed hotel back in February.

Foundry For The People, who had been squatting in the Hoxton building for two months, thought they stood a chance of saving it "for the community".

Then, on Thursday morning, they were evicted.

Free exhibitions

But on on Wednesday, Sidney had said: "I think it's winnable."

"It may require a certain amount of magic but quite often, the police will leave a squat if they like it.

"It's matter of whether we can we police ourselves and make a positive contribution to the community."

For over a decade, Foundry hosted free nights showcasing music, poetry and films.

Electro band Hot Chip are said to have formed there and Pete Doherty used to host its poetry nights.

The building was also used as a free space for artists to display their work.

For the past two months, the squatters have been holding free nights of art and music to continue in the spirit of the venue's previous owners.

"It's quite a rare thing these days, people who want to do something for nothing," said James Hurford, 36, who works as a courier.

"But here, if you put the art on the wall you can have a free exhibition," he said.

Last laugh

In recent weeks, the squatters have hosted live bands, artists and video nights, attracting dozens of people.

"We have theatre groups using this place during the day, we have artists coming in doing their own artwork, we have local kids who come in and do graffiti," said Mr Hurford.

"Last night we had a video night. We have live bands in on a Friday and Saturday, and we have live mic night on a Thursday."

The squatters were certainly not impressed with Park Plaza Hotels' plans for the building.

Image caption,
New artworks have been painted in The Foundry's basement since squatters moved in

The planned redevelopment, part of the Art'otel chain, would see the gallery incorporated into the hotel.

"They just want to make it a hotel. There are at least four hotels in the area," said Michael, a 37-year-old student.

"It will be a joke of an art hotel compared with what they knocked down."

But now it looks as though Foundry For The People's plans for the venue have been dashed.

On Thursday morning, bailiffs moved in to evict the squatters.

Hackney Council, which approved the plans for the hotel, said the new gallery would have more exhibition space for local artists than the Foundry had.

However, there could be a sting in the tail for developers.

They had hoped to preserve the Banksy mural to draw people to the hotel.

But Foundry For The People claims the mural no longer exists.

"There is no Banksy mural here any more," said Mr Hurford.

"The person who was here before was asked by a certain artist to go over all their stuff.

"This place was whitewashed over when they moved out."

Related Internet Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.