Southern Fairies

Our guest post this week is from Rachel Price who co-runs the curatorial programme at South London art studio & gallery Hatch Space in Deptford. Rachel also currently runs art tours for the South London Art Map in and around the Deptford area. We asked Rachel to give us an insight into the creative momentum thats sweeping through South London in the last few years.

For some reason unbeknownst to me, many a Londoner still seems to have a difficult time venturing south of the river. These days you don’t even have to hitch a ride with the boat man, you can walk across a bridge of your choosing (I’m a fan of Waterloo) or board one of those locomotives you’ve heard so much about.

River Thames and Waterloo Bridge, London. ©Tom Arthur

The reasons for heading down here are multi-faceted: Great markets, cheap clobber, chatty locals (especially in Le Penge when you’ve fallen asleep on the night bus, apparently it happens a lot), superb galleries, and special parks. My personal area of expertise is Deptford where I have lived for 5 years.

There was a burgeoning art scene here when I first moved here, Deptford X was going strong and there were a few decent art galleries and studios in the locale, the area has since, artistically, boomed. This owes partly to the enterprising South London Art Map (formerly Deptford Art Map) that decided the best way to survive outside of the obvious art hubs in London was to pool resources and give people a decent reason to head south (or 150 decent reasons going by the last South London Art Map gallery count).

The character of these areas, especially Deptford, owe a debt of gratitude to the market traders, independent traders and gems of characters that grace the streets of Deptford making it one of the most friendly, open, unpretentious places I have ever had the fortune of living – traits that don’t normally go hand in hand with ‘creative hubs’. This in turn has lead to an art scene that is both socially engaged and politically aware, whilst of course benefitting from the masterful menagerie of tat and quite frankly visual feast that graces the markets – happily this is Hew Locke’s inspiration for this years Deptford X festival.

Whatever convinced the vendors that Capri-sun and Timotei make happy market bedfellows I’ll never know, it’s not a logic I’m willing to question, because those guys could sell snow to the Eskimos, and probably convince them to take a few Vienettas while they’re at it. My point being artists are lucky to be in Deptford, Deptford is not indebted to the artists. Deptford was built on its trading prowess, and in fact a couple of us galleries could probably learn a thing or two from our boys at the market. With the public purse well and truly tightened art establishments would benefit from learning to create their own income streams and shake off the assumption that a commercial art enterprise can’t possibly also be a risk-taking, experimental one.

Hatch Space is an artist run studio and gallery provision based in Deptford, providing space and a platform to show to both national and international artists in the formative years of their careers. Hatch Space Flickr
– Galleries in South London are open late on the LAST FRIDAY of every month.

Deptford X 2011 runs 23rd September- 2nd October: Deptford X are currently accepting submissions from artists in response to Hew Locke and Indra Khanna’s Statement of Intent.