Creative future set for historic Stratford building following Council funding boost

Creative future set for historic Stratford building following Council funding boost.

One of Newham’s most historic buildings, Grade II listed Alice Billings House in Stratford, is set for a new lease of life as a major creative hub following a funding award of up to £250,000 from Newham Council’s Active Spaces programme.

The council’s renewal of Alice Billings House is part of a wider strategy on recovery to bring the arts, greater youth participation and jobs for local people to the Stratford area and the borough more widely.

This work is being led by the council, working with its partners. Other exciting initiatives funded by the council includes investment in the Talent House on Sugar House Island. This will provide affordable workspace, dance facilities, recording studios and teaching space to inspire people living in Newham and east London. The council is also supporting a new programme of activities through the development of Stratford Youth Zone.

Following a competitive bidding process, Creative Land Trust, an independent organisation set up by the Mayor of London, has been awarded funding by the council to convert the building into 30 studios. These will be let at affordable rents to creatives in the visual, performance and digital arts, and to musicians and designers. In addition, there will be teaching areas and a community café.  When open, the building will also host exhibitions and events, residencies, wellbeing sessions and interactive activities for young people.

The Mayor of Newham, Rokhsana Fiaz OBE said: “A dynamic cultural offer is going to play a huge role in Newham’s recovery from the pandemic. The reinvention of Alice Billings House as a cultural hub is symbolic of the exciting artistic future which the borough can look forward to, complementing the BBC, V&A, Sadler’s Wells and the London College of Fashion when they open at the nearby East Bank and the opening of Talent House.

“It’s been an extremely challenging time for the arts and creative industries, so I’m delighted that our innovative Active Spaces programme is helping to breathe new life into the sector here in Newham. This investment, alongside our work on the development of high streets which deliver essentials for health and happy communities shows our Towards a Better Newham Covid-19 recovery strategy in action.”

Catherine Webster and Alexandra Notay, co-chairs of Creative Land Trust said: “We are delighted that Creative Land Trust can play such a major role in the reinvention of this beautiful, Grade II listed building, bringing 30 more affordable studios under our stewardship to Newham, an exciting and blossoming borough for the arts.  It is also further proof that long term studio provision and cultural activation can be achieved not only in new build spaces, as per our recent acquisition from Telford Homes in Hackney Wick, but also in historical buildings.”

Justine Simons OBE, Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries, said: “As our exciting new cultural landscape at East Bank takes shape, with new buildings and architecture, it is equally important that we preserve and restore important historical buildings like Alice Billings House in Stratford. I’m delighted that the City Hall-funded Creative Land Trust will revive the building with affordable artists’ studios, performance spaces and training settings. Securing these long tenures will mean creative businesses will continue to thrive and play a key part in the capital’s recovery.”

Jemma Read, Global Head of Corporate Philanthropy, Bloomberg L.P who provide funding to Creative Land Trust said: “We're delighted that Alice Billings House will soon welcome members of London's vibrant creative community to develop and share their practice. At Bloomberg, we know that cities thrive when they can attract and retain creative talent, which is why we're working with the Mayor of London and our world-leading artistic institutions to ensure that culture is at the centre of our economic recovery.”

Sabine Unamun, Director, London, Arts Council England said: “East London is filled with creative potential, talent and innovation, and it is vital that local artists have access to workspaces.  Thanks to Newham Council’s Active Spaces programme, the Creative Land Trust will transform Alice Billings House into a thriving creative hub.  The historic Grade II listed building will offer affordable studio spaces for artists, as well as a place where the local community can enjoy events, exhibitions and more.  We’re so pleased to have supported Creative Land Trust and look forward to seeing what this new space will bring to Newham and its community.”

Gavin Richards, Programme Manager, Architectural Heritage Fund said: “Artists and other creatives have so often been the saviours of otherwise unloved and overlooked historic buildings. Creative Land Trust’s plans will be an excellent fit for Alice Billings House, which is on the ‘Heritage at Risk’ register. The Architectural Heritage Fund was able to provide seed funding through our Transforming Places through Heritage programme, which aims to bring life back to historic buildings on high streets and town centres. Our grant enabled the trust to test out the viability of its proposals so it is wonderful that this has led to Newham Council investing in the project following a highly competitive bidding round.”

Published: 21 Jul 2021