Sunday, 8 November 2009

The Deptford Tour, Saturday 7th November

Relieved that the rain was staying well away, I navigated from west to south London for the Deptford Art Map Tour. Only just on its second run – the Deptford Art Tour is certainly a new addition to the Deptford art scene, and a brilliant one at that. Initiated by Julia Alvarez, the director of BEARSPACE gallery, this tour is specific and committed to the area. With everyone on the map chipping in to the start-up finances - just like ‘the good ol’ days’ when communities worked together and helped each other out – this tour screams out comradeship.

Deptford is the area in London with the greatest number of artists per square meter. Fact. With artists squeezed in to every building and corner, there is no lack of creative talent. With fourteen galleries featured on the map and eight must-see studios, Deptford is oozing artistic talent.

Having gathered at New Cross station Julia led us to her first stop: The Old Police Station. Yes, this really is, an old police station – the name isn’t just for effect. This is an arts centre full of charm and community spirit! A strong group photography exhibition from Goldsmiths is currently on show, but I have to admit, I was equally delighted with snooping round the old police cells…

Next stop was SE8 gallery. This non-profit art space, has dedicated itself to the good cause of installation art. Working closely with artists to make site specific work, it is refreshing to find a gallery with such a strong focus.

BEARSPACE was the third stop on the route. Although having run for five years now, this gallery still retains a fresh sense of energy and enthusiasm. The artist, Thomas Helyar-Cardwell was there to meet us and talk about his work. The first commercial gallery of the tour, BEARSPACE aims to seek out new emerging talent that pushes against the boundaries.

Passing through the bustle of the Deptford High Street market (brace yourself for several aggressively visual, pavement-invading butchers if you too, are a suffering veggie…), we made our way to Utrophia. A ‘vessel of exploration’ – Utrophia is a gallery, a project space, a music venue and a hotpot of ideas and imagination. Also under the roof of this old ice cream factory are several studios and a communal area bursting with character.

Last stop on the map for the day was APT, an arts charity committed to promoting the value of creativity through the visual arts. Despite being in the midst of an exhibition change-over, the gallery technicians showed us round; I must now make the point, that every single host on this tour had been accommodating and welcoming, something that could be quite hard to find if you were to attempt this in West London. APT not only runs a gallery space but also provides highly sought-after studios. Being an environment that inspires creativity, APT was an appropriate final stop for the afternoon’s tour.

The Deptford Art Tour had been a big success with the group full of interest all afternoon. Being so well organised and executed, informative, varied and above all good fun, it is impressive that this is only the second to have taken place so far. Julia’s obvious dedication and enthusiasm to the area and for everyone working in it is contagious. I came back to North London, singing the praises of Deptford!

Each tour will vary as to which galleries and studios are visited, meaning that you can attend a second time without feeling a repetition. And re-book is certainly what I will be doing – strongly recommend you do too.

Holly Willats

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