The independent London newspaper

Bid to save The Horse Hospital arts space

Deputy mayor of London appeals to landlords

10 January, 2020 — By Samantha Booth

ONE of London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s deputy mayors for culture has swung her weight behind a campaign to help prevent a Bloomsbury independent arts space from closing.

The Horse Hospital in Colonnade is facing a bid by its landlords to in­crease the annual rent from £30,000 to £130,000. As reported in the New Journal last summer, staff launched a campaign to “save” the venue, which is unfunded and not-for-profit.

Justine Simons, deputy mayor for culture and ­creative industries, an un­elected position appointed by Mr Khan, has called on the landlords Evannance Investments Ltd to think again about the proposed increase.

Ms Simons said in the letter, seen by the New Journal: “London’s creative economy generates £52billion a year and provides one in six jobs. But the capital’s independent creative venues like the Horse Hospital rely on a secure premises in order to continue their important and innovative work supporting creative talent. I urge you to reconsider the proposed rent increase and enable the Horse Hospital to remain in your premises.”

Camden Council’s culture chief, Councillor Jonathan Simpson, has also written in support, saying: “Camden has a rich and varied cultural offer that contributes to the quality of life of our residents. The Horse Hospital is an important contributor in this, adding to the vibrancy, character and identity of our borough. I urge you to reconsider your proposed rent increase.”

Since the letters, venue founder Roger Burton said they put forward a new offer to pay £35,000 a year but the landlords came back with a request of £103,000. The contract was due to end on December 31, however a two-month extension has been granted for further negotiations.

A kickstarter for initial legal fees raised £8,000, but if a court ends up settling the terms, it could cost up to £20,000.

Mr Burton said: “The campaign has been really positive, there’s been lots of great letters of support from people and universities and colleges that use our facilities, but we still need more letters. It’s really important that we agree a fair rent, its not just about me, it’s about all of the creative people involved in this building and those that have been over the years, literally hundreds artists, filmmakers and writers and performers that have come through these doors and gone on to greater things.

One example is this year’s joint Turner Prize winner Tai Shani, who curated at the Horse Hospital for over 10 years. “If the worst happens and we have to close the gallery around 20 part-time staff would lose their jobs, as we would never find another space like this in central London. It’s a horrible position to be in but somebody has got to make a stand, as more and more cultural organisations get squeezed out because of such high rent demands.”

The landlords previously said they do not have any other plans for the building at present and want to agree a new lease at a fair rent.

A spokesman added: “The current lease was agreed in 1991, and the rent has not increased since 2001. This demonstrates our support for the Horse Hospital, over many years, and we very much hope to be able to agree a new lease at a fair rent.”

He added: “The building’s future is safe – it is Grade II-listed, we have owned it for almost a century, and we are not developers.” The building was originally constructed in 1797 to house 24 horses, 12 on each floor, and soon became a veterinarian practice.

It was later used as a printworks. Mr Burton’s first ever exhibition in 1993 was of 70s punk designs by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren.


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