James Balmforth, 29, is a sculptor. He lives in a squat in a South London suburb and is represented by Hannah Barry, who runs a gallery in a Peckham car park

There is probably an empty building on your street, you may have walked past it a thousand times and not noticed its slow and mossy decay, or maybe you don’t know it’s even vacant because, theoretically, it’s not: someone has taken it over, fixed it up a bit and is putting it to good use, using it as a theatre, a gallery, a shop, a community space or a home. The chances are that they are not even doing it illegally.

With the number of our empty buildings officially stated to be 943,000 last year and that figure expected to rise to more than a million this year, councils and communities are becoming more and more open to the idea that empty space is not necessarily dead space. One such venture is the Brixton Village, currently hosting its inaugural festival. A stone’s throw from the Tube station, behind the main drag of JD Sports and Marks & Spencer, 20 empty shops in a run-down arcade have been filled with community-driven businesses, design collectives and workshops. A joint initiative between Lambeth Borough Council, Space Makers Agency and London & Associated Properties, the building’s owners, it’s the largest example yet of a growing nationwide trend.


Hana Hanra
London Times