One of London’s most valued alternative art venues is threatened with closure.
Being essentially shut-ins, The Reprobate team haven’t been to London’s Horse Hospital as often as we perhaps should’ve. But over the years, we’ve enjoyed numerous nights there, ranging from cult book launches to talks on the esoteric, sexual freedom lectures to strange art exhibitions and oddball club nights. I’ve lectured there twice, which is pretty unique. As a venue for alternative arts and alternative cultures, it’s pretty unique and vital since opening in 1993 – tucked away on a side street in the centre of London (I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve forgotten just where it is and wandered around aimlessly until stumbling upon it – and the pub that is handily right across from it), this unglamorous building is basic in structure – having been essentially derilict before being taken over – which works in its favour. This is not a trendy gallery or rich kid’s plaything. It feels industrial and edgy, ideal for hosting work and performances by some of the more cutting edge and challenging artists out there. It also houses The Contemporary Wardrobe Collection, the largest public access archive of post-war street fashion and youth culture in Europe – a vital collection of alternative fashion history that is also used by film and TV companies.
If we were less lazy, we’d probably have run events there ourselves. Maybe we still will, though the opportunity might well be snatched away from us by the building’s landlords, who have been trying to close the venue for years, and are currently demanding an eye-watering 333% rent increase.
London is increasingly being stripped of interesting and alternative places as landlords seek to cash in on a property boom by throwing out culturally worthy but not especially wealthy tenants in favour of speculators who want to buy up most of the city’s centre. We’re not talking so much about ‘gentrification’ – the term for a genuine issue, but too often misused when a run down and violent shit hole is made less run down and violent – as naked greed, with buildings snapped up by Chinese, Russian or Middle Eastern investors who then leave them empty, bricks and mortar seen as a safer and more profitable investment than pretty much anything else. On top of this, quirky independent shops are increasingly forced out of business by both outragous rent increases and eyewatering business rates, the buildings then either sitting empty or else converted into nail bars, estate agents or outrageously priced ‘pop-ups’ that are vanity projects for the bored wives of investment bankers (we see this all the time where we live). London might be a desirable place to live, but it is slowly being stripped of all the elements of ‘cool’ that make it so. Imagine the phenomenon of people moving next door to a bar in an area known for its vibrant nightlife, and then complaining about the noise until the the bar has its licence revoked, but on a city-wide scale, and that is London right now.
So venues like the Horse Hospital become even more important than ever, and thankfully they are not taking this new threat lying down. In 2015, the venue was granted Community Asset status by Camden council – the status usually granted to local pubs under threat by greedy breweries who want to cash in on the value of the building. This new rent increase surely flies in the face of that status – how can a venue be a community asset if forced out by excessive rent demands? It feels like a rather grubby way to get around the 2015 judgement.
The Horse Hospital is fighting this, but legal cases cost money, and as you might expect, hosting alternative events is not a path to untold riches (sorry to disappoint anyone who thinks that The Reprobate is run from palatial offices where nubile serving girls feed us grapes all day). Their Kickstarter campaign (which maybe shouldve been a Gofundme, but what do we know) is aimed at raising the money needed by December if they have to fight their very wealthy landlords in court to secure a fair rent. It seems a good use of your money. You can also sign up as a friend of the Horse Hospital and help them secure an extension of the Community Asset status, which I imagine their opponents are now actively lobbying easily swayed politicians against.
Visit https://www.thehorsehospital.com/stop-the-horse-hospital-from-closing for details on how to show your support. And remember – what happens to them today could happen to your favourite venue tomorrow, if corporate greed is allowed unfettered opportunity to force them out.