Village Undeground, Shoreditch, 2007, Ravish London


Village Undeground
@www.ravishlondon.com


Reaching the Promised Land

Two tube trains looking as if they've escaped the confines of the underground and are about to take off into the London skies.

I had often wondered how the hell one gets up to these trains. Many a time I have run round the warehouse, on which these trains are situated, like a dog runs around a tree with a squirrel up it, thinking how the hell do I get up there? Then one evening, as me and a couple of mates were walking by we noticed an inconspicuous outdoor metal spiral staircase, which by definition I had never noticed before. Intuitively I knew this was the staircase to my destiny. I also knew this was my moment to take advantage. A girl, drunk, was leant against the door to the staircase, swinging gently against it as she talked to some passers-by. Whether she was aware or not I don't know but as she talked, my friends and I (and one of them was six foot six!) scurried past behind her back and went up the stairs. When we got to the top a frisson of excitement shivered me bones. We'd made it. There were two trains on the ceiling of the warehouse, and then another two beside them, the two which I could see from the street, which were perched on two oblong metal containers.

It was a party! I poked my head into the first carriage where the party was going on. It was a bit weird. Everyone seemed to know each other and they were awfully civilized. There wasn't enough frivolity and antics for me to feel comfortable in randomly introducing myself to others. I asked a geezer if there was anywhere we could get some booze from, he said there was none on sale here, but that I could get some from down the road. He seemed friendly enough. I then went to the wall, and looked down at the street, which I had spent so many times looking up from, and looked down with a real sense of joy.

I read somewhere once that trendy people don't know how to have fun. Just looking around, everyone was super dressed up, and yet they were very mild and friendly. But this wasn't really a party. I imagined that all these people were in long-term relationships, probably workaholics, who whilst politely socializing had half their mind turned to some piece of art or design that they had worked on until the late hours of the evening and were dying to get back to. They were 'things' people not 'people' people.

I couldn't resist going up to have a look at the two carriages, that I had long surveyed from the streets. The three of us went up a second flight of stairs to reach them, and all of a sudden the noise of the party disappeared. It was just the three of us. We peered through the glass doors and walked up and down the gangway which separated the two carriages. There's only so much fun you get from doing that. Then one me mates (not the six foot six one) decided to climb on top, cheeky bugger, from which vantage point he took in the London skyline, and had a fag.

Happiness is perched on top of an underground train, which has been lifted by crane and put on top of a metal container, which itself is on the roof of a warehouse ---- or it's a cigar called Hamlet.

A few weeks later I befriended a homeless busker for a few hours one lunch time. We went to see the carriages and when he saw them he swore to me that they were squats and he was going to see if he could move in. I loved the idea that someone would have gone to all that effort to put these carriages on top of a warehouse only to abandon them to squatters.

The Facts Behind the Experience

Apparently there are not four but six carriages in total either on top of or inside the warehouse in south Hackney on Great Eastern Street. The idea for the carriages was thought up by Tom Foxcroft, Director of Village Undeground, whilst sat on a mountain train in Switzerland. Village Underground is a social enterprise project set up to provide cheap studio space for young people aiding them to set up creative business, organisations and practices. Village Undeground own both the carriages and the warehouse.

The carriages are currently being used by designers, record labels, photographers and script writers whilst the warehouse is used for conferences, launches, parties and other events.

According to Tom, writing on his own website, 'The carriages are part of a much larger project to create a series of spaces in cities around the world to allow an international exchange of creativity and ideas... the essence of the project is that Village Underground will be a catalyst for new creativity.'

The walls of the warehouse and the carriages are frequently given makeovers with various murals, graffiti and images.

The Village Underground



The most visible manifestation of the imagination inherent within the Shoreditch artistic community are four underground carriages which sit on top of an old warehouse. The carriages, which look like they have been frozen in time, about to speed off into the sky taking their commuters towards the City, were put their by Village Underground, a social enterprise project set up to provide cheap studio space for young people aiding them to set up creative business, organisations and practices. The carriages are used by designers, record labels, photographers and script writers whilst the warehouse is used for conferences, launches, parties and other events. The walls of the warehouse and the carriages are frequently given makeovers with various murals, graffiti and images.

According to Tom, writing on his own website, 'The carriages are part of a much larger project to create a series of spaces in cities around the world to allow an international exchange of creativity and ideas... the essence of the project is that Village Underground will be a catalyst for new creativity.'

The walls of the warehouse and the carriages are frequently given makeovers with various murals, graffiti and images.

Shoreditch

Together Spitalfields and Shoreditch in the eastern quarter of the City of London have become, what one might call 'the square mile of art'; a de factor open air art gallery; with graffiti, posters and paste-ups being displayed on the main streets, down the side roads and in all the nooks and crannies of this post-industrial environ.

The artwork is often the product of local artists but is also the product of a global jet set elite who spend their time invading the major cities of the world, displaying their art on walls and local galleries and then leaving for their next destination.

The artwork varies enormously, from paintings, to huge single letters painted on shop shutters, to stencils the like of which Banksy has become famous for, to the haunting propaganda rip-off posters of Obey, to Cartrain's political black and white pop-art; to name but a few.

Being on the streets, the work can be destroyed, taken or painted over at any minute. It is fragile and transient. Furthermore the juxtaposition of different pieces of art is random and unpredictable both in content and its location, which means that each day throws up a new and unique configuration of work within the streets, which you can only experience by travelling. See our page on London street art fore more details.

Date Article Written: 2008



Contact Details and References

Address
Village Undeground, 54 Holywell Lane, Shoreditch London EC2A 3PQ

Telephone
44(0)7886751205

Email
auro@villageunderground.co.uk

Opening Hours

Cost

References

  • Any old iron? Disused tube carriages being turned into studio space, August 2006
  • Village Underground: The Tube Studio; The Londonist
  • Village Underground
  • Village Underground PDF Presentation