Old police station cells to be turned into art studios

The Grade II-listed courtroom, which was damaged by vandals during a Halloween party in October 2020, won’t be used

Thursday, 31st March — By Harry Taylor

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Inside the old police station and cells [All photos The Koppel Project]

THE era of the bohemian artist could return to Hampstead as a charity will open temporary studio spaces inside the former Hampstead Police Station.

The Koppel Project, which has venues in Holborn, Soho and Piccadilly Circus, will have space for more than a dozen artists, turning cells into spaces to provide inspiration for creatives, and will also hold occasional exhibitions.

The foundation, which was founded in 2016, will be opening 15 affordable studios charged at £22 per square metre from mid-April and hopes to expand to 30.

Applications are now open for early and mid-career artists.

Operations manager Ellen Taylor said: “It’s a beautiful space. There’s a uniqueness to the building, and once we heard it was available, obviously we checked it out because it’s been empty for nearly 10 years, but we were keen.

“We’ll have to get everything reinstated and refurbished, but it was too hard to turn down. We’ll give it back to the community until eventually the planning application comes in for its permanent use.”

She said that residency spaces inside the former Rosslyn Hill police cells could allow artists to draw on “the atmosphere or perspective the location gives them”.

Koppel also confirmed that priority will be given to artists who are from the area.

“A very important part of the station coming back to life is that local people can use it,” said communications manager Art Haxhijakupi.

“Hampstead had a big reputation for the arts but it’s not affordable for many people now, so it will be nice to bring that back.”

There will also be a community space that can be rented out for workshops and even potential yoga classes.

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The Grade II-listed courtroom, which was damaged by vandals during a Halloween party in October 2020, won’t be used. The studios will be open until the end of this year.

Hampstead had a rich artistic history in the 19th and 20th century, which saw the area become home to creatives ranging from John Constable to Barbara Hepworth.

Cheaper rents and bedsits meant artists flocked to the area, but a slowly increasing cost of living meant many seeking a similar lifestyle were forced out.

Now, according to Ms Taylor, Covid has made artists reconsider whether they need studio space – but she believes they help them develop.

“I think they have worked from home and might have thought that they don’t need studio space, or can’t afford it,” she said.

“That’s why we believe in what we do, in terms of providing affordable studios to make it accessible. We try to be as flexible as we can be as well – nobody has to sign up for a minimum period. But if they’re in the same space, they can collaborate and have critique sessions, and that helps them develop.”

An application was recently submitted by Todd Berman – a leading opponent to a primary school moving into the site – to turn the former stables in the police station’s car park into a three-bedroom house.

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