BBC BLOGS - The Reporters: Razia Iqbal
« Previous | Main | Next »

Multi-storey art park

Razia Iqbal | 17:11 UK time, Thursday, 2 July 2009

carpark_view.jpgI have always thought the River Thames divided London, but a truly stunning view from the ninth floor of the multi-storey car park in Peckham Rye shows that it actually unites the city. The view has to be one of the few in the capital which allows you to see major landmarks from both sides of the river, from Canary Wharf and the Dome in the east, to the London Eye and the Houses of Parliament.

This sense of unity dawned on me as I looked at art by emerging young artists (all under the age of 30) in an exhibition called Bold Tendencies III, curated by Hannah Barry. It is the third such exhibition in the car park, but the first since the success of the Peckham Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, which heralded this suburb's attempt to carve out a place for itself on the contemporary art scene.

The exhibition has some terrific pieces in it, from Hannah Barton and Xavier Poultney's huge black blocks - one with a central hole, and the other containing a fibre optic prism - which face each other and channel the setting sun to create a striking effect.

Another remarkable piece is called Broken Obelisk. James Balmforth's work does exactly what it says on the label, but you have to see it to believe it. And there will be many children who will want to destroy the pristine beauty of Bayly Shelton's piece, Rocks of Ages, Sands of Time.

The setting of a currently-unused car park is genius in itself, particularly as, in this third Bold Tendency, there are a bar and café attached. The unrivalled views alone should prompt people to flock there, but I think it is the art that should get people to the car park in Peckham.

Hannah Barry is a name to watch and I am certain that some of the artists she is championing will be on the verge of fame. If you think there is incongruity in the idea of interesting contemporary art in the place made famous by Del Boy in Only Fools and Horses, then consider the contrast of this: After I left this brilliant view, I wandered the streets of Peckham, and thought about the social conflict of recent years, knife crime and marginalised communities. I marvelled at shop after shop selling fresh meat and fish; vegetables from all over the world, and quick ways of sending money to Africa.

I wanted so much to believe that some of the people I encountered would make the journey up to the top of the car park to share that view and see a united city made real.


  • Comment number 1.

    Interesting that a disused car park in London gets an art exhibition (presumably subsidised), a cafe and a bar, and the BBC covering it. A famous car park in Gateshead which should be a listed building gets demolished, and no attention from the BBC.

    I wonder whether, apart from the Edinburgh Festival and the occasional foray to Stratford (followed by metrocentric bleating about the kind of rail timetable the rest of the UK lives with every day), the BBC arts team ever leaves the M25?

    How about a profile of the arts scene in other British cities? Maybe pick one a month and focus on that? Or is it easier to just use your Oystercard for all your 'national' arts coverage?

  • Comment number 2.

    sweetsmellofsuccess: if you're referring to Gateshead's multi-storey car park, then there has been coverage on the BBC News site, if not this particular blog. Meanwhile, London's seen plenty of buildings that should have been considered for listing demolished with no coverage - Drapers Gardens, Mondial House, Milton Court and Fortress House, for example.

  • Comment number 3.

    #2 I was referring to Gateshead, yes. Although it was covered on the news, no reason why, due to its filmic history, it's any less deserving of Arts coverage than a disused car park in Peckham, however.

    As an example of what I mean, Nottingham has just had a whole week of film and writing events, including world-class screenwriters and workshops. Very well attended; a classic example of bringing arts to the public, and how well the public responds to such events. Absolutely nothing from any national media about it.

    On the other hand, Helen Mirren's (London) stage acting is in a few cinemas, and they're all over it (though, ironically, the BBC went to a cinema in South London for their report)...

  • Comment number 4.

    It is clear arts coverage is London-centric as is a great deal of all news coverage. Perhaps the beeb moving some of it's operations to Manchester will rectify the situation. This has been discussed on another occation on this blog here.

    I sympathise with the lack of coverage for other parts of the Country. However the Peckham exhibition is receiveing so much publicity due to the hard work of the Hannah Barry Gallery courting the publicity through Peckham Pavilion at the Venice biennale.If artists around the country feel London-centric is ignoring them,perhaps a bold move like that of the Hannah Barry Gallery is in order. Also the car park IS in use, only the top and roof sections have been used for the exhibition. Southwark council seem to have earmarked it for "redevelopment" so it may very well end up the way of the Gateshead multi-story, lets hope they can be dissuaded from follow that course of action.

    Alternative Future Peckham.


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.