The Art House, Claremont Road, London, 1994 No M11 Road Protest.
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For 6 months in 1994 Claremont Road became the centre of the No M11 Road Protest. Down the to be demolished street, protesters barricaded empty houses, built tunnels, and weaved ariel rope walkways along the street, in an attempt to thwart the final clearance and destruction. It was one of the more locally popular road protests, famous for a lollipop lady leading residents into the building site to stop bulldozers, tea and sandwiches freely flowed, and a largely sympathetic police presence (2 policemen advised me to do my painting in the evening or they'd feel obliged to arrest me).
I read about the 'No M11 Road Protest' in the 'Guardian', and decided to go see if there was any scope for mural painting their. There was, but also a lot of artists. With Christine Binnae I helped organise the turning of a house to be flattened into an art gallery of works against wreckless road building by 20 artists.
The gallery became a welcoming space for visiters to the campaign and clean space for workshops in the otherwise heavily barricaded street. Security guards and police also visited the gallery and had the opportunity to gain greater insight into why protesters were protesting, therefore breaking down stereotyping, which is important in a confrontational type situation. The way the gallery became used seemed more important than the artworks themselves.
The event went nicely and the results liked, so we organised a weekend of turning the road into an art park with artists and protesters. The entire road was decorated, filled with sculpture, and stages were built for bands, so it became a colourful backdrop for the final eviction and destruction, making the road a nicer place to live, and provided colourful scenery for media images.
Anonomous protesters also built a 100ft high scaffold tower, painted bright pink. It looked impressive, and took four days for security to manage to pull people out of. Amoung a series of publicity stunts they also occupied the roof of Transport Minister Macgregor's house one morning, raised a union Jill, and dropped a 30ft canvas painted with a road down the middle of the house.
'Undercurrents' alternative news company comprehensively videoed the Art House, eviction and series of publicity stunts. This and their other films of creative protest were shown at the Tate Modern's '10 Cities Exhibition', representing the creative prime of London in the 1990's displayed next to a Damion Hirst installation.
The Guardian newspaper also ran a 5 page picture story about the Art House on June 25, 1994.
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