The Horse Hospital, home of the Avant-garde scene in London for over two decades, a haven for all outsiders and radical experimenters, underground filmmakers and late night urban drifters, is under threat of losing its mythical abode- once a Victorian horse hospital, then a printing press, and now a dark and cobbled fort that rises defiantly in the very heart of London’s Bloomsbury, as though conjured straight out of David Lynch’s dreams. In the careful hands of its guardian, Roger Burton, the building has grown into a temple for national and international subcultures and has hosted everything from seminal Punk exhibitions to independently run alternative MA programmes (The School of the Damned, whose meetings happen on a Sunday like the best of services) to all night underground film-benders.
Like its spiritual brother The Chelsea Hotel, that housed and nurtured generations of artists in NYC, The Horse Hospital welcomed me to its fold as a budding filmmaker and introduced me to its secret networks of devout radical thinkers and idiosyncratic dreamers, shining lights on uneven trajectories through the most outlandish practices that have at once inspired and daunted me.
This urged me to embark on journeys of my own, to step into the exciting unknown armed with the irreverence, daring, fear and ecstatic bliss that comes from getting to witness the freedom and absolute commitment that can bind an artist to his vision.
Crucially it offered me space, that elusive commodity that is so scarce in the city today, and without which nothing can be born. As a recent graduate I was in desperate need of a physical platform from which to share my work, the space to experiment and fail, so that the next time I might fail better.
It made me aware of my role and responsibilities as part of a community much wider and more complex than myself, and awoke the desire to burst the dangerous illusion of lofty isolation that often distances the mainstream arts from its independent practitioners and their daily struggles.
Why should the Horse Hospital remain where it is? Because physical presence is a radical form of subversion in the city today. Because the fabric of London is being uprooted and its culture erased in the name of progress and at the expense of community and continuity, and a single room could make the difference between cultural survival and annihilation.
Because urban spaces are not merely deluxe properties, but constitute the scaffolding over which culture spreads and communities may thrive or decay, and therefore weave or unravel the narrative of the city.
Because the weight of continuity is a gravitational centre towards which, sooner or later, all parts of the stories that we tell will converge and collide to create a story that can transcend us all and grant a safe crossing into the future.
A room of brick and mortar, with its draughts and musty scents, with its leaks and cracks, is all we need to stay afloat even as the waters rise.