By E L Brown
On Saturday 18 August the studios of Fountayne Road threw open their doors for Open Warehouse Day. The organisers – all volunteers, who live in the warehouses themselves – invited the artists and makers of the community to share their latest projects with the wider public.
The pulse of music could be heard from afar, as DT’s correspondent strolled down the road alongside a mix of families with young children, middle-aged gentlemen and edgy-looking warehouse types. A diverse crowd gathered at the end of the road, near the courtyard where the main stage was set up. Adorned with bright yellow bunting and fronds of fake flowers, the warehouses had been transformed from their usual ramshackle state.
On the street, there were graffiti artists in action, locals had set up a small market to sell pre-loved clothes, trinkets and furniture, and food stalls were preparing to serve their first dishes of the day. In the courtyard, the programme for the main stage offered an eclectic range of performances: storytellers, musicians, physical theatre actors, cabaret artists, clowns, performance artists and hula hoopers.
Cheerful volunteers ran a bustling bar near the main stage, and people circulated through the courtyard, pausing to watch the performances before disappearing inside the former-industrial warehouses. The corridors of the warehouses were hung with paintings and photographs produced by talented local artists, creating a walk-through gallery for visitors to peruse as they explored the studios.
One room held an entrancing audiovisual installation by multidisciplinary artist Blair Zaye; another offered walk-in portrait sessions, courtesy of Kitsch Studios photographer Eric Mouroux; others gave visitors a glimpse into artists’ workspaces, pleasantly cluttered with materials and works-in-progress. Painter Rebecca Parkin had hung her compelling portraits of green women, inspired by their depictions in horror and science fiction films.
Pausing for a moment between welcoming friends and strangers into her space, Parkin stood with her work for a photograph. Later, she said: ‘Open Warehouse Day was a wonderful opportunity to meet and talk with the public about the work I have produced over the last year. I gained such insightful and enthusiastic feedback during the day and met so many interesting people who I hope to maintain a connection with. The Open Warehouse Day made me feel like part of something big happening in Tottenham.’
As the day went on, there was plenty to captivate attendees of all ages and backgrounds. An exhibition by Bad Art offered visitors a transgressive, interactive art gallery experience at Bones & Pearl Studios. The main stage hosted a great variety of talents: one moment, Sam Pro was performing a dynamic live hip hop set, and the next, the Fountayne Players were delivering a masked performance to a hushed crowd. At one point in the afternoon, a huge fox puppet appeared, stalking above the crowd, supported by four or more people – much to the delight of the children present.
As night fell, those who remained gathered around the main stage. To draw the evening to a close, progressive hip hop group Backyard Bully performed a rousing set to a jubilant audience. Reflecting on the day, band member Elijah John said: ‘Open Warehouse Day, for me, was a place where people from all different ages and walks of life come together and represent an ideal community. Having only been in the warehouses for a year, I’m loving it and I’m excited about the journey that I’m on.’
Organised and run entirely by volunteers, and financed in part by an online crowd-funding campaign, the event gave artists a chance to show their work to their neighbours outside the warehouses. For organiser Nour Alkawaja, her commitment to putting on the Open Warehouse Day does not only stem from a desire to celebrate artists in the community: ‘it’s to celebrate the warmth that exists between the people that live here. I have worked in 54 countries and Fountayne Road, for me, it’s an example of the best of humanity. That’s why I am committed to the people that live here and the work they produce.’