‘It’s tearing everything apart’: Art collective evicted from decade-old home with one week’s notice

An art collective will lose “tens of thousands of pounds” after its landlord decided to evict it with just one week’s notice.

Zona Mista, based in Ilderton Wharf in Rollins Street, Bermondsey, was told on February 3 that it had to quickly leave the property it had used as a work and art space for nearly a decade.

The collective is made up of 25 artists and small businesses who were told by property owners Renewal Group that a new tenant was moving in.

An exhibition event at Zona Mista (Picture: Ollie Dook)

The South London Press has seen documents that show Europcar, the multinational car hire firm, had an agreement in place to become the new tenant of the space.

Lewis Henderson, head of project space at Zona Mista, which has exhibited work by Turner Prize winners, said he was “distraught” at the news of the eviction.

“People have been crying in the corridors,” he said. “People here have kids. This is their livelihoods. These people are being pushed out of their jobs.

“It’s a hostile, malicious, destructive practice. Renewal claim to be safeguarding artists, it’s obvious that is not the case.”

Lewis Henderson, left, with artist Xenia Bond (Picture: Hannah Burton)

Mr Henderson said he did not know where the collective could go as prices for the kind of space they need to rent have increased in the area.

“It’s going to be hard for us to stay in this community where we’ve lived,” he said. “Everything in the area has been developed. We might have to disband or be pushed out of the city. It’s tearing everything apart.”

The artists and businesses have had to start throwing valuable items away as they cannot afford to store them.

Mr Henderson estimated the losses taken on by everyone in the collective by paying for moving, storage and “filling up skips with good stock we could sell” could run up to £100,000.

“It’s very expensive to turn your life upside down with seven days’ notice,” he said.

The collective said it had a lease in place until November last year when the landlord siad it would be increasing rent.

Zona Mista believed it was in a negotiation period with the landlord, paying month to month, and it was a “terrible shock” when it was handed the eviction notice.

The Greater London Authority’s Culture and Community Spaces at Risk team is now involved to help the collective find alternative premises.

The collective managed to secure an extension of its notice until February 24 but is hopeful it can extend this further.

Mr Henderson added it was likely Europcar “had no idea artists had been using the space for nine years”.

Jordana Malik, executive director at Renewal Group, said: “We are working with Zona Mista to find them alternative premises.

“We have extended the amount of time they have to vacate and we have offered the artists compensation for their reasonable expenses incurred by the initial short notice period given.”

Pictured top: All for Millwall exhibition at Zona Mista (Picture: Zona Mista archive)

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