Artscape announces plans to leave Camden distillery

Artscape says more than 200 artists will have to find new spaces after Musgrave’s landmark distillery closes on 30 December

An announcement on Saturday that Musgrave’s historic Mains of Aberdour distillery is closing, leading to the loss of 250 jobs, has further dealt a blow to Camden’s creative community.

Artscape – the network which brings together art, social enterprise and community developers – says it is leaving the premises in Oundle Street by the end of the month because they can no longer afford to live there.

There is concern that over 200 artists and craftspeople, including those currently on Artscape’s programmes, will have to move out, leaving a list of difficult options which include forcing up rents for empty commercial spaces in Camden, expensive DIY alternatives like workshops, and using city-centre buildings which are already taking on tenants.

Derek Thain, director of Creative Warehouse, says “Artscape does not exist in a vacuum and it is directly proportional to local economic and social well-being. We’ve been through the financial situation many times before, and the council have listened and acted before. If we do not have a future, we don’t really have anything and that is why we are going.

“There will be a massive disruption in the near future – this has been three years in the making. We have had no real say in the economic future of Camden. Many, many artists and organisations have called upon the council to address this situation but the council has not done so.”

Karen Andrews of See Big Buildings says more local government support for such spaces is needed. “We are facing exactly the same problem as the Peak District – creativity and entrepreneurship depends on temporary safe structures, creative places and open spaces. But creative people don’t like moving around to find a place to live. We need more building services to be based in a hostel-style type of development of creative sites. This could be as easy as providing parking and some pay or learn schemes.”

Musgrave’s distillery was founded in the mid 19th century as the first ever whisky distillery in the capital. It is due to shut on 30 December.

Responding to the closure, Camden Council leader Nickie Aiken said: “Our objective is to provide economic diversification within the borough, and building connected communities, including creative ones, is an important component of this. I am shocked by this announcement, but it is of course within the control of one of our landlords and Musgrave has a number of options regarding their facility.”

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