When Granby Four Streets won the Turner Prize in 2015 we were all a little blown away. It started a conversation about what art is, what community means and what transformation looks like.
The Turner Prize win was remarkable for a community interest company who were probably as surprised as the rest of us to get nominated. With their latest project, Granby Four Streets have managed to surprise and enlighten us all over again. It could very easily be said say they’re just showing off at this point.
For a volunteer-led organisation that exists through the sheer will of those who give up their time and energy, their success to date, in taking these streets head-on, changing their neighbourhood brick by brick, is beautiful.
That they’ve taken on 11 houses and refurbished them speaks for itself. Their future plans include securing four empty shop units on the crossroads of Cairns Street and Granby Street, to create community spaces, deliver community services and make the street attractive to retailers and others. To help it grow.
Their monthly Street Market is a warm, welcoming and creative event that shouldn’t be missed. It is full of life, colour and laughter, even in the rain. (first Saturday of every month except January)
Their latest venture has just been released into the wild, Winter Garden is here, Nestled in the middle of Cairns Street, houses 37 and 39 have been transformed in a way that is hard to imagine from the street. They have remodelled two previously derelict buildings and built a creative community hub, that just defies expectations.
The Winter Garden, much like Granby Four Streets, is owned and managed by the community. They will be involved in its future direction, deciding what will happen and what kind of work will take place in the venue.
It is a remarkable space. To the right-hand side, one house is a stunning indoor garden, lined with a bright blue beam, it is the full height of the building and filled with planters and wildflowers. In the centre of the room, where you might expect to see a sofa, there is a tree and an assortment of indoor plants, all reaching for the sky.
The neighbouring house is a different beast. It combines a meeting space, a small studio for arts and activities, and a room upstairs that will act as accommodation so the space can host artists in residence in the future.
Both spaces are flooded with light from an almost totally glass roof, there is bare brick throughout and bare wood to match, it is a simple place where the plants and flowers stand out. There is, if you were so inclined, a plan to release the accommodation on Air B&B so the building can bring in some paying guests to help cover costs.
Did we mention it has a glass roof?
We live around the corner, we’ve already looked to see if it is online.
This project is as green as they come, the planet, air, water and rejuvenation are key to the team, they collect rainwater for the plants, the building is designed to use little power, and it works to make sure it stays warm and is well ventilated so that the plants can thrive and survive.
That this design has come from the community and Assemble, the creative team responsible for the houses and Turner Prize speaks to a relationship that has developed over the years and is built on trust and respect. It is clear that everyone involved loves these four streets.
We’ve said it before and will say it again, Granby Four Streets have proven beyond doubt that anyone can tackle anything, even if it appears insurmountable. It is all the more remarkable considering that there should never have been streets here, this was all due to be raised to the ground. Replaced with modern stock.
These streets were a no go zone, now they’re filled with light and love. How many places in this city have picnic tables outside peoples homes, how many people fill entire streets with colour and nature? How often do you see people standing at their doors, coffee in hand, talking with their neighbours in the sun?
There is still a lot to do, there is still some dereliction around the neighbourhood.
There is a long road ahead for this team and for those who follow them to invest their money and hearts in these streets.
But those people are there, they’re spending their money, giving it blood sweat and probably tears. But this is one hell of a start.
So again, here’s to the space invaders, space shifters and transformers of L8, long may they reign.