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London’s Old Manor Park Library opens as community arts hub

A new artists’ hub inside the Grade II-listed Old Manor Park Library in east London is opening its doors today.

Architects Nicholas Lobo Brennan and Astrid Smithman have breathed new life into the 1904 building – built by philanthropist Andrew Carnegie – transforming it into studio spaces for not only artists but also the local community.

The former public library on Romford Road was disused for four years prior to art organisations Create and Bow Arts devising a plan to bring it back into public life.

‘Instead of a library full of books, we have a library full of artists,’ says Create director Hadrian Garrard. ‘We’re not just taking over a building and changing the locks, we want to explore ways artists can be more connected to the public.’

Old Manor Park Library
Photography: Emil Charlaff

In exchange for studio space, resident artists will hold workshops and engage with the community on projects. Old Manor Park Library’s front room is also now home to the ‘Rabbits Road Institute’, which, led by artists Ruth Beale and Amy Feneck, doubles as a living room for the neighbourhood where artists and locals can meet and swap ideas.

Adds Garrard: ‘As artists are struggling to find studio spaces in places like London, it’s important they make a contribution to public life.’

Create and Bow Arts hold a seven-year lease on the building but are looking to remain beyond that.

‘We’re hoping to be here for a long time,’ says Garrard.

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