The Centre of Attention homepage   the centre of attention 2B Butler's Wharf

2B Butler's Wharf

Back

 

Waterfront view of Butlers Wharf in 1978. John Kippin is seen with his Bolex filming a record of the building as 'The South Bank Show'.

 

For more information on 2B Butler's Wharf, visit their website here.

Butler's Wharf was a former riverside warehouse dating from the late 19th century, within the complex of streets and buildings immediately south and east of Tower Bridge. In the early 1970's many of the buildings in that area had been cheaply purchased by property speculators with a view to re-development. In London at that time, many housing associations and co-operatives were being formed to negotiate cheap rents for derelict properties in the interim period before demolition or re-development took place. Many artists lived and worked under these kinds of arrangements, and it was a group of friends who had met while at art college in the Isle of Man and Brighton who together rented a floor of Block 2B, Butlers Wharf in late 1975, later joined by recent art graduates from Newcastle, Leeds and Maidstone.

I remember the rent for the 3,000 square foot space situated on the first floor - with a riverside view - being £200 per quarter, which we split eight ways. The group's common artistic purpose was always evolving through dialogue as we progressed, but we all worked in time-based media: performance, film, video, sound, installation, photography, music, slide projection and light, either singly or in many combinations. In presenting art work to an audience we were all keenly aware of context, as well as the physical demands of 2B with its 24 bays marked out by 15 one-foot-square wooden columns; a powerful environmental statement which had to be addressed. While we had initially rented the space as individual studios, its location and the potential travesty of dividing up such an evocative space meant that we quickly agreed to keep it clear and use it flexibly - more of a time-space share, than simply a shared space.

On this basis, the first member to put on a live performance was Kevin Atherton in November 1975, and the good-sized audience who saw his piece proved the potential of the space and its location. There were many artists working in studios nearby, and a combination of word of mouth, individual mailers and the available arts publicity services of the Time Out listings pages and the Acme Gallery's 'Events' sheet soon put the space on the arts map as a performance art venue. In May 1976, regular Saturday evening shows began with presentations by members of the original group. These events were quickly extended by shows by close associates and then opened to all artists wishing to use the space for presentations of their work. By May 1978 when the building was closed down by the developers, there had been over 80 shows by more than 60 artists. Thirty had involved film projection, a dozen used video, a further dozen were sound pieces; many used light as a primary element, some were pure performance art, while many used combinations of several media.

The People

The 2B Butler's Wharf 'group' as defined by those who took part in the first Group Show were John Kippin, Belinda Williams, Martin Hearne, Kevin Atherton, Mick Duckworth, Steve James, Dave Hanson, Alan Stott, Kieran Lyons, Alison Winckle and myself, David Critchley.

This group of people paid the rent, renovated and maintained the space, co-ordinated booking-in artists to stage events, and assisted each other - and the visiting artists - in the publicising and realisation of the shows. We also organised general publicity for the space through the Acme Gallery's Events sheet and Time Out .

Artists used the space on the basis that they would provide their own props, postcards and flyers, though we often helped and advised on where and how to get equipment, printing or materials - such as a lorry load of floorboards for a spatial sculptural installation or film projectors, video or sound gear. The many friends and close associates of the 2B group who were present at most events and meetings and who staged their own shows included Charlie Hooker, Maggie Warwick, Steve Partridge, Jane Rigby, Keith Frake and George Saxon.

...

David Critchley

 

 

An evening in The Copper, Tower Bridge Road [now The River Bar and Brasserie], the pub of choice after performances and 2B meetings L to R - John Kippin, Mick Duckworth, Jane Rigby, Stephen Partridge, Alison Winckle.

 

 

For the piece at 2B Butlers Wharf I stretched two sheets of clear plastic sheeting the length and height of one side on the space. Then, using black emulsion paint, I moved through the space, making marks suggested by the space and the rhythms of my movement within it.  Peter Todd
 
Maggie Warwick Inside Out 4th October 1976:
 

27th November 1976: 'Wine & Milk' video (live and prerecorded) and performance by Kieran Lyons

 

2B Butler's Wharf website (including further pictures)