The Regeneration Of Shoreditch

Art & Culture

For anyone who has spent any time whatsoever in Shoreditch within the last 20 years, the dramatic way in which the landscape has changed will not have gone unnoticed. Whether it be sites being demolished in favour of becoming luxury flats, the ever-increasing reach of Pret A Manger or the alarming number of homeless people that seem to adorn our streets on a regular basis, there are plenty of worrying signs that the area is headed in a rather misguided direction.

However, one of the signs that there is perhaps some hope for our East London base is that there has been a significant influx of creative people and the range of independent shops, stalls and business prompts some faith in the fact that not all of us have yet been usurped by the city workers in their suits. Tamsin O'Hanlon, Director at The Truman Brewery and Founder of Free Range, has been in the area for the past two decades and has seen the landscape of Shoreditch alter immeasurably.

But why did she first come to this little area of East London?

"The community around there at the time was small, exciting and full of creative people like Phil and Jason from Subhead, Gary Cobain from Future Sound of London, Paul and Phil from Orbital, Pablo Flack, Paul Epworth, Lulu Kennedy from Fashion East, Banksy.

"Soon after I arrived in the area I starting working for the Old Truman Brewery that housed small studios and designers. I was fascinated by all of the amazing empty warehouses and smattering of creativity."

Having been in and around Shoreditch for the last twenty years, Tamsin has noted a not-so surprising fact about the rise of a certain type of caffeine-based establishment:

"In 1995 it was very quiet and there were virtually no shops. For a while you’d have to walk to Liverpool St Station if you wanted a coffee! After work local creatives used to congregate outside The Brick Layers Arms for a drink at the intersection of Charlotte Road and Rivington Street. It became more and more popular – the explosion of Shoreditch happened from there."

As an area there's no doubting that Shoreditch is now "energetic and creative" and there's a real sense in the air that it stands significantly apart from the surrounding areas of shiny new office buildings filled with phrases such as 'don't you talk to me about the Henderson account!' There surely wouldn't have been such a stark regeneration of the area in what is essentially a rather small-scale time period if it weren't for burgeoning cultural enterprises such as Free Range. But what has Free Range, specifically, done for the area?

"Attracting visitor numbers to rival the largest art events, the annual Free Range exhibitions present the work of thousands of art, design students in several distinct categories including fashion, art, graphics, photography and interior design. Free Range is the best place to spot the latest trends and newest talents. It’s brought a lot more creatives to the area."

Talented young artists such as Megan Hood and Peter Marshall are among those being drawn to the area – both are photographers who have seen their work brought into Shoreditch courtesy of Free Range and their hard work and determination is likely to see them succeed in their craft. 

If the last twenty years in Shoreditch has taught us anything it should be that we need to embrace cultures of all sorts and use them to craft ourselves a world in which everyone is welcome and the encouraging of young minds to create and thrive is a must.

So what's next for Shoreditch?

"I can’t predict the future but creativity itself is a process so I have no doubt that it’ll be the young creatives who the main players making those changes."

Find out more about Free Range here.