SPIRIT HOUSE poster / Nicola Lane 2017

As part of Camden Council's pop-up shop project bringing vacant council-owned retail spaces into use for local artists, start-ups and entrepreneurs, Nicola was allocated 18 Malden Road in Kentish Town in which to create her SPIRIT HOUSE project, from February 12th until March 20th 2017.  SPIRIT HOUSE was curated in cooperation with Holborn Library Archives, Geddes Gallery, and local organisations. 
Nicola writes:
"Many of my recent projects are searches for meaning in archives and memory. SPIRIT HOUSE is inspired by my childhood memories of living in Bangkok, where every property has a ‘Spirit House’. These miniature temples are shrines to protective spirit of place and shelters for the ‘Guardian Spirits of the Land’, in the belief that human beings should be respectful, and make sure resident spirits have a shelter to go to after being displaced. Votive offerings are left at the house to propitiate the spirits, and new Thai landowners will leave existing spirit houses intact and build a new one alongside. Often you can see a demolition site where all that remains is a solitary spirit house."
" I transformed 18 Malden Road into the SPIRIT HOUSE, a shelter for community memories and spirits of place. The woodwork was painted gold to evoke the ‘priceless’ value of community memories and the shop windows subverted estate agent iconography with estate agent displays of collected memories and local archives from Holborn Library. Passers by and the local community were invited to bring memories and photos for evolving displays."
The following images document SPIRIT HOUSE throughout its evolving collaborations, film screenings, installations & exhibitions.

Preparing the SPIRIT HOUSE space. The bus stop outside the shop provided a constant audience.

installing the SPIRIT HOUSE shrine: the dolls house as shelter for our dreams of an ideal home.

The opening party. Photograph by Cornelia Marland / 2017

Geddes Gallery initiates mapping the area around Malden Road. Photograph by Cornelia Marland / 2017

The estate agent display system is installed, with photographs of Malden Road in 1973, 1900 and 1968 from Holborn Library Archives.

Memories triggered by photographs in the window display are added to the wall map. Vanished streets, squatters, Ed Berman's InterAction, WAC Arts, the London Film Co-op, the City Farm - the rich cultural legacy of 1970s Kentish Town.

"There used to be the Rowney Art Materials factory -after it was demolished, we found thousands of pencils in the rubble."

"Is that me in the photo? It could be me and my friend...I went to St. Richard of Chichester School, round the corner. It's flats now..."

"My mum had a house - all it needed was a bit of modernising...the houses were Compulsory Purchased and my Dad got £7000.  They moved...Then I started courting a girl who lived in one of the new flats - the Denton estate, built where my Dad's house used to be. It's come full circle- I live in her family flat , on the Denton estate."

"After our house was demolished and we were decanted, I fought for my mother and she was finally offered one of the last houses available nearby- and I am still there! I would never want to move - there is everything on my doorstep. I am never bored, I am out all the time!"

Memories of a lost garden and of Princess Diana.

"I feel privileged that I was brought up here, in such a diverse, amazing area. We did call it the 'Bomb debris' - but  it was from the demolition of the streets. We played there and we were the first children who took part in InterAction- Ed Berman was great. I helped build the Giant Dinosaur! Later i became one of the first Play Workers..."

Young visitors.

" I want a house like this."

" My family moved from Kilburn to the Belmont estate when it was brand new. in Kilburn we lived in an over-crowded house with one outside toilet. The new flat was like paradise! My Mum is still there, and she still loves her kitchen!"

Scaffolding goes up, but the SPIRIT HOUSE is still welcoming. A visitor observed: "The gold house signifies our connection with the divine...standing on a red plinth ( which signifies the Base Chakra) which is our connection to the earth. Auspicious!"

"I am Slovac. I came to live in Camden 1994, and I loved it so much! So when I came back I wanted to live in Camden again. But when I returned I was disappointed - it had lost its unique shops, they are all the same, as in every city in the world. In Brooklyn the same has happened."

Nicola writes:
"I was privileged to work with local theatre company Clean Break, sharing the ideas informing SPIRIT HOUSE with their Performance Group and tutor Sophia Shaw. We focused on exploring creative responses to change, from which the students devised a performance piece titled DISPLACED MEMORIES  - performed in the SPIRIT HOUSE on March 7th 2017. "
After discovering artist Tinsel Edwards' subverted estate agent signs and interiors inspired by property publicity, Nicola invited Tinsel to participate in SPIRIT HOUSE.  Tinsel created a new series of paintings which were displayed in the estate agent-style display in the window.

Installing Tinsel Edwards' work in SPIRIT HOUSE.

Tinsel Edwards' paintings: TO LET: Lovely Period Style New Build Property £560 per week

Local filmmaker Anna Bowman was invited to screen her 4 short films revealing great characters and important moments in Kentish Town's history, during the repeated development and redevelopment of the last 160 years. Titled Eventful Times in Kentish Town, the screening also included a film brought to the SPIRIT HOUSE by a local resident,  made by the Talacre Action Group in 1971.
The screening was packed, inside and out. The films had to be screened twice to accommodate the audience.

“Chook Farm”:  memories of Inter-Action, innovative theatre and community arts organisation originally based in Malden Road. Locally its legacy includes Talacre Open Space, Kentish Town City Farm and WAC, the Weekend Art College

Nicola invited the participation of photographers Jonathan Langren and Gordon Cooper who had both been involved in the London Film Makers Co-op when it had been active in Prince of Wales Crescent  during the early and mid 1970s.
Gordon Cooper's photographs of Prince of Wales Crescent taken just before demolition in 1975 were the final display, together with the 1971 film of the Talacre Action Group:

"I don’t mind blocks of flats- but I don’t like estates. You get lost in them."

Gordon Cooper / all rights reserved

SPIRIT HOUSE closed on March 20th 2017. During the closing event, ambulance and police lights dramatically illuminated the memory wall.

Throughout SPIRIT HOUSE's tenancy of 18 Malden Road, evolving community interactions, displays, installations & events created a space for meaningful public engagement and dialogue between the area’s past, present, and future. A big thank you to everyone who generously shared their memories. 
Watch Anna Bowman's film created for the SPIRIT HOUSE:
Project links:
http://www.hamhigh.co.uk/etcetera/art/the-spirit-house-in-kentish-town-is-a-shrine-to-community-memories-1-4892426
https://www.mixcloud.com/camdencommunityradio/interview-with-nicola-lane-about-spirit-house
http://tinseledwards.com/news/2017/3/21/spirit-house/
http://insights.londonresidential.com/post/102e0lp/when-art-and-estate-agency-combine-new-pop-up-exhibition-in-kentish-town
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