Comment

A new lease of life for the Tottenham cultural scene

Local writer Adair Bergin comments on the new Drumsheds venue at Meridian Water, and makes the case for more ‘meanwhile use’ development

Drumsheds

Broadwick Live, the organisation behind London’s iconic Printworks venue, announced last month that they are turning the empty Tottenham Ikea warehouse into ‘Drumsheds’, a 15,000-capacity music, arts, and cultural venue. The venue takes its name from previous Broadwick Live site The Drumsheds, which was located nearby at the old BOC gasworks in Meridian Water. Simeon Aldred, director of strategy at Broadwick Live, expects Drumsheds to be “London’s most impactful cultural space of its kind” when it opens in September.

This is a new leaf in the Tottenham cultural scene, filling a vacuum left by the closures of the original Drumsheds site and legendary club The Cause, both short-lived but impactful venues.

The Cause closed in January 2022 as planning agreements for apartment construction in Tottenham Hale matured. It had been a short and rocky journey for The Cause since it was established in 2018. The Covid-19 pandemic saw the club close in 2020 and for much of 2021. The death of a young man from an accidental drug overdose in August 2021 forced the venue to close again for several months.

Despite its brief existence, The Cause was a highly successful music venue, attracting names including Derrick Carter, Bicep and Four Tet. It hosted an eclectic mix of events, ranging from local drum-and-bass nights to underground LQBTQ+ parties. It was one of few venues in London capable of enticing clubbers to Zone 3.

Early in 2022, The Drumsheds, a 10,000-capacity venue, also closed down as Enfield Council’s redevelopment of Meridian Water rolled onward. The Drumsheds opened in 2019, and hosted sold-out events headlined by Chase and Status, Diplo, Skepta and other internationally successful artists. The Drumsheds, like The Cause, operated on a temporary ‘meanwhile use’ license. Meanwhile use licensing allows organisations to temporarily use buildings set for demolition and redevelopment whilst developers wait for work to begin.

Smaller venues like Craving on Markfield Road, which closed its doors for good on 16th June, face an even bigger threat from the cost-of-living crisis.

The Cause and The Drumsheds left a vacuum in North London nightlife, but the reappearance of The Cause in East London and the new Drumsheds site reflect the durability of events organisations and the flexible nature of ‘meanwhile use’. Drumsheds may be here for some time. Enfield Council recently increased its deadline for the redevelopment of Meridian Water from 20 years to 25 years. At the moment, the council has no plans to purchase the Ikea site. The new venue, with three times the capacity of Printworks, has unparalleled potential to transform the cultural and economic landscape of Meridian Water and of the whole city.

“We want Drumsheds, like all the spaces we create, to be a centre of cultural gravity for the local community and beyond,” commented Simeon. The venue is set to host a programme of community events including food festivals, orchestras and fashion shows, and Broadwick Live has announced that Meridian Water locals will have exclusive access to tickets for upcoming events programmes.

Meanwhile use event spaces like The Cause and the original Drumsheds are part of a pattern across London. These projects are a means of generating short-term local income through vacant real estate. As residential developments become more widespread (Haringey’s house-building rate has increased year on year since 2017), nightlife and event spaces are being pushed further from residential centres and into disused warehouse spaces in quiet semi-industrial areas. Whilst this is less convenient for event-goers, event spaces offer a way of reviving empty space in a deindustrialised Britain.

Haringey Council has a meanwhile use application form through which businesses can apply for the use of a space subject to approval from the council. In other London boroughs, councils have adopted a more proactive approach. Brent Council provides a business-to-business meanwhile use service, with a list of meanwhile use operators to contact. The council also hosts a list of active meanwhile use projects on its website, and has published a strategy for encouraging further meanwhile use. I for one believe that meanwhile use is a good thing – Drumsheds will bring new life to a hole left by the Ikea closure.


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