In defence of the Iklectik Art Lab

Dom Aversano

There are moments when you know you’ve really travelled down an avant-garde rabbit hole. I experienced this when watching the essay documentary on Soviet Era synthesisers Elektro Moskva, at the Iklectik Art Lab in Lambeth South London. At one point in the film, a synth is played that divides the octave into something like 70 tones. By most definitions, it was not a pleasant sound, and it wasn’t just me who thought so. Tony, the resident cat, had enough, and let out a prolonged howl that drowned out the sound of the synth and turned everyone in the audience’s heads around to focus their attention on this alpha feline, in what felt like a clear admonishment from the animal kingdom; having conquered the world, did we not have something better to do than listen to the sound of a (frankly crap) synth droning away in the crumbling remains of a communist dystopia?

Well, Tony, sorry to disappoint you, but no.

The value of Iklectik to London’s music scene is hard to quantify, as it has made space for many artistic activities that might otherwise be filtered out, and not least of all, the music hacking scene. The acoustic music hacking group Hackoustic has put on regular events in the appropriately named Old Paradise Yard for about 8 years. In no small part, this is because Eduard Solaz and Isa Barzizza have always been gracious hosts, willing to sit down with artists and treat them with respect and fairness. Unfortunately, it appears that this has not been reciprocated by the owners of the land, who are now warning of imminent eviction and wish to transform the land into the kind of homogenous office space that turns metropolises into overpriced, hollowed-out, dull places.

I spoke to the founder of Iklectik, Eduard Solaz, who had the following to say.

Why are you being evicted from Old Paradise Yard and when are you expected to leave?

This decision came quickly after the Save Waterloo Paradise campaign mobilised nearly 50,000 supporters and persuaded Michael Gove to halt the development project, something we have been campaigning for over this last year. Our public stance against the controversial plans has resulted in this punitive action against IKLECTIK and the other 20 small businesses here at Old Paradise Yard. Currently, despite not yet having permission for the full redevelopment, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation are refusing to extend Eat Work Art’s (the site leaseholder) lease.

What impact will this development have on the arts and the environment?

For more than nine years, we, along with musicians, artists, and audiences, have collaboratively cultivated a unique space where individuals can freely explore and showcase groundbreaking music and art while experiencing the forefront of experimental creativity. London needs, now more than ever, to safeguard grassroots culture.

From an environmental perspective, this development is substantial and is expected to lead to a significant CO2 emissions footprint. Consequently, it poses a potential threat to Archbishop’s Park, a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation that serves as a vital green space for Lambeth residents and is home to a diverse range of wildlife. It also puts Westminster’s status as a Unesco World Heritage sight at risk.

Do you see hope in avoiding the eviction, and if so, what can people do to prevent it?

There is hope. In my opinion, the GSTT Foundation, operating as a charitable organisation, should reconsider its decision and put an end to this unjust and distressing situation. We encourage all of our supporters to reach out to the foundation and advocate for an end to this unfair eviction.

Here you can find more information to help us:

To get a sense of what this means for London’s music hacking community I also spoke to Tom Fox, a lead organiser for Hackoustic, who put on regular nights at Iklectik.

Can you describe why Iklectik is significant to you and the London arts scene? 

Iklectik is one of London’s hidden gems, and as arts venues all over the UK are dying out, it has been a really important space for people like us to be able to showcase our work. We’ve had the privilege of hosting well over 100 artists in this space through the Hackoustic Presents nights and it helped us, and others, find their tribe. We’ve made so many friends, met their families, met their kids, found like-minded people and collaborated on projects together. We’ve had people sit in the audience, and get inspired by artists who then went on to make their own projects and then present with us. Some of our artists have met their life partners at our events! The venue isn’t just a place to watch things and go home, they’re meeting places, networking places, social gatherings and a place to get inspired. I doubt all of these things would have happened if Iklectik weren’t such a special place, run by such special people. 

Do you think there is a possibility that Michael Gove might listen?

It’s the hope that gets you! I’m a big believer in hope. It’s a very powerful thing. I don’t have much hope in Michael Gove, however. Or the current government in general. But, you know, there’s always hope. 

To take action.

Undoubtedly, Iklectik is up against a bigger opponent, but it is not a foregone conclusion, especially since Michael Gove has halted the development. There is a genuine opportunity for Old Paradise Yard to stay put.

Here is what you can do to help…

On Iklectik’s website, there are four actions that can be taken to help try to prevent the eviction. In particular write to Michael Gove and write to the GSTT Foundation.

For those in the UK, you can attend Hackoustic’s event this Saturday 11th November.

Having collaborated with the Iklectik Art Lab, we at Music Hackspace would like to wish Eduard Solaz, Isa Barzizza, and all the other artists and people who work at Old Paradise Yard the best in their struggle to remain situated there.

Dom Aversano is a British-American composer, percussionist, and writer. You can discover more of his work in his Substack publication, Liner Notes.