Imagine how many works of art were never crafted, how many pieces of music were never written, how many creative business ideas never came to fruition because the people involved were too busy trying to pay their rent? It’s probably fair to say the Ad Hoc Property Guardian scheme has saved at least a few of them.
Property management company AD HOC connects the dots between unused properties across the country – churches, flats, sports halls, stately homes – and people who would like to live in them, at low cost. By putting these buildings back into use, their programme of pairing-up Property Guardians with these empty spaces provides a service that is of benefit to both property owner and those looking for low-cost accommodation. Even though the guardian scheme isn’t specifically aimed at people working in creative industries, it has naturally attracted a very diverse collective of them, from circus performers to architects to some not insignificant musicians. Richard O’Flynn, of Liverpool’s latest musical darlings All We Are, has been an Ad Hoc Property Guardian in a disused building in Toxteth for a number of years, capitalising on the freedom given to him by turning part of the space into the band’s rehearsal-cum-recording studio.
The scheme has given rise to a buoyant artistic community within Ad Hoc properties across the UK and Europe, creating a world of new ideas within re-imagined spaces. To this end, Bido Lito! have collaborated with Ad Hoc to set up AD HOC CREATIVE, which celebrates the talents of some of these guardians across the country via a series of profile features on adhoccreative.co.uk. And on 16th May we are delighted to announce that we’ll be hosting the first of our Ad Hoc Creative Expos, bringing to life an exciting and unique artistic collaboration in one of the more interesting properties involved in Ad Hoc’s guardian scheme. The beautiful Mansion House in Calderstones Park will be the setting for this first Ad Hoc Creative Expo, hosting a remarkable multimedia collaboration between the crown jewel of Merseyside music, BILL RYDER-JONES, and London-based artist and screenprinter MARCO LAWRENCE. The main focus of the event will be an interactive musical and visual piece created jointly by Ryder-Jones and Lawrence, which will be presented in the form of an immersive installation in one of the Mansion House’s gallery spaces. Since 2012, the collection of Grade II listed buildings that surround the neo-classical Mansion House have been home to The Reader Organisation, an award-winning charitable social enterprise working to connect people with great literature through shared reading. They have developed their Centre for Reading and Wellbeing into an internationally renowned initiative dedicated to sharing the joys of reading in the community. By way of connecting these two great schemes, we have tasked Bill and Marco to take the inspiration for their collaboration from a piece of literature selected from one of The Reader Organisation’s core anthologies.
Ryder-Jones, who first came to fame as guitarist with the Coral and has since gone on to great acclaim as a solo artist, composer and producer, will be composing a unique piece of music especially for this event, and his enthusiasm for the project is clear. “The world I’m in is fantastic and I love my job, but it can get stale if you don’t change things up every now and then. I’ve been jumping between producing, playing shows and working on the next album for over a year now, so I’ve been hoping something like this would turn up. The chance to revisit a different way of writing – and also to indulge a side of myself – was too good to pass up.”
Marco Lawrence, who heads up London’s Print Club studio and whose personal style includes colourful geometric prints, is also excited to experiment with this collaboration. “I’m always interested in incorporating rhythm and narrative in some way into my work, so I’ll be seeking to expand on these themes. And I’m interested in what this new platform allows me to achieve. Equally, I’m excited to be making work with Bill Ryder-Jones. His work is beautiful, thought-provoking and even eerie sometimes. It’ll be tough to match and marry visuals to his audio, but I’m looking forward to it.” When asked for a hint of what we might expect, Lawrence is cagey: “Well I can’t reveal too many secrets, and it’s still early in the project, but I reckon we can be sure of a rich mass of geometric, flexing, sliding-pattern work.”
Lawrence has been an Ad Hoc Property Guardian for over five years, and is currently guardian of an ex-council flat near Old Street in London. “I’ve come to value the freedom to make the buildings I’ve occupied homes in a way you just can’t do as a traditional tenant,” he tells me of the scheme. Having lived in four houses since being a guardian, Lawrence describes the role as “unlike that of owner or tenant. You have a responsibility for the building you occupy that gives a sense of belonging. Often the buildings are condemned, so just how you decorate or modify your living space is entirely up to you. This combines to give a homely feeling in some quite surprising places.”
For a creative person the reduced costs of Ad Hoc properties can provide a degree of freedom, as can the unique spaces available. Many guardians use the properties as studios as well as dwellings. The questions of how much financial realities can stand in the way of an artist being able to create is an interesting one. “I think it’s a sad reality that we don’t respect or reward creative output as we should,” says Lawrence on the subject. “The benefits of a vibrant artistic culture are too intangible to be deemed worthy of the same monetary investment as other sectors or industries. This means that to make a living as a creative you have be very good and very lucky. Most artists support themselves with jobs unrelated to their creative work and sacrifice time and energy in doing so. Reducing financial burdens like rent hopefully makes things a little easier and allows more talented people to concentrate a little more time on their creative endeavours.”
Balancing artistic endeavour with provision for living is an ages-old dilemma, to which Ryder-Jones adds his own perspective from within the music industry: “I often tell people who ask that it’s best not to view it as a career, you’ve got to need to do it because there’s few people who get the chance to make it work as a living. On the other hand, I think it’s a real shame that art isn’t given more importance in this country. The benefits of expression can’t be understated, and I think if it was respected more then there would be more money in it for honest musicians.”
There must be hundreds of buildings standing empty in Liverpool, creaking monuments to their own glory days of usefulness; and we know for a fact that this is a city teeming with makers, doers and creators. The breadth of creativity incubated by Ad Hoc’s guardian scheme is testament not just to the amount of talent in this country, but to what can be achieved when working towards the same goals.
Words: Jennifer Perkin
Illustration: Marco Lawrence / marcolawrence.com
The first Ad Hoc Creative Expo, featuring exclusive work by Bill Ryder-Jones and Marco Lawrence, takes place on 16th May at the Mansion House, Calderstones Park. The event is free to attend, and you can sign up for your tickets now via bidolito.co.uk