News: Community housing for Turner Prize

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Derelict terraced houses in Liverpool have been nominated for the prestigious Turner Art Prize, writes Kenn Taylor

The Granby area of Liverpool 8 has found itself at the centre of a flurry of media interest as a project based in the area is nominated for the art world’s most famous gong, the Turner Prize.

Assemble, a collective of 18 London-based artists and architects all aged under 30, has been working with the Granby Four Streets Community Land Trust (CLT) on the re-development of ten terraced houses left derelict after the failure of the controversial Housing Market Renewal or Pathfinder regeneration scheme of the 2000s.

They are using their combined expertise, low-cost materials and demolition waste to revamp the houses, which, once refurbished, will remain held in trust to provide permanently affordable housing.
Erika Rushton, chair of the CLT, says: “Some artists seek to decorate the world and some to reflect or question it. Assemble are working with all of us to change it.”

The project is the latest stage in a spirited campaign to save these homes. Residents held street markets in semi-abandoned roads, painted derelict houses and undertook guerrilla gardening – beautifying and animating the streets and pushing against the claim that no one wanted these homes.

The project has come a long way, says Ronnie Hughes, housing activist and CLT member. “Construction is well on the way now with the first five houses. We had a very pleasant meeting last week when we picked the final finishings – things we never even dreamed we would.”

So far so exemplary community housing project, but the Turner Prize is about art, not homes. Previous winners include Jake and Dinos Chapman, Damian Hirst and Gillian Wearing. Hughes however highlights that creativity has long been at the core of what was going on in the Four Streets.

“There’s the use of things that you would recognise as art, painting the front of the houses, for example. But I also think if art is making something out of other things, or even making something out of hardly anything, there has been an art to the way it’s been done.”

Having begun their own plans to regenerate parts of the area, those involved in the Four Streets decided it was time to work with professional architects, and this is where Assemble came in.

“Assemble are the only ones who have ever sat and listened to the residents,” says Rushton. “They translated their vision into drawings and models, and now into reality.”

Assemble and the CLT will have to wait until December to find out if they have won the £25,000 Turner Prize but in Granby rebuilding goes on regardless. Work to complete the remaining five houses starts in summer, with plans then to find new uses for four abandoned shop units in the area.

The artistic approach to the regeneration, Hughes says, appeals in a way that sitting around with endless blue-sky visions no longer does. “Yesterday there were community members coming into Assemble’s workshop having deep and meaningful conversations about re-making the place… Let’s make something and see what we come up with while we’re making it. It’s revolutionary.”

The Turner Prize nominees will have their work exhibited at Tramway, Glasgow from October 2015 until January 2016

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