Eight geotag journalists exploring your city. This week: Global London.

Art on the roof, in a train

By Laura Geisswiller

If your feet ever take you to Great Eastern Street in London, the unusual sight of some strange trains on the roof of a warehouse may catch your attention. This is the Village Underground, a designer’s lair, where recycled underground trains become studios.

The idea started in 2006, when Auro Foxcroft decided to open a place for designers in East London where workspaces are really expensive. The council leased them the warehouse for a fairly cheap price, and the London Underground gave them six of retired trains.

"It was less expensive for them to just give these to us," explains Auro.

The trains were put on the roof a year later after working on them and the Village Underground adventure started.

Village Underground code

Not everyone can enter in the Village Underground. For £30 a week and only 36 places up for grabs, there is a long waiting list. The length of which is unknown, but Amelie, in charge of the Village Underground’s communication estimates it may be around 100 people.

It is surprising that despite the waiting list, there is no limit to the time you can stay in the warehouses.

"It’s kind of being done organically,” explains Auro Foxcroft. “People come, some stay a long time, some have been here since the beginning and some people stay for six months. It follows a natural turn-over."

So what exactly is the code to get in the Village Underground?

“There is no rule," says the curator. "People who come in with personal recommendations bother us and try to get in, those very keen show their face a lot. It is a kind of mix of different way."

Creative zone

The village has ten people taking care of the community and around 36 artists as inhabitants who for the first time can just enjoy the pleasure of creation without any other worries.

"We try to have all different disciplines here,” explains Auro.

“That allows them to work together. The graphic designer can work with the web designer to make some work for the jewellery maker who would make jewellery for a writer, who does writing for him and a magazine, so on and so forth. In a way we've got a self sustaining creative resource. Well, if people decide to use it in that way. "

Warehouse beneath

With the train hogging the limelight, it is easy to forget that lying just below is the warehouse – the venue for the Village Underground’s special event about once a week.

Amelie explains about the events at which they want to present some of the underground talent of London. “All the events need not be related to the artist who uses the studio. It is a way for the village to share and attract public in their little world,” she says.

Most people who hear about the Village Underground only think about the train and the team feel they need to start working hard on their communication of the Village’s message.

The warehouse is open to the public and is an amazing place.

When it is warm and sunny, the roof is really enjoyable, but what happens to the artists when it is cold? “We freeze!” laughs Amelie, “And don't forget to think of what happen when it is really hot. But we work in a tube on a roof. This is just awesome... Fair enough.”

Weathering the climatic fluctuations the idea is to “try to stay on the underground and experimental culture,” underlines Amelie.

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