Charity Awards 2024

Cockpit Arts

Revamped its run-down building in Deptford as a thriving craftmaking hub

In 2018 the Greater London Authority reported that 67% of all workspaces for artists had permanently closed, with a further 24% of remaining studios likely to shut within five years. Specialist craft studios, rather than generic artists’ studios, are particularly at risk.

Cockpit ArtsCockpit Arts had provided studio space and courses for craftmakers from its building in Creekside, Deptford for 20 years, but was already operating at full capacity and the premises were run-down and not fit for purpose. The neighbourhood – one of the 20% most deprived in the country – is being flooded with new residential developments at the expense of inclusive spaces. Cockpit’s vision was to create a thriving hub for craft, with affordable studios and space for a rich community programme of workshops, events and training.

The charity secured funding from the council and several foundations, and topped up with a small mortgage. Planning began in autumn 2021 and the new centre opened in December 2023, with 1,700 attending over the weekend.

The £3.24m capital development has delivered additional studios accommodating 20 more artists; new woodworking and leatherworking hubs; London’s first public craft garden to showcase larger works in an urban oasis; a new learning centre offering clubs and classes, and various professional and business development programmes.

Some 160 independent businesses are supported including six start-ups, and around 40 emerging craftmakers are currently benefitting from the charity’s bursaries or scholarships.

Charity Awards judge Cathy Phelan-Watkins praised Cockpit Arts for helping to protect an “endangered species in our economy – artist practitioners, because I know for a fact that you can barely afford to be an artist in London. And without artist practitioners, you don’t get any injections of the arts into other organisations.

“And I loved that they regenerated an old industrial space, trying to bridge the huge divide created by gentrification. They were determined to keep the building for the artists, for the community, when everywhere around it is being turned into penthouse flats.”

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