Sittin’, thinkin’, sinkin’, drinkin’

Sittin’, thinkin’, sinkin’, drinkin’,
Wondrin ‘ what I’ll do when I’m through tonight.
Smokin’, mopin’, maybe just hopin’…*

It’s all very well being a fly on the wall, but you don’t often get a chance to write in a posh rag like this. Credit where it’s due, the two governors seem alright blokes but maybe they’re a bit pushed because the brief who usually writes this bit has cleared off to somewhere called Australia. Being as you’re all artists or interested in that kind of thing, I thought I’d tell you what’s happening down on my ground, because it’s all studios and that where I live down the docks.

Things are getting a bit iffy there these days. Everyone’s getting the boot this year or next. They’re all wound up about where they go next. I’ve been taking an intelligent interest because I’ve got my own future to think about. I hear the next lot moving in down here are going to be all Hampstead émigrés, and that kind of food gives me terrible indigestion. So, being as you have to plan in this life, I’ve been attending a few meetings.

Take last week, Monday night. I look in on the crowd on the third floor back – sculptors mainly in this studio – and looks as if things are coming together, if the odd receipts from Langan’s lying about is anything to go by. Not that they haven’t worked for it, mind you. Since they’ve known they had to clear out they’ve been giving a lot of thought to the future and the four of them have got a big deal on the go. Seems they’ve had enough of landlords and fancy a spot of the old capitalism for a bit of piece and quiet – suppose it makes sense if you need to concentrate on your work, like. Neat little freehold, three storeys, service lift, all mod cons.: sixty grand. They’ve been through all the ins and outs, and it needs twenty spending on it. So it’s twenty grand ahead and your problems solved good and proper.

Course, you need a brief if you’re into that kind of thing, and we all know that can be expensive – know what I mean? However, it helps when you have friends. That crew have known Terry from the City for donkey’s years – openings and all that, he’s a regular attender – and he’s really doing the business for them now. Can’t afford to mess around when there’s that kind of dough at stake. Very wise to have it all nice and legal, signed, sealed and delivered so to speak. He’s even formed a company for them. That really tickled me. Only villains and policitians are company directors in my book. So, it’s twenty-five percent shares each, worth twenty grand apiece; company runs the building; everyone has a nice, tidy ninety-nine year lease and no more headaches. Very classy.

Mind you, there’s not a lot of people round our way that’s got that kind of bread, not these days. So a lot of the lads have been looking around out of the smoke, where things come a lot cheaper. Take Richard, for instance. I look in on him quite a bit, because I like the vibrations from the Wagner. Him and his old lady have been giving a lot of thought to the problem for the past eighteen months, and last summer got all excited about this old railway station down the West Country. Seems it’d been more paperwork than sculpture going on in that studio for a good two months – planning laws, building regulations, surveyor’s reports, finance applications and the like. Rosie was all in favour of it because she felt she’d see more of him – they were going to live in it as well-but she’s just screwed up the whole thing good and proper. They’ve been picking their way through problems over the living accommodation. Seems the authorities aren’t bothered if you freeze to death in your studio, but when it comes to official bedrooms and bathroom’s it’s a different matter. Richard and Rosie could have done it for peanuts, but when I dropped in on them last week it was finally all off, because they couldn’t find the extra ten grand to do even a utility version up to the legal standards. Flies don’t have shirts, but if I had one, I’d put it on Richard buying into the deal that’s going down across the corridor with Joe, Kim and Andy.

Sort of league division two, this lot. Been in the building since its early days, regular attenders, but not exactly cracking eggs with sticks down Cork Street. Still, they all survived the teaching cuts and hung on to their part-time numbers, so they’re not that bad on the old survival stakes. Their plans for 1983 feature a nifty side step down Bishopsgate, where they’ve found an empty first floor in a warehouse. Joe has conned the owners into offering a nice deal: straight six years, no rent review, and no key money. Only one snag: company let only. However, Joe got that one sorted out quite a while back with those geezers from Artlaw.

Now they’re beginning to appreciate the benefits of company director status. When I dropped in last night, the whole place was buzzing with ideas about how they could work it to their advantage. Kim’s thinking that his old MGB can become the company wheels, and Andy’s knocked up a very tasty letter heading which they’re going to use to buy materials in bulk at trade. They’re all dead chuffed about the way their company’s going to handle all their paperwork and bills more efficiently – and they’re wondering why they never thought of it years ago.

I usually round off the evening with a few empty glasses down the ‘Dog and Truck’. There’s a lot going on there too at the moment. Last night, for instance, there was this meeting of Robin Smith and his mates who’ve really got a new angle on the escape committee scene. They’re setting up a gallery, which takes a lot of bottle considering they haven’t got any money. What happened was that while Robin was checking out new spaces, he finds this great place up West. Can’t afford the rent, of course, but, being a man of vision so to speak, he can see it already. Good work, new ideas, and all the punters getting in there as fast as the goods lift can carry them. A new public gallery.

I didn’t believe a word of it, but then Robin starts spending a lot of evenings down the ‘Dog and Truck’ conflabbing with that little fair-haired brief from Artlaw, Henry Lydiate. Well, Robin and his six mates have now set up this charitable company to run the gallery – as it happens you’ve got to have seven directors. No-one gets any profits – no shares or anything – and the idea is that showing art to the public is educational. I suppose it is, in a way. So they’ve set this up and they’ve got the lease for next to nothing, and they only have to pay half the rates – maybe less. And now, the Arts Circle have said they’re interested in giving them some dough. Well pleased, they are. But what swung it with everyone, especially the landlords, was this charitable thing, and all the paperwork being tied up legally.

As for me, I’ve always been a bit of a fly-by-night, like quite a few of my artist mates down here; but maybe the time’s coming when it’s a good idea to get things a bit more sorted out. Maybe one of these art rags would like a gossip columnist…

© Henry Lydiate 1982
© Abkco Music, Inc. 1966


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This article is from the Artlaw Archive of Henry Lydiate's columns published in Art Monthly since 1976, and may contain out of date material. The article is for information only, and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Readers should consult a solicitor for legal advice on specific matters. Artists can get free online legal information from Artquest.